The candidates have spoken

Candidates for SPJ’s national offices spoke on Thursday during the opening business session. If you didn’t hear them, the broadcast of our speeches is available here.

Carl Corry, my opponent, is introduced at about 20:30.

I am introduced at about 24:20.

Voting is under way through 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Please vote.

If you have any questions, contact SPJ’s election hotline at 317-721-8009 or send an email to elections


The Anti-Defamation League at EIJ ’12

Should the Society of Professional Journalists take money from the Anti-Defamation League?

I heard that question a few days ago after some SPJers learned that the ADL will be an exhibitor at this year’s national convention in Fort Lauderdale.

The back story is important.

The ADL condemned two rounds of comments former White House correspondent Helen Thomas made about Israel in 2010. After the first round, Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said Thomas “was always bigoted about Israel,” according to this Washington Post piece.

It was around that time that SPJ also considered removing Thomas’s name from a lifetime achievement award.

SPJ took no action after Thomas’s first remarks and even gave the award again later that year; no one complained, as far as I know.

But, in January 2011, following Thomas’s inflammatory remarks during a speech in Detroit, SPJ’s board of directors “retired” the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award.

(Note this passage in the announcement: “To continue offering the award would reignite the controversy each year and take away from its purpose: honoring a lifetime of work in journalism.” Does accepting the ADL as an exhibitor this year “reignite the controversy”?)

“Retiring” the award was seen as a compromise instead of removing her name from the award, but had the same effect.

The ADL was pleased.

This was Thomas’s first set of remarks. This was her second set of remarks.

Some within SPJ considered Thomas’s comments to be hateful. Others – including me – objected to a journalism organization punishing someone for speaking her mind, especially, it should be noted, when she was a columnist (the first time) and a private citizen (the second time).

A movement to reinstate the award failed 85-71 at the 2011 national convention.

Now, the issue is back, for those who remember ADL’s early connection.

Last week, I heard from a concerned SPJer who was told that ADL was a convention sponsor.

Actually, ADL is an exhibitor – a group that buys space for a table to share information about itself – but not a sponsor.

Not all exhibitors are journalism-related organization (such as Alcoholics Anonymous, another exhibitor this year).

SPJ has guidelines for allowing non-journalism organizations as convention sponsors, to be known as “supporters” (including: “2. No money will be accepted from domestic or foreign governments, or from partisan political organizations”). The only exhibitor guidelines I know of are about logistics (space, schedule, payments, etc.).

Some SPJers debating this topic have asked: Should SPJ have accepted the ADL as an exhibitor? Should SPJ shun any groups? Is this bad timing, so close to the “retirement” of the Thomas award?

I see nothing wrong with accepting the ADL as an exhibitor (not as a sponsor or “supporter”) as long as any other organization would have the same chance.

10 SPJ recommendations, plus 10 more

Earlier this month, I posted an item looking back at 10 ideas SPJ President John Ensslin proposed when he was running for secretary-treasurer three years ago. I asked Ensslin if he could report on which ideas succeeded.

A few days later, he obliged. It turned out, though, that Ensslin came up with 20 SPJ ideas as part of his campaign that year. (The campaign flier I had saved listed 10.)

Here is Ensslin’s blog post recalling his “20 Ideas in 20 Days.”

By his count, the scorecard at this point is:

  • 8 ideas that worked, in full or part.
  • 8 ideas that failed or proved impractical.
  • 4 ideas that are still a work in progress.

It’s good for voters at any level to look back at what their elected leaders pledge. I applaud Ensslin for his willingness to do so.

Although I try to follow SPJ issues, several items on Ensslin’s list were new to me.

Here are a few examples of what he wanted SPJ to do, with his recap of what happened:

11.  Line up a journalism-themed movie premiere as SDX or LDF fundraiser. Over the last few years, there have been several popular feature films about journalists: George Clooney’s Murrow-biopic “Good Night and Good Luck” or Angelina Jolie’s “A Mighty Heart” about Daniel and Marianne Pearl. The next time such a movie comes down the pike, let’s approach the film makers about staging a benefit premiere in a city of their choice.

  • This idea failed, but not for lack of trying. I tried to convince the makers of “The Bang Bang Club,” a film on photojournalists covering the fall of apartheid in South Africa. But we couldn’t reach an agreement. I haven’t given up on this idea either and will keep an eye out for any new journalism movies.”

14. Explore finding a service that would enable all regions and local chapters to convert their journalism contests to an online entry system. Currently, regions and chapters are being approached individually by such vendors. By aggregating our buying power, we could get a much more advantageous deal.

  • This idea morphed into marketing SPJ’s own awards platform, which we were able to sell to a few chapters and journalism organizations. This is still a work in progress.

18.  Survey new members on what led them to join. In recent years, we’ve done some careful research on why people drop out of SPJ and who they are. But we’ve not devoted as much attention to where our new members are coming from. What specific things convinced them to join. The more we know about this the better we’ll get at recruitment.

