Vote No to the NABJ Constitutional Amendment

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Thank you to members of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Constitutional Committee for your leadership and service. Your commitment to NABJ is commendable.

I voted NO to amend the NABJ Constitution for two reasons: one, this proposed new governance structure has no immediate profitable fiscal impact on NABJ. Rather, it increases the size of an already 14-person BIG board. So why remove two board positions and create two new board positions?

Over the past few years, the downturn in the economy has set a new standard among nonprofit leaders to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. That said, it’s prudent to reduce board positions and keep travel and expenses at a minimum. Let us also remember that in recent NABJ elections, we did not attract enough candidates to run for national office. Many of those seats were filled as appointments by a new president.

Two, the amendment doesn’t represent an overhaul of our governance model. Instead, it is the same structure we set up 40 years ago, with the addition of board members. Again, more costs. What we need is a national leadership model that outlines a financial sustainability plan to rely less on our cash reserves that are becoming more difficult to replenish year after year.

Therefore, I cannot support this amendment to the NABJ Constitution.

Sheila Brooks is a former NABJ Secretary (1986-91), a three-term national board member, the founder of NABJ-TV and the NABJ Monitor, and an NABJ member since 1977.

Take Your Journalism Career To The Next Level: Sign Up For The Executive Suite

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Every year at the National Association of Black Journalists Annual Convention & Career Fair, members looking to move up the career ladder have access to a unique program: The Executive Suite, July 30-31, 2014.

The Executive Suite is an exclusive series of workshops led by news and corporate executives designed to help middle managers who aspire to more senior roles to gain a better sense of what it takes o be an executive editor, a publisher, a news director or a general manager.  Attendees of the two-day program walk away with a better understanding of the skills and relationships it takes to land and keep those jobs. From hiring and managing to building the skills and connections you’ll need to move up, the Executive Suite will help you prepare for advancement.

The speakers read like a who’s who of media executives, including:

  • David Boardman, President, American Society of News Editors;
  • Jill Geisler, Senior Faculty, Leadership and Management Programs, The Poynter Institute;
  • Deborah Adams Simmons, Vice President, News Development, Advance Local;
  • Alfredo Carbajal, Managing Editor, The Dallas Morning News/Al Dia;
  • Mizell Stewart, Senior Vice President, News, E. W. Scripps Newspapers; and
  • Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, Vice President, News, CBS News.

And there will be a special event on Thursday, July 31 when Keith Woods, Vice President of Diversity for NPR leads a conversation with Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., Publisher of the New York Times, and Dean Baquet, Executive Editor, of the Times.

The good news is that they are still taking applications — but only until Friday, July 25. So if you think you have what it takes — or know someone else who does — send an email coordinator Duschene Drew, Managing Editor for Operations, Newsroom at the Star-Tribune at  ddrew@startribune.com. And please put  Executive Suite in the subject line. In the email, tell him why you think you deserve to be in the Executive Suite. It wouldn’t hurt to include a resume or a link to your portfolio website. And please — pass this along to anyone you think may benefit from this great programming in Boston!

Benét J. Wilson is the vice president of education for the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force.  She also serves on the board of the Online News Association.  She is  the social media/eNewsletters editor for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and  a freelance aviation journalist and blogger.

Governance Survey Informs NABJ Commission

The National Association of Black Journalists is poised to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2015 – and with the future in mind its membership is voting on proposed changes to its primary governing document during a special election this summer. I urged support for the amendment in a prior post.

Last fall, the NABJ Constitutional Commission sought members’ input via two national surveys conducted online. About 100 did so each time. A governance survey focused on how NABJ could or should enhance its continuity and competency of leadership, consistency of purpose, institutional knowledge, etc. The survey introduction included this passage: “NABJ members every two years have elected a president to lead a national board of directors to govern the association.

According to our current constitution, the board of directors consists of an executive board (president, vice president-broadcast, vice president-print, secretary, treasurer, parliamentarian), six regional directors and one representative each for associate and student members. The president and representatives may not seek reelection; the other board members may serve up to terms in a row. It is possible for NABJ members to elect an entirely new board of directors every two years.”

