Minutes of the SPJ-DC Pro Chapter Board Meeting
Thursday August 3, 2017
The McClendon Room
National Press Club
529 14th St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20045
PRESENT AT MEETING START: President Jonathan Make; Corresponding Secretary Amy Fickling; Treasurer Eric Falquero; directors Julie Asher, April Bethea, Dee Ann Divis and Kathryn Foxhall; and Immediate Past President Kathy Burns.
ARRIVING AS EXPECTED AFTER MEETING START: Recording Secretary Elizabeth Grisham and Vice President Alice Ollstein
GUEST: Gina Garcia, program director for the Georgetown University Master of Journalism Program
CALL TO ORDER
President Jonathan Make called the meeting to order at 7:07 p.m., acknowledging that some board members would be understandably delayed due to the severe thunderstorm.
Make noted that Treasurer Eric Falquero would take meeting minutes until Recording Secretary Elizabeth Grisham arrives and takes over the task.
BOARD MEMBER SWEARING IN
Kathryn Foxhall was sworn in as an at-large director on the chapter board.
Julie Asher moved that the board to nominate Ana Pinilla to fill one of the remaining director positions on the board. Kathy Burns seconded. The motion carried.
One at-large director seat remains open. Make said that Grisham, delayed by the storm, should be asked to republish in the August issue the previous notice in Dateline seeking chapter members’ interest in serving on the board.
PROGRAM PARTNERING OPPORTUNITY
Make introduced Gina Garcia, from Georgetown University’s graduate journalism program, as a guest at the meeting. Garcia described her professional background and explained that she was reaching out to partner on programs with us in the interest of increasing engagement in her program’s student SPJ chapter.
Make mentioned his efforts to organize a panel of media ombudsmen and asked if this would be something beneficial for her students and useful to host in the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies on Massachusetts Avenue. Garcia said it is. Make asked what other concrete ideas we could move towards on the spot.
Asher suggested a Happy Hour. There was general encouragement from the board for the idea and Garcia said that Tuesdays would be good for her students to host such a program. The board agreed on a Georgetown Journalism/SPJ-DC Happy Hour to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
Foxhall suggested there be a 5- to 10-minute talk about SPJ-DC at the Happy Hour.
Make suggested the event be hosted at the Press Club bar but wondered about the number of guests that could be accommodated. He suggested 6:30-8:30 p.m. for the time.
Foxhall suggested giving a historical tour of the Press Club.
Foxhall suggested reserving the McClendon Room for the event to reduce noise and assure space for the program. Amy Fickling and Make, Press Club members, said they would look into it.
EIJ17 – SPJ NATIONAL CONVENTION
CHAPTER DELEGATES: Make said that the board needs to formalize in-person the list of chapter delegates that were decided by e-mail to represent SPJ-DC at the 2017 SPJ Excellence in Journalism national convention.
Delegates selected were Hazel Becker, Kathy Burns, Kathryn Foxhall and Amy Fickling OR Andy Schotz (as an alternate if scheduling does not work out for Fickling).
Dee Ann Divis moved that the board approve the delegates and alternate selected. Asher seconded. The motion carried.
INSTRUCTING DELEGATE VOTING: April Bethea inquired if the board would like to discuss how we want the delegates to vote on various matters during the convention business sessions, especially the proposed changes in the national bylaws related to governance that will come before the delegates.
If the board feels strongly about certain items, it can instruct the delegates to vote a certain way. Otherwise, they can vote as they decide for themselves. Make asked Bethea to start an e-mail discussion with fellow board members and Region 2 Director Andy Schotz about the main business of the bylaws changes
She reminded the board that proposed bylaws amendments would make significant changes to the structure of the national including the number of board members and the representation on the board of regional directors.
Make asked that the explanation of the changes Schotz had previously provided be re-circulated to the board for consideration during the e-mail discussion of whether to instruct delegates in their voting on the bylaws.
DELEGATE REGISTRATION REIMBURSEMENT Fickling read a motion and asked that it be entered verbatim into the record, as follows:
Fickling moved that the chapter agrees to reimburse up to four delegates to the EIJ17 convention in Anaheim Sept. 7-9, 2017, at the rate they paid for the early-bird registration and President’s Installation dinner, not to exceed $310 each. The reimbursement requires that delegates successfully complete their duties, including attending and voting, as votes are called, during all convention business sessions and writing at least one report from the convention for the issue of the Dateline newsletter that follows. Delegates must provide a paid receipt — preferably from their registration packets — showing their registration rate and the dinner, if attended, to receive reimbursement. Any delegate who is reimbursed for or has comped the registration by their employer or other party, such as national SPJ, shall not also ask the chapter for reimbursement.
Asher seconded. The motion carried.
Make asked Falquero for his support as treasurer. Falquero agreed.
Fickling specified that delegates should only present their documentation for reimbursement after successfully submitting their assigned write-up about the convention to Grisham for the chapter newsletter.
