By Meagan Racey / Photo by Nikki Villoria
Several chapters are calling on new officers to run SPJ with more sensitivity, communication and accountability.[caption id="attachment_36" align="alignright" width="380" caption="SPJ President Kevin Z. Smith, in his inaugural address to convention delegates Saturday, urges members to be vigilant in this time of economic trauma and promises enhanced focus on membership retention, helping unemployed journalists, ethics and diversity. "][/caption]
Ricardo Sandoval, Northern California Pro chapter president, on Saturday requested that national leadership revisit the dues structure beyond the waiver enacted in April to benefit laid-off journalists. He thinks the 14 percent decline in membership this year was related to the cost of dues.
The dues structure needs to accommodate new types of journalists, such as bloggers and online journalists, who do not make the salaries that other professional journalists do, Sandoval said. Current and prospective members alerted leaders to difficulties paying membership dues through an outreach program earlier this year in Sandoval’s chapter.
“This is an issue that needs to be addressed seriously in the coming 12 months,” Sandoval said. “We hope that by the next meeting in Las Vegas we will have some serious and new initiatives in place to move in that direction.”
Rachel Nielsen, New York City chapter (Deadline Club) president, requested a better line of communication between national committees and SPJ leadership. Nielsen said that the ethics, digital, freelance and Legal Defense Fund committees experienced lapses in communication this year.
The Deadline Club, Press Club of Long Island and the Washington, D.C., chapter recently wrote letters to the Executive Committee, chapter leaders and Board of Directors regarding the decision to switch the convention auction beneficiary from the Legal Defense Fund to the Terry Harper Memorial Fund.
The letters said that the information provided to members about the Harper fund structure and mechanism for fund disbursement was insufficient and that donations had already been made from the Legal Defense Fund without the SPJ membership being informed.
The auction funds usually go to the Legal Defense Fund, but the Executive Committee decided to use them for a tribute to former executive director Terry Harper after his death on June 2. The Jail-N-Bail fundraiser was set up to benefit the Legal Defense Fund instead.
Nielsen suggested that communication lapses discourage leaders at the chapter, national and Board of Directors levels and influence them to give less time to SPJ.
“We want to encourage them to give more time and more effort to this organization,” Nielsen said. “We need to forge a new picture for this industry.”
The meeting included the passing of two resolutions thanking 2008-2009 President Dave Aeikens and the SPJ headquarters staff, the awarding of the Circle of Excellence chapter certificates, and the election of the 2009-2010 Board of Directors.