National Association of Hispanic Journalists
General Membership Meeting
Mandalay Bay Hotel
Date:Aug 2 2012
PRESENT: President Michele Salcedo, Financial Officer and Vice President of Print Russell Contreras, Vice President of Broadcast Manny De La Rosa, Vice President of Online Fernando Diaz, Secretary Erin Ailworth, Region 1 Director Miguel Angel Rosa, Region 2 Ivette Davila-Richards , Region 3 Director Chris Ramirez, Region 4 Roberto Pazos, Region 6 Rosa Morales, Region 7 Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez, Academic Officer Federico Subervi, Student Rep Jose Antonio Acevedo
ABSENT: Region 5 (vacant), Spanish-Language At-large officer Marcela Garcia, Region 8 Director Elaine Aradillas, At-Large Officer Rebecca Aguilar (arrives at 12:36 pm)
GUESTS: Anna Lopez-Buck, executive director
Meeting called to order at 12:20 pm by President Michele Salcedo. Delivers president’s summary.
HIGHLIGHTS: NAHJ ended 2011 with a surplus for the first time in years. The organization has just finished a year in transition and continues to move forward. We closed the office in the National Press Building and went to a virtual office. We were paying something like $72,000 a year in rent and that is now down to $3600. We still need more time to transition — we didn’t get into this situation over night and we won’t fix all the problems quickly. We have been operating under a very conservative budget, especially coming into UNITY. With the loss of NABJ and the continued economic stress, we figured this convention would be smaller than it has been in the past. So we were very conservative in projecting any revenue from UNITY. At the Board’s meeting earlier this week, we met with SPJ’s comptroller, who is handling our accounting (a savings of about $20,000, including membership work). So far, the very difficult cuts that the board was forced to make have stabilized the organization and the board is now reviewing its strategy for moving forward.
This year, NAHJ piloted an effort to organize more regionals and those have gotten good response from both members and sponsors. Regionals, we think, are a way for members to interact with NAHJ and get training without the big expense of attending a national convention. Fully paid registration numbers for our national conference have run about 400 to 500 members in the last few years. With three regionals held this year, we attracted about half that number, which shows that regionals are on track and could grow. This year at Unity we are offering training for chapter and regional directors, so that we can build NAHJ’s leadership. Part of that training is going to be event planning — how to find and negotiate for space, how to put together panels and create committees. We have some new professional chapters that have been forming — Albuquerque and Los Angeles. A Las Vegas chapter is in the works. Those join strong chapters, like those in Atlanta and South Florida. By the end of the year we will have produced at least seven regional conferences. We’ve been meeting with lots of sponsors — United renewed its grant this year, CNN Is working with the local chapter in Atlanta on scholarships, Eli Lilly is supporting us.
Russell delivers the financial report for 2011 at 12:35 pm.
HIGHLIGHTS: An electronic copy of the financial report has been sent to all members. We are working to get hard copies in the room. At the Virtual Town Hall meeting on July 17, we presented the financial report before the general membership meeting for the first time in years — and as dictated by the bylaws. The 2011 budget showed a surplus of $117,000 for the first time in years. We ended 2010 with a negative balance of -$16,000. Anna helped close that gap in 2011 by going after money that had been pledged to NAHJ but never collected. Austerity measures were also taken, including staff layoffs and moving to the virtual office. Under the 2012 budget passed in April the board is expecting to have a surplus of at least $100,000.
Earlier this week at the board meeting, we found out that NAHJ’s expenses are down on almost all line items, and our revenues are higher than expected. For example, at UNITY, we expected to have about 350 paid registrants. We have about 500 now. We have more than $339,000 in total assets currently, and more than $200,000 in the bank. Though we are headed in the right direction, the next administration needs to remain vigilant to ensure that NAHJ stays on track. We must keep these austerity measures in place, but we also need to start putting together a slow, strategic plan for growth so that when the time comes, we can augment staff again. The board has not made a decision on a 2013 conference because we are still working the numbers. The board should not move forward until it is sure that a national convention can make the organization money. Russell thanks the NAHJ financial committee and NABJ president Greg Lee (who is also NABJ’s former financial officer) for offering advice and helping to get NAHJ back in the black.
Anna delivers the Executive Director’s report at 12:48 pm.