NABJ’s constitution requires that amendments might only be adopted if ratified by at least two-thirds of those voting in an election. The commission therefore decided to not pursue any changes that members were unlikely to support based on the survey.

Q1: NABJ’s president should be able to seek reelection to a second term.

• Agree: 70

• Don’t Agree: 17

• Not Sure: 7

• Other: 1

The proposed amendment would allow the president to seek a single, additional two-year term, beginning with the 2017 election.

Q2: Should NABJ move to a limited “ladder” system of succession, in which members vote for both a president and president-elect (or vice president who would assume the presidency next)? Once the president’s term ends, the president-elect or vice president would succeed him or her.

• Agree: 36

• Don’t Agree: 40

• Not Sure: 18

• Other: 1

Many members either disagreed with this idea or were unsure of its merits – and thus the proposed amendment does not include a provision for a ladder system.

Q3: Should NABJ’s presidency be a paid, full-time position – rather than the current unpaid, voluntary role – in order to better meet the association’s demands (operations, advocacy, fundraising, membership recruitment/programs, chapter relations, etc.)?

• Yes: 29

• No: 43

• Not Sure: 17

• Other: 6

Many members either disagreed with this idea or were unsure of its merits – and thus the proposed amendment does not call for NABJ’s presidency to be a paid position.

Q4: NABJ members should continue to elect the board of directors, however, the top elected position would be board chairman. The chairman and board would hire a president or CEO to serve as primary spokesman and run the association’s daily operations (advocacy, fundraising, membership recruitment and programs, etc.).

• Agree: 35

• Don’t Agree: 37

• Not Sure: 21

• Other: 2

Many members either disagreed with this idea or were unsure of its merits – and thus the proposed amendment does not call for changing the top elected leadership position.

Q5: The size of NABJ’s board of directors should (choose one)

• Remain the same: 57

• Shrink to include fewer members: 26

• Increase to include more members: 6

• Other: 6

Not enough members seemed ready to reduce the board’s size to make it likely the idea would be ratified as part of an amendment in an election.

Q6: Should NABJ still elect each member of the board of directors to two-year terms, but now based on staggered terms? For example, one group of board seats would be up for election in one year, while a second group of seats would be contested the following year.

• Yes: 66

• No: 22

• Not Sure: 6

• Other: 1

The proposed amendment would allow for staggering board terms beginning with the 2015 election – and then an election held each year afterward.

Q7: NABJ members should elect one vice president instead of having multiple vice presidents (e.g., one each for print, broadcast, digital, journalism educators, etc.).

• Agree: 35

• Don’t Agree: 49

• Not Sure: 9

• Other: 2

Not enough members seemed ready to have only one vice president to make it likely the idea would be ratified as part of an amendment in an election.

Q8: NABJ members should elect at-large board members based on journalism skill sets and constituencies (for example, one each for print, broadcast, digital, journalism educators, etc.) more so than on geographic location (north, south, east, west, etc.).

• Agree: 49

• Don’t Agree: 29

• Not Sure: 17

• Other: 0

Too many members either disagreed with this idea, or were unsure of its merits, for it likely to be ratified – and so the proposed amendment accounts for leadership based on both where members live and what they do.

The commission thanks all those members who participated in the governance survey. It also urges all full NABJ members to support the proposed amendment – to ensure it enables us all to build an even stronger organization, one capable of serving and empowering new generations of black journalists.

Herbert Lowe served as NABJ’s president from 2003 to 2005 and is co-chairman of the constitutional commission. Previously a newspaper reporter for 22 years and communications director for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, he is the journalism professional in residence and director of journalism for social change at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force Holds #NABJ14 TweetChat

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NABJ’s Digital Journalism Task Force held its annual convention TweetChat July 15  to help attendees get ready for Boston. Check out tips given by veteran NABJ convention attendees Kelly Carter, Kathy Chaney, Kirstin Garriss and Justin Madden. We hope tips provided in this Storify  to prepare for Boston will be helpful!

How To Prepare Your Reel for the 2014 NABJ Conference

The NABJ conference is around the corner and it’s time to get the reels ready!