  • This idea worked. I did my own email survey of new members who joined SPJ this spring. The results made it clear that we enjoyed a spike of new members who joined to get the member rate in our Mark of Excellence journalism contest.

In review: how others campaigned

Yesterday, I posted a list of 10 ideas John Ensslin proposed for SPJ while he was running for national secretary-treasurer three years ago.

Ensslin, whose term as president will end during this year’s national convention, told me he soon will post an update on this blog, explaining whether those ideas succeeded, failed or somewhere in between.

I was not trying to single out Ensslin, who I think did well to present a clear, straightforward platform of specific ideas.

Earlier today, I found some other candidate campaign material from recent years. Consider this a random sample.

Ron Sylvester, candidate for … his palm card doesn’t say, but I recall that he ran for president-elect. His palm card has slogans referring to history (noting that his father was a proud SPJ member) and the future (such as covering a murder trial live on Twitter – Sylvester became well known for his tweeting in courtrooms).

Dave Aeikens, candidate for secretary-treasurer: He had a glossy, professional-looking campaign card with slogans on the front (“I Like Aeik” and “Experienced Leadership, Proven Results”)  and detailed résumés of his SPJ and work experience on the back.

Clint Brewer, candidate for president-elect: His campaign card was smaller than Aeikens’, but used similar phrases (“Proven Leadership,” “Proven Experience”). Along with a brief bio, Brewer offered five ideas for SPJ’s future:

          1. “a strong effective internal communications program” for chapters and SPJ’s headquarters

          2. “SPJ 50,” an effort to start professional SPJ chapters in the 13 states that had none

          3. “a new Marketing and Branding Campaign,” with help from “a nationally recognized marketing firm”

          4. “a Chapter Service Center in the national headquarters” to help local chapters in various ways

          5. “a Common Sense Approach to Regions,” with funding for the regional director system

Joe Wessels, candidate for secretary-treasurer: In the form of a “coupon good for SPJ change,” he pledged to:

1. Increase membership through “relationships and outreach with journalists not currently a part of SPJ”

2. Keep SPJ members “informed about their society through e-mail, Web site announcements and good, old-fashioned face-to-face check-ins”

3. Make SPJ “a more front-loaded organization” and proactive through “creative partnerships, a community re-branding effort and focusing on what is possible for an alternate SPJ future the members want.”

Holly Edgell, candidate for campus adviser at large: Her campaign card listed a brief bio and a quote: “It is important to expose students to the wealth of resources SPJ has to offer, from FOI to the First Amendment issues that uniquely affect college journalists. SPJ’s campus chapters form a vital component of the organization. Student members bring enthusiasm, talent, and fresh thinking to SPJ and allow the organization to remain vibrant and relevant.”

Holly Edgell, now a candidate for Region 7 Director: Her bio is slightly larger this time. She also presented seven goals for the region:

1. “Encourage more broadcasters and new media professionals to join SPJ”

2. “Work on bringing more diversity to SPJ membership”

3. “Lay groundwork for a pro-chapter in Omaha”

4. “Have a stellar regional conference”

5. “Organize an awesome Mark of Excellence competition”

6. “Start an e-newsletter to connect members”

7. “Foster greater cooperation among campus and pro chapters”

Bruce Cadwallader, candidate for president-elect: His campaign flyer is a seven-item platform (actually, with more than seven specific ideas):

1. Introduce a cash-incentive program for current members to recruit new members. Promote One Member, One Vote for the election of national officers

2. Set dues at $40 for new members for three years. New members will be assigned to the closest chapter and pay $10 in dues, then may change to another chapter once at no cost

3. Make Quill a digital publication. Hire an advertising/communications employee at SPJ’s headquarters.

4. “Make our lawyers in Washington more accountable and urge credible journalists to participate with Capitol Hill testimony to pass a federal shield law.”

5. Finalize and promote plans for SPJ’s centennial celebration in 2009.

6. Meet with an engineer and raise money to install a handicapped-accessible lift at SPJ’s headquarters, so the building can be used for training and activities.

7. “Insist that future conventions are not always in ‘destination cities’ that are too expensive for the average member.”

Hagit Limor, candidate for secretary-treasurer: Her campaign flyer is a bio listing her work, education, honors, awards and activities, with a statement of why she is running: “Our profession faces a seismic shift. Every week we’re hearing about major job cuts at newspapers and broadcast properties. At the same time, more jobs are being created on the web.

“I represent someone with experience in all the media above. I believe the future growth of our organization lies in recruiting journalists migrating to new forms of media and re-training all of us so we can remain relevant in this brave, new world. But as we do so, it is incumbent that we ensure through our organization that we help all who call themselves journalists live up to our honorable code of ethics.

