Board Minutes – 12/2003


Chicago Headline Club
Board of Directors Meeting

December 2, 2003

President Ben Bradley called the meeting to order at 9 a.m.

Present: Ben, Phil Kadner, Bob Roberts, John Camden, Howard Dubin, Pat Kosar, Michelle Stevens, Jason Jedlinski, Scott Keenan, Steve Rynkiewicz, Molly McDonough and Susan Stevens.

President’s Report:
“Things evolved a bit out of control with the Brownlee Series,” Ben said. It was wrong to impose so heavily on the few board members who do the most work. We need to level the playing field. If we are to ask our board members to encourage their colleagues to attend just one or two Headline Club events a year, we should do everything we can to make sure those are high quality events that promote, support and celebrate journalism. Some things this year were in the red, though successful events included the professional workshops, Ask Amy and the FOI which was standing room only. Headline Club events should celebrate “the best of journalism.” He suggests programs get back to basics and that the Brownlee Series in 2004 be limited to the Lifetime Achievement Dinner, professional workshops and a cocktail meet and greet.

Board member status: Lucio Guerrera and Chris Fusco have resigned. Ben said Lucio had the best of intentions with the Headline Club but in his day-to-day struggle doing news he could not take on the role as president next year. Chris couldn’t attend. Jodi Wilgoren offered her resignation but is staying on though she will be on the road during the coming campaign. Ben has a couple of ideas for new board members but asks for other suggestions. New board members and a new program vice president will be approved at the Jan. 13 meeting. We need a mix of people, Ben said, so that daily deadlines don’t hamper Headline Club operations. He noted he had a quorum at the County Administration Building fire, which coincided with a HC event.

John Camden said Brownlee produced 70 new members last year; 19 this year. Lack of traffic at the events was responsible.
He plans an e-mail campaign through December and a new recruitment offensive next year. He was sidetracked on recruitment, retention and reconciling membership with the national office due to Brownlees and for the same reason delayed the membership directory.
As of the meeting, we had 255 members, down 170 from July 1 and well over 500 during the 2002-03 year. He expects to recover to the 400 level in early 2004. A 50-60 percent churn rate is normal in an organization.
We need a couple of suburban events.
Jason said he has the membership directory ready except for the member information which John needs to provide.

Howard said this is always the low financial point of the year. We have $72,000 in savings plus more in the general account. Not all the Brownlee bills are paid, and not all the Brownlee receipts are in. An accountant is still working on the IRS return.

Phil asked for Headline Club help in lawsuit to end a cover-up by the Joliet Archdiocese of priest abuses. The paper said “no” to a suit, estimating the cost of a federal lawsuit at $50,000. Phil said the Will County court system is too corrupt to bother filing suit there. The SPJ Legal Defense Fund will come up with $15,000. He asked if the CHC could be the contact organization and make a contribution. Molly said, “This is an opportunity for us to say as journalists we are not going to tolerate closed courts.” She said CHC attorney Jon Duncan had approved our involvement. Matching funds will be sought. Molly said if we don’t get matching funds, we don’t spend a dime.

Phil moved and Bob seconded that the Headline Club lead on the issue. Motion passed. Phil and Molly will coordinate. John moved and Susan seconded a CHC expenditure of $5,000. Motion carried. Bob abstained on both votes because an uncle is a Joliet priest.

Steve said he has reserved the Westin River North (former Nikko) for an April 30 banquet. Room can fit 500, good cocktail area, good Legal Defense Fund sales area. Molly will contact Bob Schiffer at CBS to see if he can speak. He offered to this year but had a date conflict. Steve urges board members to blanket newsrooms with contest entry forms.

CHC Foundation:
Howard said we’re still waiting for the IRS filing. It’s on the books in Illinois.

Brown Bags:
Ben will organize a January Brown Bag. John will take February. Molly pointed out the need for Brown Bag and Brownlee chairs.

Meeting adjourned at 9 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Susan S. Stevens