Minutes of the SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
The National Press Club
Present: President Kathleen Burns; Vice President Jonathan Make; Treasurer Amy Fickling; Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall; and board members Al Leeds, Elizabeth Grisham, Eric Falquero and Alice Ollstein
Excused absences: Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs; Immediate Past President Julie Asher
President Kathleen Burns called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m.
Burns provided a greeting card for board members to sign for past chapter president Maurine Beasley, who has been ill.
HOLIDAY EVENT: The Board came to a consensus that the breakfast brunch to kick off the New Year will be from noon until 2 p.m., at Clyde’s at Mark Center in Alexandria. The price will be $26 for members and $31 for nonmembers.
The chapter will be honoring several members who have anniversaries of long time membership in the chapter with pins provided by national SPJ headquarters.
Alice Ollstein noted that for some people a barrier to attending will be the location, rather than the cost of the event. She asked if the chapter could keep events in the inner city in the future.
Vice President Jonathan Make asked for a review of the charges for the event, given that there will have to be a certain number of people attending to meet the minimum charge by the venue.
Burns said the minimum charge for the facility is $500 and that will be covered with 30-35 people paying to attend.
In discussing previous chapter holiday event attendance for comparison, Treasurer Amy Fickling noted the chapter’s holiday event at Gordon Biersch in Washington in 2015 attracted about 20 people.
Burns noted the chapter cannot afford to have the people who are getting pins to come for free.
Fickling clarified that with sales tax and gratuity included, the event will cost at least $650.
Ollstein asked if some sort of fun activity could be part of the event. Board members remembered that last year we looked into going to the Spy Museum next door to Gordon Biersch, but it was too expensive.
Burns said last year some of the older members who were getting longevity pins said they did not like coming downtown or they had problems with steps. This year’s choice of venue seemed more convenient, she said, because it is right off interstates and convenient to Metro.
As for “other activity” as part of the holiday event, Burns said proposed changes to the chapter’s constitution and bylaws will have to be approved by the board and then go out to the membership for a vote. Burns said it has been suggested that the membership have 15 days to vote on them, and that the vote could occur at the party, after the changes had been sent out. Make said we will not be prepared to vote by that time.
The proposed changes have been circulated to the board by email. They include making the corresponding secretary a “membership secretary;” having a president-elect instead of a vice-president; and setting term limits for certain board positions the audit committee had recommended.
Make moved approve funding of up to a maximum of $650 from the chapter to have a holiday party at Clyde’s in Alexandria on Saturday, Jan. 7. Eric Falquero seconded the motion. All voted in favor.
BOARD VACANCIES: The board had a confidential discussion on people it may ask to fill the three seats on the board that are vacant or are expected to become vacant soon.
The board discussed and agreed on four potential candidates, who would be asked to serve at least until the new board is installed on June 13, 2017. The board is to make appointments to fill the vacancies for the unexpired terms, and any of those appointed who wish to continue on the board must run in the next election for 2017-2018 positions.
It was noted that one of the candidates would need to be corresponding secretary. For the record, the vacancies are: a board seat for a two-year term set to expire in 2017 vacated when Daniel Young resigned in September; a board seat for a two-year term set to expire in 2017 vacated when Jonathan Make was elected vice president and assumed office in June; and a board seat for a two-year term set to expire in 2017 that is expected to be vacated in January or February when Al Leeds moves to Florida. There was confusion as to whether Joe Starrs plans to resign as corresponding secretary in December and accept one of the unexpired board seats, or if he will be off the board once he resigns the corresponding secretary position.
Various board members agreed to approach a potential candidate each.
Fickling had circulated the treasurer’s report by email prior to the meeting.
She said she had talked to financial consultants at two branches of the bank that the chapter banks with about savings vehicles that are federally insured. She said both said the CD rates are not significant right now, but did get further clarification from the second consultant, who she does not regularly interact with, that the bank was recommending clients not move money into CDs right now. The second consultation was on Election Day, so some board members wondered if the advice was due to the uncertainty with the presidential election and the incoming administration. Fickling said she thought it had more to do with low interest rates.