HIGHLIGHTS: This has been a very tough year for NAHJ. The organization transitioned to the virtual office in Aug. 2011 and Anna works from a home office. We also made our membership and accounting systems virtual, entering into a partnership with SPJ to handle our back office operations. We have been working with NAHJ’s old accountants, Halt Buzas & Powell, as we transition into the SPJ partnership and work with their comptroller. Phone and fax numbers remain the same so that members can still reach Anna and Kevin Olivas.
The staff has been concentrating on regionals since this summer and have put on three so far. Goal was to have four regionals this year, but we expect to have seven completed by the end of the year, including in DC, Atlanta and Puerto Rico. Those regionals have been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Tomorrow morning the regional and chapter directors will have training sessions to learn how to plan regional events and conferences, and learn how to handle governance issues. There is also a Saturday board meeting from 8 am to 3 pm, and the new board will be undergoing training, as well.
Floor opened to membership questions at 12:54 pm.
Monica Rhor: As a member who cares deeply about the organization, she says she has been extremely troubled by the behavior of the board over the last two years. She says there has been a lack of transparency, accountability, and respect for members who have been shut down or insulted for asking questions. She would like the board to respond to some of those concerns, and to accusations that she says have been leveled against her that she is unprofessional and classless — resulting in her being blocked from participating in student projects.
Michele: There’s a difference between transparency and just opening the books and files to anyone who wants to come in and take a look at them. As a 501(c)3, we are governed by bylaws, articles of incorporation, stringent IRS regulations and other requirements. That requires the board of directors to act in the best interest of the organization. Transparency means that the membership understands how the board arrived a decision. Transparency is not opening the books to everyone who asks. Michele says she has personally answered Monica’s questions and those of other members very patiently. Still, the questions continue, often before the board is even given a chance to respond, and yet the board is then barraged with even more questions. Michele says she thinks there has been plenty of disrespect back and forth and the board has often felt it has been under siege while juggling full-time jobs and trying to still get information to NAHJ members as quickly as possible. Part of the problem is that some answers are not easy to find because NAHJ’s operations were left in such disarray in the last few years and that is all being worked out know. The board, Michele says, doesn’t object to being held accountable, but does object when there are accusations and smears against the board and elections committee. We need the input from all members not just the input of a group of Facebook members who carry on constantly. As far as the student projects, Michele says that she thinks there was a concern that Monica’s position regarding the board of directions has been quite openly posted on Facebook for the public and sponsors to see, that when you handle students in the student project, Monica would have a bias.
Monica: She says that she respects that as a board we have to to protect the records of the organization. But how does that square up with the bylaw provision allowing members to ask for the records of the organization?
Michele: After speaking with NAHJ’s attorney, the board was advised that a member should sign a non-disclosure agreement and review the financials at the office in DC in order to protect the financials from being disseminated beyond NAHJ members. We cannot have our unaudited financials posted all over Facebook per the attorney. If anyone acting as a member is interested in gaining information on NAHJ the board is more than happy to provide it, per the bylaws
Monica: She asks for a copy of the lawyer’s recommendation.
Michele: Says she sent those recommendations to Monica.
Russell: Members have called him and he has spent up to an hour talking them each through their financial questions. In terms of the student projects, he thinks there needs to be new blood in the student projects.
Monica: Says she wishes that Russell had not gone behind her back.
Hugo Balta: Introduces himself as a lifetime member, candidate for president and former board member. What plans do we have for fundraising at the convention? he asks. Understanding that any nonprofit depends on fundraising, what is the plan for growing revenue?
Russell: At this convention, we have a number of fundraising efforts going on. The board is talking to media executives, hoping to get donations from them. Each board member has a goal of raising $5,000. We are also selling NAHJ pins for $30 to celebrate NAHJ’s 30th year. We are also selling NAHJ’s stylebooks. We need to meet these fundraising goals to stay in the black. Our gala fundraising has been successful, but we will at some point need to hire a full-time fundraiser.
Michele: Part of the $5,000 goal is to sell lifetime memberships for $3,000. Regional conferences are also part and parcel of growing membership and providing training, networking, and programming at a local level. The board hopes to have meetings planned in all eight regions next year, regardless of whether we have a national conference. In terms of holding a national conference, those finances need to be heavily scrutinized. Generally, following a UNITY year, attendance at a national conference falls and it is not likely that we’d be able to turn a profit.
