The following is a recap of the SPJ/RTDNA Excellence in Journalism convention held recently in New Orleans:
SPJ’s star system for ranking chapters is gone.
The national board voted 12-8 to adopt the regional directors’ caucus recommendation that the star system be scrapped and chapters will for now be judged on whether they are in good standing or not. Essentially, to be in good standing, a chapter has to have at least three programs a year that advance the society’s mission, file its annual report on time, and attend regional conferences and national convention (or get an excuse from your friendly, neighborhood regional director if you can’t make it to regional).
For those of you who don’t know, the star system ranked chapters from 4 stars (best) to 1 star (on the verge of being dechartered). The system started with the best of intentions, but chapter officers and regional directors found that the people who made the final calls on chapter stars (the at-large directors) were too punitive in administering the system. For example, I recommended Utah for four stars this year, given how we hosted regional, beat back the worst assault on open government in recent history and did other programs. But the final recommendation was for three stars because the evaluators thought we weren’t specific enough in describing the programs.
At the board meeting, Lauren Bartlett, one of the two at-large directors, argued that the star system was necessary to ensure chapters did programs that would keep members. But the regional directors argued that good chapters will do programs regardless of what carrot or stick is used by national.
We will be working out a new system for evaluating chapters that go above and beyond the call of duty, and I have volunteered to assist in that. We also have two new chapter doctors who will work with problem chapters, Carl Corry for the eastern United States and former Region 9 director Deb Hurley for the western half of the country.
Despite the best efforts of your regional director, the national board voted to raise dues $3 a year for pros and $1.50 for students starting in January. Joe Skeel, our executive director, said the dues increase, which will raise about $24,000 a year, is needed because expenses continue to rise and membership dues are the only reliable revenue stream the society has in place. We can’t count on conventions doing as well as this year’s did. Joe told us the staff is looking for other ways to raise money, such as renting out the upper floor of headquarters. He said national is looking into a monthly billing system.
Our regional conference will be April 13-14 in Denver. This year, we will have a committee with representatives from the four pro chapters — Cara Degette from Colorado, Holly Wolcott from Wyoming, Julie Ann Grimm from Rio Grande (New Mexico), Tom Haraldsen from Utah — and the regional director will plan the conference.
I also recognized David Brown for stepping in as interim president of Rio Grande after a leadership shakeup and keeping the chapter on an even keel, and the crew from Colorado who restarted the Auruaria campus chapter in Denver.
Congratulations to Linda Petersen on her appointment as FOI chair and winning the Howard Dubin award. Jay Evensen was also reappointed to the Sigma Delta Chi foundation board.
Thank you for all you do for our chapter.