This online webinar will help producers and on-camera people to prepare their reels for the 2014 NABJ conference. Jummy Olabanji is the noon anchor for WLJA-TV in Washington, D.C. and Caleb Wilkerson is a supervising producer for the Discovery Network. Together they have more than 15 years of experience in the television and online video industries. They will go over reels that worked and reels that didn’t work so you can be ready to sell yourself at the conference.

 

Title: How To Prepare Your Reel for the NABJ Conference

Date: Thursday, July 17, 2014

Time: 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM EDT

REGISTER HERE

 https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/170895206

 

 

Jummy Olabanji

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Jummy Olabanji currently anchors Good Morning Washington and ABC7 News at Noon. Helping the Washington area wake up is a dream come true for this hometown girl. Jummy was raised in Fairfax County and graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly. Go Bulldogs!
The Emmy award-winning reporter and anchor joined ABC7/WJLA-TV and NewsChannel 8 in 2011. Since joining Washington’s most-trusted news team she has covered several including the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.
Prior to returning to the D.C. metro area, Jummy spent several years of working as a reporter and anchor at WTKR-TV in Norfolk and WCAV-TV in Charlottesville. She started her career as a news assistant at CNN’s Washington D.C. bureau.  

Caleb Wilkerson

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Caleb Wilkerson is an multi Emmy and Webby Award winning creative professional who is a Supervising Producer for Discovery. As a skilled video director, producer, editor, and digital media strategist whose video credits also include, ESPN, USA TODAY, NBC Sports, HBO, and NFL Films.

As a dedicated creative leader with a deep passion for technology and storytelling, Caleb has produced and directed videos across multiple platforms for more than 10 years covering many major events. In the digital media space he has led the online video strategies for household names such as USA TODAY, NBC Sports, and Forbes Magazine helping to shape their multimedia vision.

While in the television space, Caleb has worked as a director and producer at NFL Films and ESPN covering more than 10 Super Bowls and helping to capture pivotal moments in sports history while crafting compelling features for programs such as Showtime’s Inside the NFL, ESPN’s NFL Films Presents and most recently the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Caleb is a proud father of a 18-month son named Cameron James and is currently in the process of working on a documentary for HBO Films.

Advocating for a New NABJ Constitution

Several weeks ago, DJTF Vice President Benet Wilson offered her views on the proposed changes to the NABJ constitution. Benet, one of the hardest working members serving our beloved association, said she would vote to ratify the changes after online voting begins Monday, July 14. As a co-chair of the NABJ Constitutional Commission, I appreciate the chance to briefly urge for their adoption as well.

First, please note that the NABJ Digital Task Force will host a Twitter chat regarding the constitutional proposals from 8 to 9 p.m. (EST) Monday. I look forward to interacting with my fellow members then via the hashtag #AmendNABJ.

NABJ’s primary governing document needs refreshing. We all know how much our industry has changed since 44 men and women founded our now 3,100-member association in 1975. We are approaching our 40th anniversary. Our constitution no longer serves us well. It’s outdated. It’s too constricting. NABJ cannot even change its logo without a constitutional amendment. It needs a new constitution that reinforces its mission, identity and principals without limiting progress.

The membership, at the 2013 convention in Orlando, established a 15-member commission to review the constitution – and propose changes to better position NABJ and its members to succeed and flourish. Its efforts have resulted in a comprehensive overall that affects matters ranging from vision and goals to governance and membership to chapters and regions.

Following last year’s convention, NABJ President Bob Butler appointed five members from the Council of Presidents, five from the Founders Task Force and five at large to the commission. The group includes two NABJ founders (Joe Davidson and Allison Davis) and three past presidents (Barbara Ciara, Bryan Monroe and myself). Butler tapped Davis and me to serve as co-chairs.

The commission did its work diligently. It focused on ensuring that our members, our communities and journalism are best served in the years to come. Wanting an inclusive and thorough process, the commission also sought input from the membership (via webinars and surveys), national office and board of directors, and reviewed mission statements and governing structures of comparable journalism organizations. The board accepted the recommendations in April.

I urge all NABJ members to review the current constitution and proposed constitution. Also review the extensive overview and answers to frequently asked questions offered on NABJ’s website.

The proposals are not perfect. They surely will not please everyone. But the commission kept at the forefront of its deliberations that for every member who votes no, two other members must vote yes for the changes to take effect. Hence my mandate as a co-chair: Only put forward that which would be supported by seven out of 10 members. The webinars and surveys helped with this immensely.