Hugo: He says the board seems to be focused on regional conferences, but can the fundraising at those meetings match what is fundraised at a national conference. How much have the regional conventions raised? Also, will the new board be able to make an educated decision on having a national conference? Shouldn’t that have been the job of this board, to offer a recommendation to new officers? Shouldn’t this board provide that leadership?
Michele: The assumptions that that Hugo is making about nationals go back to whether we should have such a meeting. The national conventions have not generated enough money in many years. If they had NAHJ would not have been in the red two years ago. We used to get the bulk of our funding from the national conferences, but that is no longer the case. Media companies and organizations are no longer helping their employees attend such conventions the way they used to, and so people are having to watch their wallets to determine if they can afford to lay down $2,000 to attend a convention. When she says that the board is going to need to parse this out, she means that they should do that while also strengthening the structure already in place to hold regional conferences. The question then becomes whether the board is going to want to go to Albuquerque — where we have a proposal for a convention. Anna is working on that analysis now, after finally receiving some extra financial information that was missing from the original proposal. Albuquerque could be a viable location that is cheap to travel to, and where members could drive in to. These times and the economy now require us to be extremely careful and prudent so that we make money on our endeavors instead of losing it. That way we can eventually rehire staff, occupy an office and build membership. We’re working toward that by building relationships with sponsors, and by trying to be creative. We know what doesn’t work.
Russell: A previous board had chosen El Paso as the 2013 location, Russell adds, but that decision was rescinded on the false premise that El Paso could not handle a convention of that size. That was a disservice to El Paso.
Federico: The board has been working to mend relationships with sponsors, too.
Marisol Bello: How much are the regional conferences bringing in compared to what we have raised through a national convention?
Michele: Right now the regional conventions are being funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and are breaking out at about $5,000 a piece. That’s low and we can do better, but remember that previous national conventions did not raise money, such as in Denver or Puerto Rico. Orlando netted about $120,000 in very rough numbers, and there’s a question of whether we made money when staff time and pay is factored in. That’s not enough to help the budget. We are currently talking to three or four sponsors who are interested more in regional conferences than a national conference. We hadn’t been to Albuquerque in 20 years but we got a turnout of 40 folks. The numbers aren’t overwhelming, but they’re a good baseline.
Marisol: We’ve been hearing about the board meeting yesterday and a student being blocked from the meeting. How does that reflect on us a media organization, and why isn’t social media allowed?
Michele: We meet as directors of a nonprofit organization, not as journalists. As a nonprofit organization we are not open the public. Members, however, are allowed to attend — but not necessarily in their capacity as journalists. As for the social media, a board policy was adopted on the recommendations of the attorney and a nonprofit consultant to not allow social media so that we can ensure that the board can have an open discussion and foster the organization without having to worry about what’s going to end up on Facebook or Twitter when we get into a passionate discussion or handle sensitive topics. Because of the nature of social media, it could allow misinformation be promulgated. Once the board makes a decision, we are more than happy to communicate it. We are responsible to the members but we have no obligation to talk to the public.There’s a distinction between public and membership.
Marisol: Is this an issue that the board will revisit? She thinks it would be good to allow members to follow along with what the board does through Twitter and other social media. We are an organization of journalists, so shouldn’t we be more open? Facebook and Twitter are helpful platforms. Not to use the resources doesn’t make sense, especially given where journalism is going.
Michele: The IRS and the other regulations nonprofits are governed by do not make a distinction between nonprofits that are made up of journalists, and nonprofits made up of other types of people. As a board, we must ensure that we are not harming the organization in any way. And that means not allowing misinformation to be Tweeted or shared on Facebook. It’s one thing to be Tweeting out of a general membership meeting like this one, but it’s another to allow Tweeting from a board meeting that is only supposed to be open to NAHJ members and not the public at large. The board needs time and space to discuss NAHJ issues without worrying that it’s being taken out of context. We are trying to figure out policy and action in order for this organization to go forward, and we are happy to share those policies and actions once decisions have been made. Michele has been thinking about revisiting the social media policy, but after speaking with NYT executives yesterday she has firmed her position: they agree that the meetings should not be live-Tweeted because decisions need to be hashed out before being released to members.
