Fifteen-member group proposes significant changes related
to membership categories and continuity of leadership
WASHINGTON (May 22, 2014) – A constitutional commission is recommending that members of the National Association of Black Journalists vote to significantly update the organization’s primary governing document – to one that would better position NABJ and its members to succeed and serve others in the future.
If adopted via a special election this summer, the proposed NABJ constitution would retain the association’s mission and values and, with 3,100 members, preserve it as the largest organization for journalists of color. It would, however, provide for new membership opportunities and better continuity of leadership.
The current constitution allows for only lifetime, full, associate and student members, and does not reflect new employment patterns, business models and technology since NABJ’s founding in 1975. The revised version would create an overarching dynamic that foremost embraces anyone “whose principal livelihood comes from creating, producing or supervising the creating of journalism.”
The proposed constitution calls for lifetime, professional, emerging professional, academic, alumni, media-related professional, student and honorary/corporate classifications. The new categories would remove the “class” concept that certain members are “full” and others are not, while better accounting for journalism educators, former journalists and those new in the business but not yet able to afford professional dues.
The proposed constitution would also allow future NABJ presidents to seek re-election to a single, consecutive, two-year term; enable staggered terms for the national board of directors; create new board positions for a digital vice president and academic and media-related professional representatives; and reduce from six to four the number of geographic regions represented on the board.
“As NABJ approaches its 40th anniversary next year, it and the media as a whole have experienced wholesale and fundamental change in recent years,” said NABJ President Bob Butler, a reporter at KCBS Radio in San Francisco. “Our constitution as presently constructed reflects circumstances, challenges and opportunities related to 1975 more so than 2015. NABJ must flourish for the next 40 years and beyond. The proposed constitution aims to do so on behalf of our members, communities and journalism.”
The NABJ membership voted in August to create a constitutional commission comprised of five members from the Council of Presidents, five from the Founders Task Force and five at large. The panel that Butler appointed includes two of NABJ’s 44 founders (Joe Davidson and Allison Davis) and three past national presidents (Barbara Ciara, Herbert Lowe and Bryan Monroe).
Co-chaired by Lowe and Davis, the commission spent several months evaluating the industry’s current state and future, NABJ’s mission and goals as well as its capacities and competencies – and how to ensure the association best serves its members, their communities and journalism in the years to come. The commission also sought membership input via webinars and surveys.
“I am incredibly proud to co-chair this commission and to engage with the many forward-looking members who offered their insights and vision for a stronger and more vital NABJ,” said Davis, who served as NABJ’s founding parliamentarian from 1975 to 1977 and its vice president from 1977 to 1979.
Lowe, who served as NABJ’s president from 2003 to 2005, said the commission also engaged with the association’s national staff and reviewed mission statements and governing structures of many comparable journalism organizations. The commission also reported on its progress to NABJ’s board of directors – before and after meeting the constitutionally mandated deadline for submitting amendments: January 30. The board of directors voted to accept the commission’s recommendations during its spring meeting, on April 26 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Lowe, a professional in residence and director of journalism for social change at Marquette University in Milwaukee, also said the commission looks forward to engaging with the membership about the proposed constitution in the weeks ahead.
“We hope to use social media, webinars, whatever it takes, to persuade NABJ members to vote for what would be a much better document to propel our association into the future,” he said.
The commission also includes NABJ Secretary Corey Dade; former NABJ board members Sarah Glover, Wesley Lowery and Paula Madison; Duchesne Drew and Marvin Hurst, co-chairs of the Council of Presidents, and Cherri Gregg, Doug Mitchell, Kim Roberts-Hedgpeth and Alexis Rogers. NABJ Parliamentarian Cindy George served as the board’s liaison.
Butler thanked Lowe, Davis and the commission for their hard work over the past nine months.
“They undertook exhaustive research to craft changes that would make our guiding document – and our NABJ – stronger,” he said. “Their work is done. Now, it is up to the members to vote. I am asking them to endorse the commission’s fine work by voting yes on the ballot measure.”