Minutes of the SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting
Wednesday, October 25, 2016
The Cosgrove Lounge
The National Press Club
Present: President Kathleen Burns; Vice President Jonathan Make; Immediate Past President Julie Asher; 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
President Kathleen Burns called the meeting to order at 7:11 PM.
RECORDING SECRETARY’S REPORT
The draft minutes for the September 7 board meeting had been circulated by email. Immediate Past President Julie Asher moved and director Alice Ollstein seconded that the revised version as recirculated to the board by Treasurer Amy Fickling be approved. Her version included corrections and additions about the Treasurer’s Report and budget for the next chapter year, among other revisions. All voted in favor.
Recording Secretary Kathryn Foxhall also reported that all minutes for the last two years are up on the website, other than those for September and the ones for May and June, which were circulated, but never had a final vote.
Foxhall reported that the “Censorship through PIO” issue was a key focus of the SPJ national convention in September, as she has reported in an article for the chapter newsletter. She also reported on attending the National Freedom on Information Coalition Summit held in Washington, October 7-8. She noted one lesson from the conference was that the fight for freedom of information is never won. Representatives from around the nation reported on various attempts in state legislatures, etc., to exempt many types of information from FOI. Foxhall and national SPJ President Lynn Walsh distributed flyers to all attendees headlined, “Freedom to Speak without Reporting to Authorities is Key to Freedom of Information.” The flyers stated that the mandate that reporters go through PIOs agencies is powerful, unethical censorship.
Foxhall also said that the organization is one SPJ-DC should relate to as closely as possible.
Foxhall wanted to know if there would be time at the chapter’s Nov. 15 program with Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan to bring up the chapter’s emphasis on the “Censorship through PIO” awareness campaign. It was suggested perhaps Foxhall could chat with Sullivan and the moderator prior to the start of the program to see if they could bring it up.
UPDATE ON NEWSLETTER AND WEBSITE
Director Elizabeth Grisham reported that for the August newsletter, 533 were emailed and 203 had been opened.
For the October newsletter, 525 were sent and 253 were opened.
The newsletter goes out to members of the chapter and to SPJ members in the area who are not chapter members. In addition, anyone can get on the mailing listing by signing up on the chapter website.
She reported that the list of journalists’ emails we created last year from the Hudson’s Media List will not go through MailChimp because more than 10 percent of them were bad addresses.
The board suggested Foxhall ask SPJ headquarters if staff can get us a media listing with email addresses for this area from Meltwater, as we discussed previously. The October newsletter might be sent to area media using that list. If we cannot get that list, Foxhall can send out the newsletter from our Hudson’s Media List from her computer without using MailChimp.
Grisham also reported she has brought the website up to date with the minutes that have been finished and other things, including the calendar of events. Directors discussed how we can find the history of the chapter, including looking in the paper archives kept at the National Press Club, in order to update that section on the website.
Asher asked that the chapter’s email address be put on the website. She noted several people in the chapter check the chapter’s email.
Grisham indicated we should standardize the style for the newsletter and the website. She noted, for example, there is no italic content in the AP Stylebook. Asher said she is working on a stylesheet for the Dateline newsletter.
November 18th is the deadline for copy for the next newsletter.
REPORT ON PROGRAMS
Vice President Jonathan Make reported there are already nearly 45 people signed up for the November 15 program with media columnist Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post. That is the about the maximum we can take, so there is no further need for publicity.
He said the invitation went out to our regular lists, on Gorkana, and to the Journalism and Women Symposium.
Fickling, who is taking care of the event’s attendee list, said only 11 actual chapter members signed up. Her review showed there were about eight more who signed up as chapter members but who are not members of the chapter, though some are unaffiliated national SPJ members.
Burns suggested we send a note to those people saying they may not have realized they were not members and asking them if they would like to join the chapter.
Asher moved, and director Eric Falquero seconded that the board accept the Treasurer’s Report, which was emailed to the board earlier. All voted in favor.
Burns thanked Fickling for putting together a budget for the coming year.
MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL EFFORT
Asher reported she will rewrite a letter to ask people who have previously been members of the chapter to renew. Recent reports have shown a dramatic decrease in the chapter’s membership numbers.
The goal is to have the mailing out in the first part of November. She and Foxhall will come up with a date to get together to prepare the mailing.
REPORT ON NATIONAL SDX FOUNDATION
Director Al Leeds is also a member of the board of the national SDX Foundation and he reported, at Burns’s request, on that board’s meeting at the EIJ16 convention in New Orleans in September.
The foundation currently gives out about 4.25 percent of its $13 million endowment each year, Leeds reported, with the largest part going to the annual Excellence in Journalism (EIJ) convention.
