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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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.

Financial oversight

I posted some thoughts a few days ago about an SPJ list of recommended financial best practices.

One recommendation is: “Require two signatures on all checks.”

I wrote that my SPJ chapter – Washington, D.C., Pro – doesn’t follow that particular practice, but I think it should.

At our summer meeting on Sunday, the chapter board talked about the best practices document, including the double-signature recommendation.

Bill McCloskey, who is on both the chapter board and SPJ’s national board, said that even though our chapter isn’t as geographically spread out as some, it’s not always easy to get two people to meet whenever we need to write a check.

McCloskey suggested a different approach: giving a second person on the board read-only access to online bank statements.

Our treasurer, Amy Fickling, already prepares a monthly financial statement and shares it with the board before our meetings. We review and ask questions, if we have any, before approving each report.

But having a second set of eyes watching transactions as they occur is a good financial safeguard.

As we made clear at our meeting, this was not a judgment about the integrity of our current treasurer, who keeps our books in good order. The change is to add a layer of security for the chapter, no matter who our treasurer is in the future.