“In the past year, I’ve doubled the membership of our local chapter and reinvigorated it. I believe I can bring that energy along with new ideas to the national level. As a former print reporter, I feel the pain of my friends in these challenging times. As a broadcaster, I represent a viewpoint currently missing on our national board. And as a web producer, I believe I can add to the direction our current leadership has defined as our future.

“I would appreciate your support and welcome all ideas to”


A postscript: Cadwallader, with the most detailed campaign platform of this random bunch, lost to Brewer in the 2006 election for president-elect, which is usually an uncontested race.

In review: a candidate’s platform

Candidates for SPJ offices should be specific in what they want to accomplish or have accomplished.

This doesn’t happen much. A lot of the campaign talk I’ve heard from SPJ candidates over the years has been broad, aspirational and a little vague – let’s increase programming, enhance training, continue SPJ’s advocacy.

Would anyone disagree?

A few weeks ago on this blog, I mentioned an idea from Meagan McGinnes, a candidate for student representative on the SPJ board. She suggested that SPJ require a student chapter to hold at least one event per year in conjunction with the nearest pro chapter. I don’t know if that can or should be mandatory, but I like the spirit of the idea and will encourage my own chapter – Washington, D.C., Pro – to pursue it in the future.

Three conventions ago, John Ensslin proposed “Ten ideas to move SPJ forward” as he ran for secretary-treasurer.

I didn’t realize I had held onto his one-page platform for so long until I found it recently. It’s appropriate to look at it again now, as Ensslin nears the end of his presidency.

I am listing the items below, just as Ensslin wrote them. He has agreed to reply to this post with a progress report.

I know #8 has been accomplished.

I don’t think #9 has, but I can’t prove or disprove it where I am. An Executive Committee member attends almost every Washington, D.C., Pro chapter meeting, but that’s only because Bill McCloskey is on both the Executive Committee and the D.C. Pro board.

Reviewing candidates’ promises and pledges after they’ve held office should be a standard practice – although I’m not saying we must hold Ensslin personally accountable for everything on his list that wasn’t enacted.

I don’t remember if Ensslin made a similar list for his presidential term. If he did, maybe he can share that here, too.



John Ensslin’s “Ten ideas to move SPJ forward”:

1. Quarterly national board meetings. Two in person, two by phone. More democracy, not less.

2. Start/revive chapters with workshops. Use programs such as Tom Hallman’s Narrative Writing Workshops as kindling for reviving chapters.

3. Peg conference cost to membership dues. Draw in new members by making the price of the regional conferences equal to one year’s dues.

4. Better communication through shared bulk e-mail. Share use of iContact, Constant Contact or a similar bulk e-mail service so chapters can communicate better.

5. National programming czar. Appoint a national programming chair to help pro and student chapters stage programs.

6. Online auction. Do an online auction in advance of the national convention to raise additional money for LDF.

7. Film premiere fundraiser. Line up a journalism-themed movie premiere as an SDX or LDF fundraiser.

8. Honor our volunteers. Volunteers are the glue that holds SPJ together. Honor their service with a volunteer-of-the-month award.

9. Listening tour. Executive committee members, where invited, listen in on local chapter meetings by phone.

10. Sponsor international journalists. Invite foreign journalists from the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship to SPJ regional conferences.

The president’s take

This is SPJ President John Ensslin’s explanation of why Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky was asked to remove a blog post about a University of Georgia student press issue. And this is the letter Ensslin wrote to the student newspaper board expressing SPJ’s concerns.

As I suspected, there was a misunderstanding between Ensslin and Koretzky about the purpose of a fact-finding trip Koretzky arranged to gather information about the University of Georgia dispute. Koretzky said he told Ensslin about the trip as a courtesy. Ensslin said he was counting on Koretzky to report back to him so SPJ could formulate an official statement and didn’t like that Koretzky posted something on his own first.

Both approaches in this case have merit (quick and punchy; deliberate and thorough), but Koretzky is right that it’s strange for SPJ to be silent on a controversy as it’s unfolding, then issue a statement a few days after it was resolved.

I don’t think reaction and commentary needed to be either/or.

I go back to a central point in the dispute: whether Koretzky’s post could be interpreted as representing SPJ as a whole. I didn’t read it that way. But, by all means, add a “This is one person’s opinion” disclaimer, if it would help.

A student candidate’s idea

I like candidates with specifics – ideas or positions on issues.

Here’s one from Meagan McGinnes of Ithaca College, who is running to be a student representative on the SPJ board:

“The other thing I would like to do is make a new requirement for collegiate chapters: everyone must do one program a year with their local professional SPJ organization. Whether that is a Skype session or actual event, it is up to the chapter. I think it is important because it forces student and professional journalist interaction and connections.”

That’s a good idea. My chapter – Washington, D.C., Pro – has talked about working with the handful of student chapters in our area, but has only done so a few times that I can remember. We should make this a goal.