Posted in journalism

Vote No to the NABJ Constitutional Amendment


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.


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One thought on “Vote No to the NABJ Constitutional Amendment

  1. I concur with Sheila’s commentary. In addition, I’d like to know:

    Vision: What is the overarching vision of NABJ that is achievable with actionable and measurable steps made through each presidential cycle?

    Business Model: What is NABJ’s specific business model (how does the organization make money? how many different revenue channels and what are they? Any discussions on expanding/upgrading the model?)

    Capacity: What is the full-time capacity of NABJ to achieve its stated goals and objectives? What are the challenges? Is NABJ concerned that the organization cannot fulfill its obligations nor expand its role and impact in the industry without full-time paid efforts by its talented members?

    Collaboration: What strategic partnerships does the organization have that bolster its capacity and ability to have impact in the industry and to develop the pipeline of new journalists eager to succeed in a dramatically smaller and more consolidated industry?

    Entrepreneurship: What vision, strategies and plans are in place to encourage and support job creation in the media industry by our members?

    Pipeline: What is NABJ’s role in assisting j-schools and K-12 adjust to the evolving industry paradigms to ensure the flow of black journalists increases to fill 21st century job opportunities as well as create new job opportunities.

    Research: What is NABJ’s role in developing well-researched publications that offer insight into changing trends in the industry, leadership training, fellowships, ideation, pitch competitions, overarching perspectives on the direction of the media industry, expansion/contraction data, percentage of members who are owners, startup founders, employed full-time, parttime and freelance, NOTE: Last year, angel investors poured more than $24B into the media industry, yet how much do we know about where these investments are allocated and how to ensure our members are informed enough to get into the value chain?

    Impact Investing: Across the nation, there is a major concern regarding underrepresented minority populations being left behind the innovation and technology curve. Journalists are the information bridge to these at-risk sectors of society. Is NABJ engaged with policymakers at foundations nationwide to develop collaborative strategies that attract investments in NABJ?

    Internal Communications: There are many new platforms designed to increase the effectiveness of internal communications and project collaborations for nonprofit organizations and professional associations like NABJ. Is there any discussion or have decisions been made regarding upgrading the communications capacity and effectiveness of NABJ leadership to communicate with members and vice versa?

    Budget: Does NABJ employ outside auditing to produce an annual report on a regularly scheduled time period? Given the role of members as shareholders in the success of the organization as well as beneficiaries of the benefits, is it possible to hold quarterly or semi-annual online interactive shareholder/membership reports. Perhaps even via webinar?.

    As long as we’re considering a change in the constitution, I’d like us to also begin to consider the wide range of important issues that will factor into the next several decades. Where will we be by mid-century? What will be the impact of this organization on the industry when minorities are collectively a majority but the industry is controlled overwhelmingly by the minority population? Where will new jobs come from? Who will create them? How will the industry be different than it is today? Who will encourage, train and equip youth in K-12 and students at the j-school college level to successfully engage and compete in the media industry? From where will they receive ongoing consistent up-to-date (if not up to the hour) information on the media industry? Will Richard Prince live forever?

    I know the change in the constitution is a focal point at this juncture for NABJ. I voted on it as well. But journalists live and breathe multitasking. We don’t have the luxury to move at a 20th century pace targeting a single internal structural issue when we face 21st century game-changes in an industry that has accelerated its pace of evolution and now threatens to stand up on the accelerator. If the next generation is to have any chance to compete in this industry, it will depend upon the decisions we make now. Sheila’s points regarding fiscal responsibility open the door to the overhaul this organization needs to sustain itself in a new media paradigm that is filled with both significant challenges and enormous opportunities. Let’s pursue the latter with strategies that address the former.

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