Marisol: Does that policy also apply to covering the board meetings in general?
Michele: Members may attend meetings but, again, not in their capacity as journalists. The board needs space to make decisions. This policy was implemented on the advice of NAHJ’s pro bono nonprofit attorney, who is an expert on governance issues, and a nonprofit consultant.
Marisol: What about the debate over where we should go with memberships? Is it time to revisit who is a member, who can vote, whether corporate journalists and bloggers can have the same rights of mass media journalists?
Michele: The bylaws are clear on who can and cannot vote. The bylaws are definitely outdated and does not cover journalists who mainly report online or through blogs. The members will have to vote on any changes because it will be a bylaws change.
Brandon Benavides: He thanks NAHJ’s staff for being such a resource to the DC chapter, which he heads. The chapter made $3,970 at a fundraiser with the staff’s help, he said. He also talks of workshops that brought in money after working with Anna to get catering and such paid for. For the past two years we’ve done all our programming through our own fundraising. Will the chapters begin to get a dues split again?
Michele: No, the board recently voted to keep the dues coming straight to national. Provisional chapters will still continue to get a dues split so that they have seed money to help their fundraising efforts.
Brandon: He says that policy concerns him because chapters still need seed money to do fundraising.
Michele: How much money did you just raise? she asks? That should prove that established chapters can stand on their own. We do believe that the provisional chapters will need help, which is why they will get seed money.
Sergio Quintana: There’s a lot of talk about raising money from media companies and from membership. How much money have we raised in the past and how much are we looking to raise from non-media companies?
Anna Lopez-Buck: For years we have been diversifying our funding and we’ve been raising more money from non-media companies than from media companies. We are depending more on them, but we have to be careful who sponsors us because we are a journalism organization.
Sergio: So how much is being raised by each?
Anna: We probably get about 65 percent or more from non-media organizations like GM, Coca-Cola, etc. We haven’t set a goal for what percentage we would like to get from media companies.
Michele: We can get you more details after this meeting.
Lynn Franco: She says she her questions have been covered.
Cesar Arredondo: When does the board estimate that NAHJ will rehire staff? Has there been a consideration of issuing a membership card to members.
Michele: We used to send out membership cards on an annual basis, and we need to revisit doing that again. As for hiring staff, first we need to figure out how we will fundraise and hold conventions. We could hire a staff after that, perhaps as early as next year but it all depends on how the finances look and whether NAHJ is in the black.
Jackie Guzman: How do you feel about the legacy you are leaving as board members?
Michele: She says she thinks that this board has been remarkably responsible and the legacy that we are leaving is that NAHJ is on solid financial footing. That has not been the case for years.
Fernando: I have been the subject of warranted criticism for the web site, so my legacy is not good. But the board has definitely left NAHJ in better financial position, but we need more member engagement. voting numbers are low and that needs to change. In terms of the website, he had big plans, but those fell short as we decided to curb costs and couldn’t justify the expense for the website. He is not running in large part because as VP of Online he had to monitor the fights on Facebook and that left a bad taste in his mouth and took time away from his day job. Don’t just ask questions here, he says, please vote. He may not be on the board on Saturday, but he will be a donor and a fundraiser. When we question what we get for our $75, you get future generations of us, so it shouldn’t be about $75 freaking dollars. Fundraising is not natural for a journalist, so be patient and help the board.
We stop questions at 1:51 pm to move on to the candidate forum, after a vote from members. Michele asks those with additional questions to email her. Their questions will be answered and posted on the website.
We start candidate statements at 1:52 pm.
Cesar Arredondo, for Spanish Language at Large: Says he is running because we need more programs and activities in Spanish. If members think that we have a crisis in English language journalism, he says, well you should visit a Spanish language newsroom. They need help and training. He would depend on volunteers to organize local workshops on the important issues and training in your communities.
Josie Tizcareno Pereira: Not present.
Mariela Murdoco: Not present.
Elizabeth Alvarez for At-Large: Not present
Chris Ramirez for Secretary: He is currently the Region 3 director for the board and works at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The job of board secretary is to be the bridge between members and the board, to communicate. He pledges to be transparent, but also knows that he will need to be a fundraiser. Information and money is what is going to keep this organization alive.
