The following is a letter to NABJ members from NABJ president Bob Butler on the success of NABJ#14 Convention in Boston, Massachusetts:
We have just completed a successful convention Boston. More than 2100 people took part in the training, mentoring, recruiting and networking that are synonymous with the annual NABJ family reunion.
I am here to talk about a paradigm shift in how we move NABJ forward and how we operate as an organization.
As you may know, our constitution was written in 1975. Last year members ordered the board to seat a commission to amend the constitution. This is no easy task because you need a two-thirds vote for approval. I am happy to report 80 percent of the ballots cast voted to move NABJ forward. Thank you!!!
The work the commissioners did was truly outstanding. They have now been discharged but I’d like to keep them in the reserves.
The Constitution and Operating Procedures Committee, the Elections Committee and the Membership Committee will now do the due diligence required to implement the changes.
When you come to NABJ it’s kind of like when you move to a new city and have to find a church. You go to one and it’s okay, you try another and it’s all right. Then you go that third church and you get the feeling and you realize, “this is home.”I’ve had that feeling twice: the first time, as a recovering addict and alcoholic, when I attended my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting in 1986. The second time was in 2000, when I walked into the NABJ Convention registration hall in Phoenix. I looked around and said, “Yeah! I’ll be back.”
People have been getting that feeling for 39 years, and next year we’ll be celebrating 40 years of NABJ!!! That is remarkable. Our founders deserve our thanks and respect.We are the largest and — I think one of the most universally respected — media organizations dedicated to excellence in journalism and that’s something we should be extremely proud of. Our members continue to be movers and shakers in our industry, despite the challenges we face every day.
I am hopeful and encouraged by what I see as I travel the country. I see veteran NABJ members having an impact on news coverage. I see others who continue to contribute, but in a different way, as many of us have had to transition to other areas of the business.
And I see young people, those emerging journalists, who are doggedly moving forward in print, electronic and digital media.
Through it all, NABJ continues to be a player in pushing our agenda of fairness, hiring and promotion to the media companies.
Yes, NABJ and its members are on the move. Look at our national office. We have a new executive director who brings new energy and a new vision. He and his team have done excellent work in bringing in new revenue while cutting expenses.
Our 2013 audit shows we ended the year with a surplus of more than $228,000 and our expenses were down nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Our audits are clean but we are must be vigilant.
That’s really great news for the organization and for the long-term future of NABJ. Still, understand this: We must change some of our practices in order to fulfill our true potential.
We must stop asking “what’s in it for me?” when called upon to serve our beloved organization.
NABJ heavily depends on the annual convention for most of its annual funding. We are always one bad convention away from serious financial difficulty. Think about that. It’s not quite as bad as living paycheck to paycheck, but it’s close.
We have changed our funding model. Our board members continue to produce programming for you outside the convention… that also affords opportunities to bring in revenue. And we have members who graciously have stepped up to help NABJ raise money. To that end, we must make sure their efforts more effectively benefit their programs and all of NABJ.
The executive director and I will soon be talking with our corporate partners. This is a paradigm shift. We aren’t waiting until next year. We want to know how we can help them achieve their goals… so they can help NABJ with everything related to celebrating the 40th anniversary: Hall of Fame, media institutes, regional conferences and, of course, the convention in Minneapolis.
By talking with them now, we’ll be able to develop better relationships that are more mutually beneficial.
Our message is already resonating with our partners. Minutes after the end of Salute to Excellence Gala, several partners told me they want to be more involved. They asked us to please pay them a visit so we could discuss 2015. They want to include NABJ in their budget requests.
As I mentioned, NABJ has a number of members who have worked to help fund the organization. While this practice has been somewhat successful, we have experienced cases where members have approached partners without the knowledge — or assistance — of the national office. This has resulted in lost opportunities to create partnerships that are beneficial to the entire organization.
Case in point: If you have an audience with the head of a multi-million dollar corporation or foundation, don’t just ask for $10,000 to fund a convention workshop. Let’s get the national office involved and see if we can maximize that opportunity and get support for programming for the entire year!Another paradigm shift: I have asked the executive director and the treasurer to develop a policy that governs who can ask for money on behalf of NABJ. [One NABJ; One VOICE] This policy will require task forces to submit desired programs for 2015, a budget and a list of potential partners so that they can be considered at the board of director’s October budget meeting in Minneapolis.
In terms of advocacy, NABJ continues to work for you by attacking unfairness and wrongheaded decisions wherever they may be.
In December 2012, the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists approached NABJ about the possibility of holding a joint convention in the future. We eventually settled on 2016 as a talking point and the executive directors have been examining cost factors and revenue-sharing arrangements.
We have a memorandum of understanding and our executive directors will now examine how we can do this. We will ONLY do it as long as both organizations benefit. Members of both associations and our partners view the possibility of holding a joint convention favorably.
Now that we have the MOU signed the executive directors plan to wrap up the discussions and send out a “Request for Proposals” in the fall.
The 2016 Presidential election will be high on our priority list. I made it clear to Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus during his appearance at NABJ in Boston and the Democratic National Committee that we would like their respective parties’ nominees to address our members and answer questions at our convention in 2016, whether it is a stand-alone convention or joint NABJ/NAHJ meeting.
I often get questions about NABJ and its role abroad. As you know, NABJ has participated in several reporting fellowships to Africa in my time on the board. We have reported on malaria and global warming, have met with African leaders and journalists and have been asked to provide training to journalists overseas.
It has long been my desire to bring Black journalists from other countries to NABJ so they can take advantage of our networking, programming and training.
This year we received funding to bring two recent graduates who are working as journalists in South Africa to this year’s convention. Prinesha Naidoo and Azizzar Mosupi flew here from Johannesburg and took part in the Student Multimedia Project. They learned how journalism works in the United States and our students and mentors learned about journalism in South Africa. I thank the Ford Foundation for underwriting this effort. It is my hope that we can expand the program to more African students and professionals in 2015.
I would like to thank you again for entrusting me to lead this great organization. I’ve learned so much in the past year and I will continue to do my best, with your help and counsel, to make NABJ HOME to even more Black journalists, media professionals and students.
Yours In Service,