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2014 NABJ Election: Frequently Asked Questions
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Proposed NABJ Constitution
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Frequently Asked Questions


Election Rules & Timeline

NABJ Constitution

NABJ Operating Procedures



The NABJ Constitutional Commission is recommending the adoption of a significantly new constitution for the organization – one that would retain NABJ’s mission and values, but also provide for new membership categories, allow the association’s president to seek re-election, enable staggered terms for the board of directors and create a new vice president’s position.

As per NABJ’s current constitution and NABJ Election Committee recommendations, only those individuals whom the national office recognizes as full members as of no later than 30 days before the start of the next convention may vote on the proposed constitutional amendment. Accordingly, given that NABJ's 39th annual convention will commence in Boston on July 30, only those individuals recognized as full members by June 30 may vote.

The deadline for submitting constitutional amendments to the NABJ parliamentarian was Thursday, January 30. Voting on the commission’s amendment will occur between 12:01 a.m., Monday, July 14 and 5 p.m. (EST), Friday, August 1. If the amendment is affirmed by at least 66.66 percent of those who vote, the new constitution shall take effect on Sunday, August 3 – the last day of the convention.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the proposed constitution (updated May 20, 2014):

Q 1: Why amend the NABJ constitution now – and so significantly?

A 1: As NABJ approaches its 40th anniversary next year, the organization and the media as a whole have experienced wholesale and fundamental change in the past 40 years. Our constitution as presently constructed reflects circumstances, challenges and opportunities related to 1975 more so than 2015. NABJ must be positioned to flourish for the next 40 years and beyond. The proposed constitution aims to do so on behalf of our members, communities and journalism.

Q 2: Does the proposed constitution in any way alter NABJ’s vision and mission?

A 2: Absolutely not! Instead, the new preamble (vision) and purpose (goals) section would update and better situate NABJ with respect to its members, their communities and society at large in the 21st century. Remember, the Founders Task Force – which includes NABJ’s 44 founders, its 19 past presidents and many former national board members – urged the board of directors and membership to create a commission that would propose a new constitution. The commission includes two founders and three past presidents, all of who provided vital institutional memory.

Q 3: Is this constitutional amendment going to solve all of NABJ’s internal concerns?

A 3: Again, absolutely not! An organization’s constitution is not the document to address members’ concerns related to NABJ’s capacities (for example, national office size, annual budget, serving chapters, etc.) and competencies (leadership/management experience). Our constitution enables us to govern NABJ long term (for example, stipulating the size, positions and length of terms related to the board of directors as well as which members may vote for whom), while our operating procedures enables the board of directors to govern day to day.

Q 4: Who among the membership had a say in proposing this constitutional amendment?

A 4: Following a membership vote at the 2013 convention, President Bob Butler appointed a 15-member constitutional commission comprised of five each from the Council of Presidents, Founders Task Force and membership at large. To further ensure an inclusive process, the commission sought membership input via webinars and surveys, consulted with the national office, and presented its recommendations to the board of directors in January and April.

Q 5: What were the biggest takeaways from the membership webinars and surveys?

A 5That no major overhaul of NABJ is necessary. Members made it clear, for example, that NABJ should consider allowing its president to seek re-election to what would remain an unpaid leadership role – but that it should adopt neither 1) a limited nor extended ladder system for the board of directors (that is, creating a president-elect position or stipulating that the secretary, for example, would automatically become president three terms later), or 2) changing the leadership structure to one in which members elect a board chairman instead of a president, with the board of directors hiring a president or CEO or serve as primary spokesman and run the association’s daily operations. The members also did not want to see the size of the board reduced or expanded or have only one national vice president; they did support, however, enabling staggered board terms. And the membership made it clear that journalism education is essential to the field and to NABJ.

Q 6: Why allow the NABJ president to seek re-election to a second consecutive term?

A 6: This change recognizes the learning curve for whoever assumes the president’s duties and responsibilities and would afford NABJ the opportunity for greater continuity, particularly if the membership is satisfied with the president’s leadership after two years – and if he or she chooses to seek a second term. Note: 1) the current president, Bob Butler, may not seek re-election, as it is customary for an incumbent to not benefit from such a new provision enacted during his or her term and 2) a president would not serve more than four years consecutively in this position.

Q 7
: Why add the position of vice president-digital to the NABJ board of directors?

A 7: Many members believe that having vice presidents just for print and broadcast is outdated and that having only one vice president seems too limiting. But aren’t all journalists digital? Yes, we should all strive to be. However, NABJ has a growing number of members who work and flourish in a growing number of digital-only news environments. Many of these members are established or emerging leaders and managers, but would not meet the eligibility requirements – stated or unstated – for print or broadcast. This new vice president’s position provides another unique opportunity to ensure that our members and association are best situated in the digital era.

Q 8: Why stagger terms for those members serving on the board of directors?

A 8: This would better provide for continuity in governance, given the learning curve for new board members, and which is harder to do when all board seats are contested every two years en masse; instead, half of the board would be up for election each year. Note: 1) a special, one-time constitutional provision is included for the 2015 election to facilitate the staggering of terms, 2) this would necessitate having an NABJ election every year, and 3) the executive board seats to be contested in 2015 are those in which the incumbents would have otherwise been term-limited, that is, no current board member would get to seek a third, consecutive two-year term.

Q 9: Why reduce the number of regions represented on the board of directors from 6 to 4?

A 9: The commission and membership (via webinars and surveys) considered eliminating regions altogether and then adding several at-large board seats. However, when deciding whether it was more important to have representation based on where we live or what we do, the majority sided with the former. Other factors included the membership mandates to not change the board’s size and for equal representation for journalism educators and media-related professionals.