DELEGATE CONVENTION COVERAGE
Make suggested a division of labor for coverage.
Fickling volunteered to review the conference program and make suggestions to the delegates on what portions to cover and who might be best suited for each point of interest.
Bethea suggested writing recaps of the business meeting and the speeches from officers for what they want to see from chapters. She said this would also be helpful content to gather for our own discussion of how to support and expand the 2018 EIJ convention in Baltimore.[Vice President Alice Ollstein arrived at this time.]
Make asked Fickling to circulate and discuss her conference coverage suggestions with delegates and then report back to the board what they all agree on.
FOIA EVENT WITH MUCKROCK
Make asked the board to ratify its decision made by electronic vote to approve expenses for the recent FOIA program with MuckRock.
Falquero moved that the board ratify its vote made applying its E-Vote Policy and concluded July 19, with the results showing majority approval for the chapter spending up to $100 for food for the FOIA program with MuckRock and offering attendance at no charge to anyone who signs up, whether a chapter member or not. Asher seconded. The motion carried.
Foxhall reported that it was a great event and described how main speaker Michael Ravnitzky (not an employee of MuckRock) said close to the program start time that his presentation would be off the record. He had explained his reasons. Foxhall said that, this being against chapter policy, the board members present at that time spoke casually and agreed to proceed with the program being off the record.
Make said this sounded like the process worked but noted that we should make sure upfront in the planning stages that this does not come up right before a program starts, even if it is assumed that speakers are transparency proponents.
Foxhall said that we need to make it part of our outreach procedure to ensure during program organization that all parties know and agree that the program is on the record.
Make said that this should be an assumption, not a question, giving the example of “We’d like to invite you to speak at an on the record program about ______.”
Ollstein agreed but said that we should still retain the flexibility to make exceptions, such as if we were to host a second program with Michael Ravnitzky as speaker.
Divis acknowledged there are always special cases and gave the example that she heard from a journalist at the most recent Investigative Reporters and Editors conference who put himself at personal risk by sharing some of his experience with those in attendance.
Make asked if we could talk about scheduling for the second FOIA program while Garcia was present. Falquero noted that this would depend on the schedules of Michael Ravnitzky and Michael Morisy, who located in the Boston area. Ollstein volunteered to reach out to them about a second program in the fall, and promised to bring “not off-the-record” into the conversation.
Make asked for a recap of the vote for the FOIA program expenses.
The Google Forms vote tally showed that all 10 board members who were invited to participated in the vote:
— 6 voted to “APPROVE SPENDING [up to $100] and providing the program WITH FOOD and FREE TO ALL attendees.”
— 4 voted to “APPROVE SPENDING [up to $100] and providing the program WITH FOOD and $5 for NON-MEMBERS and free to members.”
— 0 voted to “disapprove spending this amount for this program.”
Falquero said that food was thus provided and there was no charge for attendance. Also, the total expense was just over $100 and MuckRock pledged to contribute $50 — so the chapter will be paying only about half of the approved amount ($54.03 to be precise).
Fickling asked about how the first time using the E-Vote Policy and the Google Forms went. She said that there appeared to be a change in the voting responses as the vote was ongoing and asked for clarification.
Falquero explained that he updated the language of the response option in favor of providing the program free to all soon after he initiated the vote, based on some of the discussion that was occurring via e-mail simultaneously.
When performing that update, he also realized at that time that he had not required voters to input their e-mail addresses, and updated that setting as well.
Because Falquero and one other board member had already voted for the option that he changed the language for, Google Forms preserved that option as originally worded separately in its voting report. So it appeared, if you viewed the vote results as voting was taking place (which anyone who has cast a vote can do), as if there were 4 response options instead of 3.
At the end of the vote, Falquero reviewed the results and saw that the only e-mail address missing from the vote participant list was that for Ollstein. And none of the voters whose e-mail addresses were recorded had vote for the outdated option. Falquero deleted the two “anonymous” votes and asked Ollstein to recast her vote, which he also did.
This provided a vote record for both members’ e-mail addresses and removed the confusing outdated voting option from the results.
Fickling said she was concerned about any changes taking place during voting, because it was her understanding that the Google Forms selected for use under the E-Vote Policy was tamper-proof. She said it was surprising that in this first test of the policy and use of the form the person making the motion could actually make changes after the voting form is submitted.
Falquero said he should have followed his own instructions from the policy (such as requiring the e-mail address of the voter), but doesn’t believe the tweaks changed the actual outcome. He said he thinks the policy will work in the future, and when the votes are set up, the person making the motion should follow the instructions for set-up closely.
Grisham arrived at this time and distributed the minutes, and Garcia departed the meeting. Grisham took over keeping the minutes from Falquero.
Fickling had sent by e-mail two Treasurer’s Reports (for July and August) to board members ahead of tonight’s meeting.
Asher moved that the board accept both Treasurer’s Reports. Bethea seconded. There being no discussion, the board voted and the motion carried.