Recording secretary Kathryn Foxhall moved that the board accept the treasurer’s report as presented; Elizabeth Grisham seconded the motion. All voted in favor.
Fickling said she’d received an invoice forwarded by Burns from Tara Puckey, associate executive director of national SPJ, for an order of 12 DiSC personality tests plus the shipping costs. She asked Burns to give the board the details regarding the invoice, and seek a vote on it before any payment is authorized.
Burns explained that at the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans in September, Puckey had recommended chapter boards take the DiSC personality test. Burns said the process works well in the sense that participants can see people in a totally different light. Burns said she ordered 12 test forms from Puckey, not realizing there would be a cost involved.
Regional Director Andy Schotz had also recommended the test.
The charge is $25 per form and the postage was about $16. Burns said if the chapter does not use the tests we can send them back.
Foxhall, who took the test at the recent Scripps leadership conference in Baltimore, said the test was interesting and got the group there talking about personalities and people getting along with each other. She said, however, she did not see how the test could have known validity. The question, she said, is how would anyone evaluate the validity of the test by confirming that a person has the personality that the test indicates.
Make, said he was in favor of doing the test when we have a retreat or other such gathering, but he said we don’t have to buy it until we are ready to do it.
Several members of the board said the test, when taken by the board a couple of years ago, had been helpful in understanding people’s working styles.
After it was noted that if we were to send the tests back until we plan to use them, we’d have to pay postage for the current shipment, postage to return them, and postage to get them again, Falquero suggested the board keep the tests now and plan to use them in the future. He added that in the future, it would be appropriate for the board to vote before such an expense is incurred.
Make moved that the board pay the $300 for the 12 DiSC personality tests that were mailed, plus postage costs. Falquero seconded; the board approved the motion on a 7-1 vote.
REPORT ON PROGRAMS
Make reported that the session at the Washington Post on the previous night had gone well. There were about 26 people attending. A Post editor gave a tour of part of the newsroom. There was a good discussion between Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan and Post reporter Erik Wemple. Make wrote an article on it for the November chapter newsletter, tweeted it and posted it on the chapter’s Facebook page the night of the event, Nov. 15, along with photos.
Burns noted the chapter had made the event available at no cost to chapter member attendees and that 45 people, the maximum, had signed up. However, about 20 did not show up. Fickling added that some of those who made reservations were nonmembers who paid to reserve, and some of those did attend and some did not.
In the future, she said, we may ask people to pay at least $5 for an event to ensure more people who say they are coming actually do. She said that right after the chapter had closed the reservations, unfortunately, a faculty member inquired about having a group of students attend.
Make pointed out that it actually would have been awkward to have more people in the room the Post provided.
The board has planned several upcoming events:
—Sarah Wire, the LA Times reporter who covers the California delegation, to speak on January 30 at the Fund for American Studies.
—Cops and Cameras on March 16 at the Georgetown University Massachusetts Avenue campus annex.
—Solutions Journalism on February 23 at the Medill School site on G Street.
Board members discussed whether or not to charge for events. Burns noted that charging nonmembers something for events, or charging them more, gives people an incentive to join the chapter. Foxhall said we can perhaps do events both ways, some charging and some not charging, and try to discern what works best.
The board discussed having the next three programs, starting January 30, with free admission, to experiment with how that impacts turnout. Burns also pointed out that the tradition has been that we cover our costs, including food, with entrance fees.
It was decided that Fickling would pick up food for the January 30 event, with the chapter covering the costs.
Falquero is taking the lead on organizing the February and March programs. He requested that a board member be at each of these programs to make a chapter membership pitch.
Falquero explained that the March 16 event would be about the fact that there are more cops wearing cameras now, but also there are also many cases of restricted access to the videos. The editor-in-chief for the Georgetown Law Journal, who has written on the subject, will moderate. The D.C. Open Government Coalition will likely have a speaker and we will attempt to have a law enforcement officer.
Make asked that someone else do a write-up of the Cops and Cameras event, so that he can take a break from that task he has been doing for most of the programs.
