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.

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UPDATE to Endorsements, Inc.

SPJ President John Ensslin emailed me yesterday to clarify his position on the limits for current national board members in connection with candidate campaigns.

Newly written campaign guidelines say “5. Current national SPJ board members should remain neutral in all elections.”

During Saturday’s SPJ Executive Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., I asked if there were more specific guidelines, such as whether and how board members could “friend,” “like” or “follow” candidates on social media.

Ensslin told me there were not, that the guidelines were purposely left broad.

But he realized later that he and I were talking about two different things. Here’s what he wrote yesterday in an email, which he gave me permission to post:

“Andy I misunderstood you when we were talking Saturday.
I thought you were referring to your Facebook page, not your campaign’s Facebook page.
Sorry for the misunderstanding, but I could see where some would think that friending a campaign page would amount to an endorsement.
So my advice to board members would be to refrain from doing so.
Being a friend on a personal Facebook page, however does not seem like a problem.
Again, sorry for the misunderstanding.
John”
 
I agree with this sentiment. I’m usually outnumbered when this conversation comes up in the context of journalists connecting with sources, but I consider the word “friend” on Facebook to be just as it sounds – or carrying that perception, at least – and I don’t “friend” people I cover.
 
But, as I pointed out in my previous post about this, SPJ has created election guidelines (“should” vs. “shall”), not rules, so board members may do as they see fit.
 
During a brief email thread about this among national board members yesterday, no one objected to board members following candidates on Twitter. “Following” was not seen as an endorsement.