JUNE MEETING MINUTES
Asher moved that the board accept the June 15, 2017, meeting minutes. Falquero seconded.
During discussion, the board had access to a revised version of the minutes provided by Grisham incorporating some edits by Fickling. Make said he had requested that the minutes not include any information about who was being considered to join the board. Fickling said she did not have time to make all of the edits that she intended to prior to Grisham’s deadline, but her final edits (a copy of which she provided at the meeting) did eliminate most of the information Make mentioned.
In reviewing her post-deadline edits for the board, Fickling suggested that June minutes include mention that there will be no July issue of the newsletter. Regarding a social media training program, Fickling said she talked to Suzanne Struglinsky at the National Press Club, but there is no formal program in the offing. She said she and Struglinsky were simply exchanging ideas on co-sponsoring future programs. And, she asked about the reference to First Amendment T-shirts that Schotz might have. Make said he thought Schotz had sold all of the shirts.
Make moved that the original motion be amended to reflect that the board to accept the June 15, 2017, meeting minutes as revised in the last version circulated by Fickling. The board voted to accept the amended motion. The revised motion carried
Ollstein discussed past and upcoming programs.
PREVIOUS PROGRAMS: The baseball event was pay-what-you-can. She said she did not have a final figure for the funds raised. She suggested that the board pursue future baseball outings at Nats Park. Make said that to do so, the board should wait until 30 days out from the game in question, so that chapter member Bill McCloskey will know how many tickets he can get and at what cost.
RESCHEDULED OUTDOOR MOVIE & PICNIC: “All the President’s Men” free outdoor screening, in meet-up with JAWS group. This will take place Aug. 30. She said she will tweet previously used language to remind people. Notice of the event will also be included in the August newsletter. There will be no Eventbrite because it is a free event anyone can attend.
WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ ASSOCIATION: She said she met the new president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg. She said she and Talev would eventually discuss ways for the two organizations to collaborate on events like happy hours and workshops.
GERMAN JOURNALISTS: She said she spoke with the German journalists group leader about a happy hour event and that she had reached out to try to find hosts who can accommodate the journalists while they are in Washington. She said she had not been able to find accommodations, so the journalists would have to rely on other groups to come up with “couches to sleep on.”
Divis suggested that the board provide some information about who we are and what we specialize in work-wise, so that people will feel motivated to come and feel more at ease making connections.
VOICE OF AMERICA EVENT: Falquero said an event with Bridget Serchak, PIO of Voice of America might be a good choice. He said he had a call set with her for the day after the board meeting.
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: She said she had been in contact with the group. They work with whistleblowers. The group wants to do a workshop on best practices and key legal rights related to whistleblowers and how journalists can work with them. Need to find venue for event.
Burns agreed to provide a blurb on the Scripps Institute training workshops coming up on the national SPJ calendar. The training is in leadership skills for journalists who are SPJ chapter leaders.
The board also discussed new possible newsletter services. Grisham provided quotes, but said she did not want the board to vote on new services until she got a quote from one more service.
Grisham said she would continue to use teaser blurbs in the issues of Dateline, with links to full stories on spjdc.org.
Ollstein said the board had discussed making email subject lines more interesting. Grisham agreed to improve the subject lines in future Dateline newsletters and other mailings.
RECRUITMENT E-MAILING: Grisham sent out a membership message drafted by Foxhall to potential new members, but Foxhall said there had been no change to the membership numbers as a result of the mailing, as far as she could tell. Foxhall said it is possible that national headquarters issues changes to the chapter roster at one time each month, so perhaps the board would see a change on the new roster when it is updated.
Divis suggested cooperating with other organizations (sending messages to the individuals on the mailing lists of other journalism groups, and SPJ-DC reciprocating).
DOODLE POLL FOR SEPTEMBER MEETING DATE
Grisham said she would create a Doodle poll to identify the best date for the September board meeting. Make asked that the poll include Sept. 13, 14 and 21 as options.
Make said that starting with this meeting, he will work to keep the meetings at 90 minutes. Previously, meetings lasted two hours.
Make also said there are certain discussion topics he will recuse himself from: Dateline Awards, because his company enters the Dateline Awards competitions and he does the entering for his employer. Andy Schotz is, therefore, the point of contact for awards for the board; and FOIA, open government and freedom of the press issues, because he is currently working on project-based and story-based reporting on the openness of government to the media and to the public, he interviews people who are SPJ leaders or committee heads and he also files FOIA requests. For FOIA issues, Make suggested board members consult with Foxhall or the FOIA Committee of SPJ national. If help is needed beyond these individuals, Make suggested board members reach out to the president, president-elect or past president of national SPJ.
2018 DATELINE DINNER
Asher said the board should select a date for the 2018 Dateline Awards dinner. She said the event is typically held on the second Tuesday in June. That would be June 12, 2018.
There being no opposition, Make declared the meeting adjourned at 8:34 p.m.
SPJ-DC Recording Secretary