He said SDX is now doing its own programming and it is doing publishing, including the magazine Quill.
He also said one proposal before the foundation now is a potential new program called, “Journalists on Call.” It would have people at a phone number to help with all kinds of journalistic issues. For a three-year trial it would employ a coach and trainer to help with issues including open records, journalists’ rights, and ethics.
OTHER PROGRAMS – HOLIDAY PARTY
Burns reported on the potential sites she is looking at for the chapter holiday party, including proposals from Clyde’s and Tonics. The board members discussed the idea of making the gathering a lunch or brunch and possibly having it in January rather than December. She had no further details at the meeting, but promised to email pricing information and possible dates later.
The chapter has a program planned for January 30 with Sarah Wire, LA Times correspondent who covers the 55-member California Congressional delegation.
DATELINE AWARDS CONTEST
Make left the meeting prior to the board’s discussion of the upcoming Dateline Awards contest so as to recuse himself from the decision process. His company regularly enters the contest. It was about 8:36 PM.
The board discussed the contest by phone with Joyce Wang, who has agreed to be under contract to carry it out coordinator duties once again this year.
Discussion indicated we want to get the site for entering the contest up as soon as possible. Wang said she thought the site was turned on by mid-January for the 2016 contest. However, she indicated it would be good to get it up earlier this year if we can publicize the contest.
Board members discussed the idea that the lack of an avenue for online payment potentially reduced the number of entries for the 2016 contest.
Asher suggested we ask our vendor, Better Newspaper Contests, how to set up online payment of entry fees.
The 2016 process, although it was the first time the chapter did the contest online, did not take much less of Wang’s time than when the process was by mail, Wang said.
Fickling suggested that online payment could free up some of Wang’s time, which she could use for contest promotion.
Wang said she is pleased with the online platform overall. She called it very user friendly.
She also said the 2016 configuration of categories was better, but it is up to the board as to how many and which categories to have.
In terms of the process of swapping the judging with another chapter, Wang said that it turned out that a couple of judges in the other chapter had a conflict of interest this last round. It would be good, she said, to check all the entries to be sure that doesn’t happen.
In response to a question from Fickling, Wang said if someone enters the wrong category she can check with the participant and then the judges can move the entry into another category.
Wang brought up the fact that when she tried to use the chapter’s email list gleaned from the Hudson’s Media List, her email account got locked for 24 hours for sending too many emails.
Foxhall told the board that during the promotion of the awards she had sent the promotion letter out to the Hudson’s list, after Wang’s problem, by sending out specifically limited batches over several days. Foxhall did say the promotion she sent out with the Hudson’s list was done fairly late, because it was after Wang’s process failed.
There is a relatively high bounce back rate with the Hudson’s, on the level of 10 or 20 percent.
After the call, Burns suggested board members look at the contract for the contest coordinator to decide if we want to keep it the same for the upcoming contest.
As planned, the board talked to Region 2 Director Andy Schotz by phone after finishing the talk with Wang. He said this year the chapter will only pay the renewal fee for the contest and will not pay the setup fee as we did last year.
He agreed it is better to get the process started early and said if the chapter can work on it for the next couple of weeks we could start promoting it in mid-November.
Fickling said it was difficult to find the chapter’s contest on the Better Newspaper Contests site. Schotz said we can perhaps change the name under which the contest is listed. Burns suggested we begin the name with “D.C.” to move it up in the list.
Schotz suggested we review the categories again. He said he did not believe that we had any entries for social media last year. Board members asked that he and Wang review the categories to decide what tweaks to make.
Asher noted Wang’s report said there were 118 entries and that all divisions and 25 categories were entered. She said, however, that does not mean we can’t shrink some of those categories.
Schotz said we have started to focus the categories more since we had a large number two years ago and there was no demand for that many.
Burns suggested that Schotz and Wang also review the guidelines for the judges, including telling the judges more about what to look for, since Wang had said the current guidelines could be improved.
Asher said she had tentatively booked June 13, 2017, with the National Press Club for the Hall of Fame Dinner, at which the awards will be given. One question was whether the awards coordinator could make it on that date.
Board members also discussed a Burns suggestion of adding a position of chapter liaison to the foreign media in Washington.
Burns added that she wanted to do a program soon with the foreign media.
She said another thing she wanted to do with her presidency is to work out better connections with students. She said that Corresponding Secretary Joe Starrs has said he would like to be a liaison with students.
She indicated several colleges in the Washington area could use help with reviving SPJ student chapters or other efforts in coordinating with SPJ.
The board meeting adjourned at about 9:30 p.m.