Grassroots Group of SPJ Members Meets — At Last

Following many months of collaborating by phone and email, chapter members and local leaders from across the country gathered for the first time on Sept. 5 at the Society of Professional Journalists annual conference in San Antonio.

There were contingents from the Chicago and Oregon and Washington chapters; the head of the local San Antonio chapter who welcomed us to his city; some guests of various members; and representatives from other parts of the country including Louisiana, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Northern California and elsewhere. The group formed earlier this year to raise its collective voice and views about how the national organization can operate in a more transparent and effective way. The latest request was made in late August.

Members of the grassroots group meeting.

During the first part of the meeting, approximately 30 members of this group and a few who joined in for the first time went around the room describing themselves and their interests. As that was happening, roughly half of the national SPJ board as well as some members of the national foundation boards began trickling in.

Members of the grassroots group had several concerns that were widely shared. They wanted to get more accurate and up-to-date information from the association about who were members of each of their chapters. Some discussed their concerns about sponsorship of this very convention, and there was some debate about a then-pending resolution before the entire membership of SPJ regarding that.

I also filled in the group on progress we have made on getting our concerns resolved after we have raised them to the national board. And I briefly recapped a board meeting that occurred just that morning. I also blogged about it and live-tweeted it.

Agenda from the SPJ board meeting.

As members were introducing themselves, incoming President Patti Newberry took a few minutes to recap for goals for her coming year as leader.

She expressed a desire to hear from members and to engage with them. To that end, she requested that I provide her with a list of the issues this group had raised that had not yet been resolved. That will help the board tackle those issues. On Sept. 15, Newberry discussed plans for her presidency in a blog post.

We also heard from other members of the national board, including Michael Koretzky. And we had introductions from others who attended on behalf of the SPJ & SPJ Foundation fka Sigma Delta Chi boards.

Both to the grassroots group and to the national board members, I shared my goal of letting the incoming board and eventual new executive director make good on some of the issues we had recently raised. My hope is that we can give them time to resolve these issues, and hold off bringing up new areas of concern.

Crucial to our group being able to hold off on future formal communications to the entire board is the ability to raise informally and efficiently issues that need attention. That was the subject of some discussion as well.

Below are some of the main points that our group posts to get resolved. Newberry and others pledged to work on these issues.

In no particular order, on the to-do list is:

How can this group, or potentially any group, establish a list serve?

How can every year, prior to this annual convention, all delegates get a list of all other delegates? Presumably with their contact information, too.

How can each chapter get an up-to-date roster?

How can convention proposals for programs members are volunteering to devise get feedback — even if it’s rejection? And if there’s a rejection, can there presumably be a reason given with constructive feedback?

How can national intervene regarding a regional director who is AWOL? How can there be an impeachment/suspension, if necessary?

How can the SPJ website be updated so it’s Americans With Disabilities Act- compliant? Accessible to those with visual and/or audio disabilities.

Our group’s latest communique.

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