Make and Ollstein discussed whether the write-ups of the sessions we do are well read on the webpage and on the newsletter.
Make said we don’t know how many people read the stories in the newsletter because we don’t have that kind of tracking mechanism. But even if there are 100 each reading them on the blog and the newsletter, it’s not much.
He also said that no one re-tweets the tweets he does during the events.
Ollstein brought up the possibility of doing live-stream videos and said it is easy on Facebook Live.
Falquero said we should be really promoting the day of the event, saying we will be live tweeting.
Falquero also talked about putting together a brochure for the chapter, since, as Burns indicated, the current brochure is rather boring. One question is whether to do separate student and “PRO” brochures. He said he could get quotes together on the costs.
Grisham went over the planned articles for the upcoming newsletter. The deadline for copy is November 18 and it will go out on November 21. She said she can make an Eventbrite for the January party whenever the board wanted.
She also said all the board meeting minutes that have been approved by the board are posted on the website now.
Foxhall reported that although the May and June minutes were reviewed by the board some time ago, there are corrections that need to be made, and those minutes need to be recirculated to the board.
Falquero said he had looked on the former chapter webpage on the “Way Back Machine,” but could not find a history of the chapter. There were some pieces of things that might be of interest.
Make said at one point he had seen such a history on an annual Hall of Fame dinner program, so Past President Julie Asher might have access to an electronic copy of such a history and others might have a copy of the older programs.
Burns said we will try to look at the proposed bylaws changes at the December board meeting.
Grisham will create a Doodle poll to select a date in the first two weeks of the month for the December meeting.
Make excused himself from the meeting at this point in order to recuse himself from discussion of the awards contest, because his company often enters the contest.
Burns said Andy Schotz, who is working on the awards contest and the awards dinner, has said there are four things we need to emphasize this year. The first is to make sure there is continuity for two years under the Better Newspaper Contests contract, continuing under the contract the board set up last year.
Schotz also indicated we need to connect PayPal to the contest to allow online payments for entries. Fickling said she believes we must have “Advanced PayPal” to take payments through the awards website and that may involve a $5 per month fee. But we can turn that off after the contest is over. She was not certain whether there would also be an extra fee to be paid to BNC to have the Advanced PayPal.
Fickling said the contest entry fee has been $30 for as long as she can remember.
Burns suggested we accept Schotz’s suggestion that we have a reduced entry fee for chapter members. She said a $5 reduction for members would be reasonable in order to give people some benefit for being members.
Fickling raised the question of whether nonmembers will say they are chapter members to get the reduction. There was discussion as to whether the contest coordinator could check the names against the chapter roster. In the end, though, Fickling noted, Schotz’s email indicated it is more important to have an online payment system in place than it is to get fancy with it and having different entry fee tiers.
Foxhall moved that Schotz and contest coordinator Joyce Wang, in consultation with Fickling, set the entry fee prices, with a ceiling of a $10 difference between member and nonmember entries. Leeds seconded the motion. All voted in favor.
Burns said Schotz had recommended we have better guidelines for the people judging the entries to prevent the process from being totally subjective. She asked if anyone had such guidelines from other organizations. Falquero said he might have some from the National Newspaper Association.
CO-SPONSORSHIPS: In discussion of a program we have lent our name to in conjunction with the Journalism and Women Symposium, Fickling asked if the board should be involved with such decisions.
Burns said it was apparently an excellent program in which the chapter got some visibility. She said the president is elected by the membership with the idea that he or she will do the appropriate thing.
Falquero said he thought if it is something that the chapter is actually co-sponsoring, that needs board discussion. However, he said, if it is only something where the group will distribute our information, the president should just do that, without further consultation. He said it is important for journalism groups to network with each other in order to survive.
MAILING LIST: Foxhall said SPJ national is working on giving our chapter a portion of the Meltwater media list. She said at times we might decide to use that list or the Hudson’s media list we created previously for events or the newsletter.
Grisham suggested we might put those names in our WordPress list to get around the issue we have been having with the Hudson’s list not working with MailChimp due to too many returned emails.
The meeting adjourned at about 9.11 p.m.