Minutes of the SPJ D.C. Pro Chapter Board Meeting
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
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 Elizabeth Grisham, Eric Falquero, April Bethea and Jim Ascendio
Excused absences: Board member Alice Ollstein
President Kathleen Burns called the meeting to order at 7:03 p.m.
Chapter member Steve Taylor attended the meeting with the board and led the board’s second confidential discussion about Hall of Fame nominees and the Distinguished Service Award for this year.
DISCUSSION OF POSSIBLE BYLAWS CHANGES
The board continued its discussion of proposed changes to the chapter bylaws, working from the same summary list of Burns’ proposed revisions used at the January meeting discussion.
Burns noted that one of the proposals from the Bylaws Committee suggested that the chapter change the title of Corresponding Secretary to Membership Secretary.
Treasurer Amy Fickling made the point that the Corresponding Secretary could be in charge of the process when the board votes by email. She said that person could also deal with “brand” issues, such as making sure the logo or the name is the same on all correspondence, and take care of membership correspondence. She said more of the duties of that officer could be spelled out outside of the bylaws and several board members agreed.
Vic President Jonathan Make agreed, saying, “I think the less we change the bylaws the better.”
The board discussed the idea that there should be an officer in charge of keeping the chapter’s records. Immediate Past President Julie Asher told the new directors there is a paper archive for the chapter kept at the National Press Club.
Board members also discussed the question of what had happened with the former website of the chapter.
Fickling said that, as she remembered, the chapter’s current website designer had recommended we host the website on Bluehost rather than on the InMotion Hosting service but that in the end the older material was not transferred to the new website.
Board Directors Falquero and April Bethea confirmed that on the “Way Back Machine” we can get screen shots of the front page or any page we have an exact URL for, but we can’t browse it.
The board agreed by a show of hands to keep the bylaws requirement for a Corresponding Secretary as it is.
The next proposal discussed was for setting term limits, saying that a board member should not serve in the same position for more than three consecutive terms. Burns noted the Audit Committee had recommended this change for the treasurer position and the Bylaws Committee extended the recommendation to all board positions.
Fickling said a list of best practices had come down from SPJ headquarters after an Oklahoma chaptered suffered an embezzlement. Some of those best practices were in turn recommended by our chapter’s Audit Committee.
She said the person in the Treasurer position should have 2-3 years so he or she can become accustomed to the duties and because it takes some effort for people to go to banks to change signature cards and undertake other responsibilities.
Burns noted for a few months we had an assistant treasurer, which the Audit Committee had recommended.
Asher said there have been times when treasurers have not done their duties well but we have not had problems with malfeasance, and we get a treasurer’s report for each meeting from the current treasurer.
Make said he would leave the bylaws as they are, but it would be good if we could circulate board positions among people.
Fickling said she thought that no one should have to serve as president for more than one year, due to the work the position requires.
Make asked that the board move on without writing term limits into the bylaws.
Members of the board agreed by consensus.
Fickling said there were things in the SPJ model bylaws that DC Pro Chapter does not address, including open meetings. Burns noted there have been three instances when the chapter arranged programs with organizations and, as the program was starting, the entity declared it off the record.
Foxhall said that perhaps an open meetings policy should be in a letter of agreement rather than in the bylaws because there might be some reason in the future we would want to have an off-the-record meeting. Board members noted we currently have executive sessions that are closed during board meetings.
The board discussed whether the chapter should have a requirement in the bylaws for all programs (as opposed to meetings) be open or whether it should just be a general policy. \
Fickling said we should perhaps write definitions of meetings and programs in the bylaws. The board agreed she should work on that.
Bethea and Fickling said they would be in charge of consolidating the proposed language for the bylaws before the April meeting.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
In discussion of issues in the December meeting minutes, the board decided it would take up the issue of an email voting policy, which Falquero and Fickling are working on, at the March meeting. The board will go back to the bylaws changes at the April meeting.
Burns noted the board plans to start an informal handbook with notes on how to do various chapter functions, such as a membership renewal mailing in paper or the status of our media lists.
Board members said it might be good to include notes on planning programs, the Hall of Fame awardee selection process and the dinner, and on the Dateline awards selection.
Make moved the board approve the December minutes. Asher seconded the motion. The Board voted to approve the minutes.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
Foxhall reported on the “Censorship by PIO” advocacy effort, saying the recent post on the SPJ national FOI blog got more hits than that blog has for any post in its history. She also noted she and SPJ President Lynn Walsh had visited with a Senator’s staff person and came away with the impression there could be interest in moving this issue.
Foxhall also said the new Freedom of Information fellow at the National Press Club Journalism Institute, Kathy Kiely, is someone she wants to work with.
MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL MAILING
Fickling reported that after the chapter mailed membership renewal requests to close to 200 people last year, she deposited checks from about eight people. She said some recipients returned the sheet in the mailing that allowed them to check off why they were not renewing. A number of them had retired or said they could not come into town for programs.
Burns said we should have an effort to contact people whose membership is expiring in the next few months.
Asher said she would write a notice for the chapter’s website asking people to be sure their membership is up to date.
Falquero reported that upcoming programs include:
–A session on Solutions Journalism on Feb. 23, with the Medill School of Journalism campus on G Street providing space and Solutions Journalism contributing $75 toward food costs. He estimates the cost to the chapter at around $100.
–A session on cops and cameras on March 16, with the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies providing space at the Massachusetts Avenue campus. He estimates the cost to the chapter at around $100 for food.
Make said the recent event with Sarah Wire, the Los Angeles Times reporter who covers the California Congressional delegation, was excellent and a great tutorial on reporting.
Burns said she has invited three people to be on the nominating committee.
Make noted that between April 15 and May 1 all chapter members can vote on board nominees and we always stick closely to those dates.
Burns noted the national SPJ Ted Scripps Leadership Institute training sessions for chapter officers and potential officers will be coming up, with the first one planned for Kansas City.
Fickling said she had sent a check to the D.C. Open Government Coalition for the $300 we have agreed to contribute for the coalition’s Sunshine Week event at the National Press Club.
Burns discussed the fact that there are two seats open on the board and asked that names of potential board members be sent to her.
She also noted that Falquero is working on a brochure for the local chapter.
Falquero said he will resend to the board an earlier email about opting in to the group email list, to help make sure no board member is left off crucial emails.
It was the sense of the board, after discussion, that any prior Hall of Fame inductees who have died in the last year will be mentioned in the Hall of Fame dinner program.
The meeting was adjourned at about 8:58 p.m.