In my opinion, the most important changes relate to NABJ membership. They would, among things:

  • Create an overarching dynamic that embraces anyone who is creating, producing or supervising the creation of journalism, whether one works for traditional or legacy media companies, or as an independent journalist or media entrepreneur.
  • Enhance membership opportunities for journalists, journalism educators, those former journalists who have served NABJ and the industry significantly, and those new in the business but who are not yet able to afford the costs of professional membership.
  • Remove the “class” concept that certain members are “full” and others are not, particularly with respect to voting on the association’s leaders and initiatives, by creating, for example, such categories as “professional” and “emerging professional.”

Elected leadership is another key concern. The membership’s input made it clear that 1) the board of directors should retain its current size – 14 members – and 2) representation should be based on where we live as much as on what we do. That meant ensuring spots for regional directors and academic and media-related representatives.

It also led to a position for vice president-digital. Some may say only one vice president is necessary. Again, the membership input signaled that not enough members want that approach. It did, though, stress that digital matters, particularly with start-ups sprouting each day and more and more members working in digital-only jobs in legacy newsrooms.

The new constitution would also lead to greater continuity of leadership. Beginning in 2017, members could choose to re-elect NABJ’s president to a second two-year term. This change recognizes the learning curve for whoever assumes the presidency. In addition, staggered terms would begin in 2015 so that only half of the board is up for election each year.

The commission also focused on NABJ’s chapters. However, only minor changes are proposed, to more accurately reflect that they are separately incorporated 501(c)(3) organizations. The commission accepts that a proper constitution cannot solve every problem based on day-to-day competencies and capacities. Take, for example, the idea of having board members take on some of the expense of attending quarterly meetings. Many might agree, but that is not a constitutional matter. It is better left for NABJ’s operating procedures, which the board can amend at any time.

That’s all for now. Remember, the current constitution and operating procedures provide that only full members as of June 30 can vote on the proposed changes. Online voting begins July 14 and ends 5 p.m., Aug. 1. The results will be announced that night at the 2014 convention in Boston.

On behalf of the commission, thank you for your consideration. Please join the Digital Journalism Task Force and me for our #AmendNABJ Twitter chat on Monday night. Please vote to adopt the proposed constitution – and then continue to hold NABJ and its elected leadership accountable.

Herbert Lowe served as NABJ’s president from 2003 to 2005. Previously a reporter for 22 years at several newspapers and communications director for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, he is the journalism professional in residence and director of journalism for social change at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Journalists of Color Missing from Wired UK’s Future of Online Journalism Post

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Wired UK recently rolled out a piece entitled “The Big Question: What is the future of online journalism?” I was not surprised, but I was disappointed to see that not one journalist of color was included in the discussion.

The points made by folks including Melissa Bell of Vox and Micah Cohen of FiveThirtyEight.com (two outlets with their own diversity issues) were interesting, along with the rest of the group.  But did Wired UK really have that much trouble finding journalists of color in the digital space? I can come up with at least a dozen names off the top of my head. Folks Wired UK could have called for comment include:

  • DeWayne Wickham, one of the original founders of the National Association of Black Journalists, USA Today columnist, a digital pioneer and dean of Morgan State University’s Global School of Journalism and Communications;
  • Michelle Johnson, a professor at Boston University and a former editor at the Boston Globe who was in the forefront of the digital journalism revolution;
  • Retha Hill, a pioneer at washingtonpost.com and BET.com, and executive director of the digital innovation and entrepreneurship lab and professor of practice at Arizona State University; and
  • Carlos Watson,  former digital journalist and anchor at MSNBC and CNN and founder of Ozy.com, an online news site whose investors include Laurene Powell Jobs and Google’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond.

I could go on, but I think I made my point.  And my good friends at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association would also be willing and able to give you names from their ranks.  So next time, I urge you to cast a wider net of digital journalist sources in the name of true media diversity.

Benét J. Wilson is the vice president of education for the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force.  She also serves on the board of the Online News Association.  She is  the social media/eNewsletters editor for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and  a freelance aviation journalist and blogger.