East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists

May 2008

MAY NEWS UPDATE

Here’s a summary of actions taken by your national board of directors at its May 3 meeting in Indianapolis:

  • Approved charters for three chapters – Florida A&M University in Tallahassee; New England School of Communications in Bangor, Maine; and a Wyoming Pro Chapter in Cheyenne.
  • Put an end to publication of The Journalist, the yearly, glossy magazine started a few years ago as a potential revenue source.
  • Discontinued the New America Award, which recognized journalism in ethnic media, as a stand-alone award and authorized headquarters staff to explore options for continuing the award as part of the SDX awards.
  • Authorized the executive director to try to find another sponsor for the Journalism Education Series that was started last year with MarketWire as the sponsor.
  • Amended the policy on non-media sponsors of SPJ’s annual convention. The amended policy makes it easier for headquarters staff to market sponsorships to non-media companies, a necessity I feel in light of the tightened purse strings of media organizations.
  • Accepted a proposal from the Dart Society (a nonprofit group of journalists who cover violence) to involve that group in the 2009 annual SPJ convention. Dart will provide up to 10 programs for the convention, 40-60 attendees and a cash sponsorship. SPJ will include Dart members in its convention hotel room block and send SPJ officials to Dart’s banquet.
  • Dart marks its 10th anniversary next year; SPJ marks its 100th.
  • Approved the spring conference programming option I mentioned in two earlier e-mails.
  • Tabled action on a proposal to eliminate annual reports for professional chapters. The proposal as presented put the board in a sort of Catch-22 position, in my opinion. I’ll break it down further later in this update.
  • Decided we could “live with” language defining a journalist in the proposed federal shield law IF the alternative meant no shield law. The law’s chief supporter in the Senate, Republican John Cornyn of Texas, apparently is unwilling to budge on the definition. The board directed SPJ president Clint Brewer to arrange a meeting with Cornyn to explain why most board members object to the definition. Keep an eye on developments.
ABOUT ANNUAL REPORTS
The board took up a proposal that would have ended the requirement of pro chapters to file annual reports, starting in 2009.
The proposal involved these  steps:

  • Repealing Article V, Section Four of SPJ’s Bylaws that requires the annual reports.
  • Establishing a policy that would require Regional Directors to make telephone contact with each chapter in his or her region on a monthly basis. RDs would use those contacts to collect information on membership, finances, programming, requests for assistance, etc., and file reports about same with HQ.
  • A voluntary awards program would replace the chapter of the year awards and star ranking system that currently are based on the RDs assessment of the chapters’ annual reports.

The rationale for doing away with the annual report requirement in the Bylaws? Chapter review is a process that should be set by policy not set in stone in our governing documents. The repeal also would eliminate an inconsistency that exists between professional and campus chapters.
The rationale for a policy requiring monthly contact by the RDs? A monthly process would allow timely reaction if a problem exists as well as provide continuous sharing of topical and timely ideas.
Further, such contact would create a personal connection between local chapter leaders and the RDs, and might spur more activity by the chapters.
We tabled the matter to give staff and the RDs time to develop a fully formulated proposal that could be submitted to the membership at a convention. Bylaw changes require a vote of the membership, and the board felt there were too many questions about the system that would replace the bylaw.

I believe that completes my report(s) from the board meeting. Hope everyone is doing well.
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May 7, 2008

Fellow journalists,

Check out this story http://www.thedmonline.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticle&uStory_id=c9cff97e-54e8-4993-8ff1-9baa5902cca3 on the University of Mississippi newspaper website.

The Ole Miss SPJ chapter used a grant from national SPJ to bring independent video journalist Josh Wolf to campus to speak on the need for a shield law and the importance of protecting sources and our work from being used as a tool of the government.

Wolf, you may remember, spent 226 days in jail after refusing to yield to police and prosecutors the video he took during a demonstration that ended with a policeman injured and a vandalized police car.

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