Q 10: When and how would the new configuration for NABJ regions be decided?

A 10: The president and board of directors would need to amend the operating procedures accordingly and in time for the 2015 election. Regions were last reconfigured from 10 to 6 after a constitutional amendment in 2004. Then, the president appointed a blue-ribbon committee that made recommendations to the board of directors, which adopted them before the 2005 election.

Q 11: What do these proposed changes mean for full-time journalists?

A 11: Three membership categories – instead of just one – to choose from: lifetime, professional and emerging professional. Relatively few journalists would be lifetime members (founders, past presidents, Hall of Fame inductees and lifetime achievement recipients, and those paying for such classification as prescribed by the operating procedures). Most full-time journalists would be professional members and otherwise see no change in their status. The emerging professional category would be for full-time journalists (particularly recent college graduates) who might find professional dues too expensive; they would not be eligible to serve on the board of directors.

Q 12: What do these proposed changes mean for independent or freelance journalists?

A 12: The new constitution would include language that recognizes that not all journalists work in legacy newsrooms, that is, that many work independently and or as media entrepreneurs. Those who do so full-time would be eligible for lifetime, professional or emerging professional status. Those who do so part-time may also be eligible for the new academic or alumni categories – provided they also meet the other requirements for those categories – and thus still vote for NABJ leaders and any other matter calling on the entire membership to decide.

Q 13: What do these proposed changes mean for current associate members?

A 13: This category would no longer exist – its members would most likely transfer to academic, alumni or media-related professional status. Former associates also would no longer choose between a journalism educator and a media-related professional to represent them on the board of directors; both constituencies would now elect their own representatives. Media-related professionals would still only vote for their representative. However, many former full-time journalists turned journalism educators or who have changed careers because of downsizing, or have long paid their dues – to journalism and NABJ, figuratively and literally – would no longer have to become associate members, and thus would retain most or all of their voting rights.

Q 14: What do these proposed changes mean for journalism educators?

A 14: The current constitution states that “full membership also shall be open to college and university journalism professors who had five years’ newsroom experience prior to joining academia.” The new version would offer academic membership to “high school, college and university faculty and other academic professionals, including administrators and trainers, with research and or teaching interests in journalism.” However, only those academic members with at least five years prior experience in journalism may serve in the academic seat on the board of directors, or vote in any NABJ matter calling on the entire membership to decide, except for the election of the media-related or student representatives. And only such academic members are eligible to serve as – or to vote for – the academic representative to the board of directors.

Q 15: What do these proposed changes mean for student members?

A 15: Not much, really, in the short term. Student membership shall remain open to high school, college or university students. They could still serve on committees. They alone remain eligible to serve as – or to vote for – the voting student representative on the Board of Directors. They would not vote in other NABJ matter. In the long term, however, they would inherit a constitution that will better situate them in journalism and the newsrooms awaiting them.

Q 16: What is an honorary membership and who or what will it most serve?

A 16: This classification would provide the board of directors with the flexibility to extend “honorary” membership to those individuals and entities who may not be actively engaged in creating, producing or supervising the creation of journalism, but whose work supports NABJ’s mission. Such membership could be bestowed upon a very notable figure or based on a sponsorship opportunity that would be prescribed within the association’s operating procedures.

Q 17: Is there any sort of special provision for those who had to let their membership lapse?

A 17: Yes, the commission and board of directors wish to accommodate former full members who have fallen out of that status because of economic hardship or because the current guidelines does not permit them “academic” or “alumni” status. Such individuals who were full members between August 2009 and August 2014 – if reinstated by Dec. 31, 2014 – may become and remain professional members, provided they do so in good standing thereafter.


Q 18: What do these proposed changes mean for NABJ chapters?

A 18: NABJ would continue to be a grassroots, chapter-focused organization. However, the proposed constitution includes minor language changes that are designed to more accurately reflect that NABJ chapters are separately incorporated 501(c)(3) organizations.

Q 19: What do these proposed changes mean for NABJ committees and task forces?

A 19: Nothing, really. These entities follow rules as prescribed in the operating procedures.

Q 20: Why lump all of these proposed changes into one ballot item? Why not multiple ones?

A 20: Great care has been taken to ensure that no single change conflicts with anything else in the document. For example, proposed modifications to the structure of the board of directors match related recommendations for the new membership categories. Also, many modifications aim to provide greater clarity of language, reorganize sections into more logical sequencing of subject matters, and update provisions to reflect changes in nonprofit governance since NABJ’s founding in 1975. In short, it is much easier to present them all together.

Q 21: How would NABJ’s new constitution compare to those of similar journalism groups?

A 21: The commission also reviewed the mission statements and governing structures of comparable journalism organizations during its deliberations – and then incorporated into the proposed constitution what it believed to be in NABJ’s best interests. The groups include:

  • American Copy Editors Society (ACES)
  • American Society of News Editors (ASNE)
  • Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA)
  • Associated Press Media Editors (APME)
  • Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE)
  • Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ)
  • Association of Magazine Media (MPA)
  • Association of Opinion Journalists (AOJ)

  • Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE)
  • National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ)
  • National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA)
  • Native American Journalists Association (NAJA)
  • Newspaper Association of America (NAA)
  • Online News Association (ONA)
  • The Poynter Institute
  • Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA)
  • Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ)
  • Society of Features Journalism (SFJ)
  • Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
  • Unity: Journalists of Color (UNITY)

-- Do you have questions about the proposed NABJ constitution? Send an email to



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