By Paige Cornwell
The Working Press
Delegates of the Society of Professional Journalists rejected a proposal Saturday that recommends the Board of Directors establish a policy making all SPJ chapter treasurer reports available for public review upon request.
Delegates of the Society of Professional Journalists rejected a proposal that would have made public all chapters’ treasurer reports.
Delegates voted 61-52 to shelve the resolution at the SPJ closing business session, following a contentious, hourlong debate over the intent, need and implications of the resolution.
The resolution was submitted by the Press Club of Long Island to encourage transparency within all SPJ chapters, Executive Vice President Nicole B. Brewer told delegates.
An amendment replaced “financial records,” the original wording in the resolution, with “treasurer reports” after some delegates questioned the definition of a financial record and whether any and all financial records of a chapter would have to be available to the public.
Lauren Bartlett, a delegate with the Greater Los Angeles Professional chapter, said she supported the ideas of the resolution, but questioned the way it was written. Others said the three-paragraph proposal wasn’t specific enough.
“I advocate for public records, but SPJ is not a government organization,” delegate Jeremy W. Steele of the Mid-Michigan chapter said during the meeting. “We are not the same as a government organization.”
Linda Peterson, a delegate for the Utah Headliners Club and chair of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee, compared the business meeting to a legislative session.
“What a bunch of hypocrites!” Peterson said, followed by applause. “Take a good, hard look at yourself and listen to what you are saying. We are the watchdogs of the United States.”
Steele said after the meeting that it was an “apples and oranges” comparison because SPJ does not handle the general public’s money. A resolution wouldn’t prevent another scandal, he said, referring to a former Oklahoma chapter secretary-treasurer who withdrew $40,000 from a chapter account and admitted to improperly using the money.
Outgoing SPJ Board President John Ensslin told the audience that the board of directors voted Thursday to offer financial oversight assistance after a delegate asked if a resolution was the best way to move forward after the Oklahoma financial scandal.
Brewer said she hopes Saturday’s business meeting started a discussion about transparency in all SPJ chapters, even if the treasurer reports aren’t required for public review.
Among the seven resolutions, SPJ delegates also approved a resolution challenging the constitutionality of the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
The resolution states SPJ “supports all efforts to have FERPA declared unconstitutional so that colleges and universities can begin to find a common-sense way to protect legitimate confidences while still giving the public information essential to evaluating how its schools are managed.”
In announcing the results of SPJ’s annual elections – the first one-member, one-vote contest since the organization’s founding in 1909 – Ensslin said 830 (10 percent) of the society’s members voted, compared to 100 in the elections of 2011.
Under the new voting roles, all members were eligible to vote for at-large director, student representative and Region 4 director.
In the at-large director contest, Carl Corry beat Andy Schotz 361-333. Schotz, former president of the Washington, D.C. Professional Chapter, championed the one-member, one-vote campaign last year.
Meg Wagner, campus chapter president at the University of Florida, and Mary Kenney, a student at Indiana University, were elected student representatives. Patty Gallagher, campus adviser at Miami University in Ohio, beat Norm Augustinus, Florida freelance writer, for Region 4 director.