Sergio Quintana for Secretary: He is a reporter at KGO television in San Francisco, and is not part of a slate. He says he is someone who knows how to make friends quickly and be flexible. Chris mentioned fundraising as a key job of the board. He says he comes from San Francisco which is the land of nonprofits and he hopes to bring the lessons he learned there to the position. He says communication and a workable website are among his high priorities.
Federico Subervi for Academic At-Large: Says thank you for those who voted for him last go around. What he hopes to contribute to the board is civility and wisdom. He will also continue reaching out to the students and journalism faculty that can and will contribute to the organization.
Nicole Chavez for Student Rep: She is a multimedia student at UTEP El Paso. She was born in El Paso and raised in Ciudad Juarez. This summer she moved to Georgia to intern at the AJC. She feels her minority status very much there and the experience has been a learning experience. She is inspired by other students. She wants to keep the spirit of NAHJ alive and encourages students to vote and show that they are the future of NAHJ.
Blanca Torres for Financial Officer: She is a reporter with the San Francisco Business Times. She is running unopposed and wants to thank all those who have voted. Yes this has been a difficult year for NAHJ, but her focus is going to be on looking forward and continuing to build NAHJ’s finances, then working on the best ways to use that money to grow the organizations. She also wants to build trust among the board and its members.
Francisco Cortes, for VP Online: He is the director of Fox News Latino.com in New York. He created the very first news site in English for Latinos in the US. Latinos are fast paced and engaged online, so he says he lives, breathes and sleeps digital media and digital journalism and wants to bring that experience to NAHJ so that NAHJ’s website will become what it should be: interactive, featuring chapter events, and integrate social media and job postings.
Rebecca Aguilar for VP Online: She says she thinks many of in the audience knows who she is. She has been an NAHJ member since the late 80s and a journalist for 30 years. She is now an online journalist with Wise Latinas and three blogs. She says she has already created a website for NAHJ that can be online within a week. She asks for the other members who are online to lend their help. She says she thinks Fernando did the best he could with what he had. She also wants to put the website in Spanish, as well.
Mekhalo Medina for VP Broadcast: He started with NAHJ when he was 16. He believes in NAHJ’s members and in the organization. We all need to make the organization better. We are an organization of journalists, but also friends. We believe that more Latinos should be in newsrooms across the country and we need to do more to remember that. He says he wants to make NAHJ great again, an organization that people look up to. Wants to bolster the experience of new members. He wants to work with Rebecca to redo the website. He wants a newsletter twice a month to let members know what is going on. Memberships need to be updated and organized.
Nick Valencia for VP Broadcast: Great leaders create other great leaders, as NAHJ leaders have done. He is a 28-year-old Mexican American from Los Angeles but works in Atlanta now at CNN. He says through NAHJ he has become an ambassador for Latinos and wants to take what NAHJ ALtanta has been doing to the next level by working on the national board. We all deserve respect and we are more relevant than ever. NAHJ Atlanta has helped him move from teleprompter operator to weekend correspondent. NAHJ is about accomplishing goals.
Erin Ailworth for Vice President of Print: Encourages everyone to vote, and outlines her goals as VP of Print: to be a bridge between the board and journalists in newsrooms, to be a voice for NAHJ members whose organizations and job places are changing rapidly, and to help improve communication.
Hugo Balta for President: He has been a member since 1995. His success has been because of NAHJ. What you get with Hugo as a candidate, and what is missing from the current board, is the leadership. We need a leadership that is more inclusive, that allows the members to participate and to offer criticism. We need to build fundraising because that is our lifeblood. We also need a working website because that is NAHJ’s business card and a place where members can interact. We need to have a national convention in 2013 — that is not an impossible task. We need to go from saving NAHJ to restoring it. He can appreciate what it means to lose jobs. He wants to the continue the conversation on how to improve the organization
Russell Contreras: He has been on the board one term and it has changed him. As NAHJ financial officer, he and the financial committee guided the organization to its first surplus in years, and our projections are that that will continue. He has a plan on the web for how to move forward in the next three, six, and nine months, and into the future. The plan includes bringing in more members through social media and technology — web chats, online seminars, etc. He stresses that he will look at having a national convention and partnering with other organizations to do that. He wants to look at our partnership with UNITY and how that can be revamped.
Meeting ends at 2:20 pm.