Proposed NABJ Constitution
Frequently Asked Questions
Election Rules & Timeline
NABJ Operating Procedures
|REFRESH. REPOSITION. REIMAGINE: A NEW NABJ CONSTITUTION|
Dear NABJ Members:
Given significant industry changes since 44 men and women founded the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in 1975, the membership, at the 2013 convention in Orlando last August, voted to establish a commission to review the organization’s constitution – and propose changes that would better position NABJ and its members to succeed and flourish.
Following the convention, President Bob Butler appointed five members from the Council of Presidents, five from the Founders Task Force and five members at large to such a commission. The group includes two NABJ founders (Joe Davidson and Allison Davis) and three past presidents of the 3,100-member association (Barbara Ciara, Herbert Lowe and Bryan Monroe).
In September, the commission’s leaders (Davis and Lowe) interviewed its members one by one. Since then, the group has met regularly to discuss and evaluate 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.
To ensure an inclusive and thorough process, the commission has also sought input from the membership (via webinars and surveys), national office and board of directors, and reviewed mission statements and governing structures of many comparable journalism organizations.
As a result of the deliberations, input and research, the commission now recommends a comprehensive overhaul of the constitution. The primary changes affect subject matters ranging from vision and goals to governance and membership to chapters and regions.
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 those recommended in the definitions of the various redefined membership categories.
There are also many modifications aimed at providing greater clarity of language, reorganizing sections into more logical sequencing of subject matters, updating provisions to reflect changes in nonprofit governance since NABJ’s founding in 1975 – and, again, affording the association greater flexibility in responding nimbly to continuing changes in the industry.
Note: NABJ’s two governing documents would remain its constitution, which only the membership can amend via a national election, and a separate set of operating procedures, which the board of directors may amend as necessary to best enable the organization to function during the year. NABJ shall continue to be incorporated in the District of Columbia and abide by applicable law.
What follows is a further breakdown of the proposed modifications:
VISION and GOALS (Preamble and Chapter 1)
The new preamble (vision) and purpose (goals) would update and better situate NABJ with respect to its members, their communities and society at large in the 21st century.
The board of directors and membership would no longer need a constitutional amendment to modify NABJ’s logo. It is recommended, however, that the association’s operating procedures prescribe when, why and how the logo may or may not be changed in the future.
GOVERNANCE AND MEMBERSHIP (Chapters 2, 3 and 4)
The changes in Chapter 2, relating to the structure of the board of directors, are designed to:
- Address changes in the industry since NABJ’s founding (for example, adding the position of vice president-digital to the board of directors and executive board)
- Provide for an academic representative and a media-related professional representative to the board of directors. The position of associate member representative would be deleted, but its former constituency would have more board representation in the future.
- Continue providing for geographic representation, though it would mean four regional directors instead of six, given the mandate for digital and academic board members.
- Provide for continuity in governance, given the learning curve for new board members, as well as staggered terms, so that all board seats are not contested every two years en masse; instead, half of the board would be up for election each year. A special, one-time constitutional provision is included for the 2015 election to facilitate the transition to staggered terms. Note: This would necessitate having an NABJ election every year.
- Permit NABJ’s president to serve up to two two-year terms – rather than just one two-year term – if the membership chooses to re-elect him or her. This change recognizes the learning curve for whoever assumes the president’s duties and responsibilities, and to afford the association the opportunity for greater continuity.
The changes in Chapter 3, relating to the board of directors’ responsibilities, are designed to:
- Provide the board of directors with flexibility, consistent with modern nonprofit corporations, to engage an executive director employed under the board’s supervision and authority. Note: These modifications are also tied to a change in Chapter 2, Article I, Section 2, which clarifies that the executive director is not an executive board member.
- Reorganize certain sections to provide more logical sequencing of subject matters relating to the duties and powers of the board of directors.
- Modify, for consistency’s sake, what is in Section 3 with respect to chapters so that it relates with certainty to the chapter-focused modifications in Chapter 5.
The changes in Chapter 4, relating to NABJ membership categories, are designed to:
- Reflect the new patterns of employment, business models and technology in media since the association was founded in 1975, while retaining flexibility for the future.
- Create an overarching membership 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.”
The proposed membership classifications are lifetime, professional, emerging professional, academic, alumni, media-related professional, student and honorary or corporate.
- Provide the board of directors with the flexibility to extend “honorary” membership to those who may not be actively engaged in creating, producing or supervising the creation of journalism, but whose work supports NABJ’s mission.
A special provision exists to accommodate individuals who were once NABJ full members – but who may have fallen out of that status because of economic hardship or because the prior guidelines did not permit them “academic” or “alumni” status. Such individuals who were full members between August 2009 and August 2014 – if reinstated on or before Dec. 31, 2014 – may remain professional members, provided they remain in good standing, thereafter. The board of directors and membership committee would monitor this provision.
CHAPTERS AND REGIONS (Chapters 5 and 6)
The modifications in Chapter 5 relating to NABJ chapters are designed to more accurately reflect that NABJ chapters are separately incorporated 501(c)(3) organizations.
The modifications in Chapter 5 relating to NABJ regions reflect the recommendation that the board of directors continue to include regional representation within the current total of 14 members. To ensure internal consistency, the proposed change in Chapter 5 to designate four regions instead of the current six is tied to and dependent upon the proposed changes to the structure of the board of directors in Chapter 2.
Finally, the modifications in Chapter 6 represent a) changing the deadline to propose changes to the constitution so that they must be submitted in writing to the parliamentarian at least four (4) months – instead of six (6) months – prior to an annual national convention b) conforming changes to reflect those made elsewhere in the amended constitution (for example, replacing “full” member with “professional” member”) and c) otherwise updating the current language.
The commission recognizes that many important concerns related to NABJ’s competencies and capacities may not or cannot be solved merely by amending the constitution. A review of the organization’s operating procedures is in order. The commission may offer more on that soon. What follows is the comprehensive constitutional revision offered for membership approval.
-- Do you have questions about the proposed NABJ constitution? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.