Board Minutes – 08/2010

Chicago Headline Club

Minutes for Aug. 13, 2010 meeting at Bloomberg News, Chicago

Meeting began at 9:04 a.m.

In attendance: Susan S. Stevens, Randi Belisomo, Kathy Catrambone, Aimee DeBat, Beth Konrad, Hilary Fosdal, Tony Noce, Kristen Schorsch, Ken Davis, Jon Seidel, Brian Pitts, Abdon Pallasch, Steve Edwards

Sue Stevens thanked board members Steve Franklin and Flynn McRoberts, who raised $1,211 at a fundraiser in Rogers Park for unemployed and underemployed journalists. It’s not clear if any journalists have inquired about receiving any money.

The treasurer’s report was approved. The Club has $100,402.60 in assets as of Aug. 12, 2010. Beth encouraged the board to spend some money on programs and education.

Hilary recommended allowing the Peter Lisagor Award entry forms to be uploaded digitally next year on the Club’s Web site. Now journalists only can mail their entry forms or deliver them in person.

The minutes for April, May and June board meetings were approved. Ken Davis made the initial motion, with Jon Seidel making the second.

Programming chairman Ken Davis presented the board with a detailed list of program ideas for the year. Discussion included the Digital Media Training Institute and whether it should be a one-day event with multiple workshops and seminars. Last year the DMTI included Saturday workshops spread out over several months. Beth said she could see the rationale behind having the Institute in one day because that’s how several organizations, such as the Poynter Institute, conduct workshops and conferences.

Beth Konrad talked about the McCormick Foundation grant. The Club is committed to at least one or two focus groups of working journalists to talk about accessibility and transparency issues.

(Steve Edwards arrived at 9:26 a.m.)

The survey will be online. Beth said the McCormick Foundation is looking at the survey as leverage it can use to bring county and city officials, as well as other stakeholders, to the table to sit down with journalists and discuss why journalists have problems with transparency and accessibility issues, like having police credentials for journalists. This survey will be precedent-setting, Beth said.

Beth wants the forum to include Chicago Mayor Daley, Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis, city aldermen, etc. A large forum to discuss the survey results preferably will take place in March.

(Abdon Pallasch arrived at 9:35 a.m.)

Ken Davis and Beth Konrad will keep in touch so that the DMTI and the forum are not booked too closely together. The same goes for an event Suzanne McBride and Steve Franklin are hosting with an SPJ grant they received.

Abdon said he’s still working on this year’s Freedom of Information Act event.

Sue Stevens wants ideas for events in the name of Les Brownlee, the late Chicago journalist and the first African-American journalist inducted in the Society of Professional Journalists. She also reminded the board of Priscilla MacDougall Brownlee’s annual picnic, which is Aug. 15.

Kristen Schorsch recommended creating a scholarship in the name of Les Brownlee, considering the Club has so much in assets.

Sue Stevens suggested partnering with media organizations because we don’t get many calls for scholarship applications. The Club now has two, $2,500 scholarships.

Beth Konrad suggested we network better with three SPJ student chapters at DePaul University, Northwestern University, Loyola University and Columbia College, and make sure they know we have money available for students.

Sue Stevens said she would talk to Priscilla MacDougall Brownlee about creating a minority scholarship.

The board voted to end Burger Nights, which were sparsely attended. Steve Edwards suggested a Burger Night would be a good for a program every now and then, such as reporters discussing the Blagojevich trial once a verdict is reached.

Sue Stevens said the Ethics Advice Line is searching for a new alliance to replace the one with Loyola University and that it needs to be improved with faster response times.

Jon Seidel, chairman of the digital committee, said our Web site, which was hacked, is up and running. The site will be an important tool to market the survey about transparency and accessibility, Beth Konrad said.

Hilary Fosdal explained why the Web site doesn’t look the same or has the same materials as it did before it was hacked. The board allocated $2,000 toward getting the site back up, but a company Hilary spoke to said an estimate could climb up to $10,000 to fix the site. Every piece of content is quarantined, so that means someone has to go through every document and see if it has been corrupted.

A company Hilary spoke to said it would take four weeks and $2,000 to do an initial assessment, yet the company could not provide a time estimate of how long it would take to rebuild the site if we gave them $8,000 more.

Hilary asked for the board to seek out experts who can clean up the site. $800 has gone to Steve Fosdal, Hilary’s husband, to bring the site back up to its current form. That means $1,500 is left (of the $2,000 the board approved).

Beth said our Web site should be interactive since that’s what journalism professors are teaching their students. Sue Stevens said she likes the Web site to be simple and didn’t like the rotator on the main page, which other members said was popular and noted by National SPJ.

The board agreed the immediate goal is to get the previous materials on the site back up. The board is open to approving more money if a vendor is found that can recreate the site.

Executive director Kathy Catrambone distributed expenses for the Peter Lisagor awards dinner in April, adding that “we pulled a miracle this year.” Despite a rocky economy, the Lisagor dinner made a profit of $13,341, compared to $11,199 in 2009. Still, that is lower than the dinner’s peak profit of $24,943 in 2005.

Kathy is concerned that people couldn’t afford to attend the banquet this year. She mailed five or six plaques to winners. Sue Stevens said she’s mailed plaques to winners in years past when the dinner was more profitable.

Kathy suggested shaking up the dinner and program. She’s going to explore different venues, including an office building near Willis Tower, 311 S. Wacker Dr. which has a wintergarden.

Kathy also reported that The Associated Press is looking into going electronic with their contests. We’ll look to the AP to see how it goes.

Board member Kristen McQueary has resigned. The board unanimously appointed WBBM news anchor Felicia Middlebrook to replace McQueary.

Board member Mike Reilly also has resigned. The board unanimously appointed Chicago Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussein to replace him.

The board discussed whether board member Brandon Copple, who recently left Crain’s Chicago Business for Groupon, has a conflict of interest. Some board members questioned if Copple’s new role is in sales rather than journalism, while others said the expertise of retired and former journalists still is needed. The board deferred on voting on Copple’s status to allow him to provide a job description for his role at Groupon.

Sue Stevens reported that a bylaws committee will be formed to revise the Club’s bylaws.

Hilary Fosdal, who is president-elect and vice president for membership, said our recruitment plans currently include passing out brochures at events and around newsrooms and greeting new members through the mail once they sign up. But the Club routinely has to wait one month before finding out from National SPJ who the new Chicago members are. That means our greeting is a month late, which Hilary said defeats the purpose of a welcome wagon. We also don’t know how accurate National’s records are.

Hilary has created separate lists of current and former members and she wants to use e-blasts to send out emails to those groups separately so we can encourage those whose memberships are expiring to rejoin, etc.

Hilary said she will reach out to other SPJ groups to see how they track members and what recruiting tools they use. She also recommended adding a tagline at the bottom of e-blasts to remind people to join the Club.

Howard Dubin, Sue Stevens and Bob Roberts (JobFile, Illinois News Broadcasters Association) are attending as delegates the 2010 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference from October 3-5 in Las Vegas. Beth Konrad is attending too, but she will be going as a faculty advisor for Loyola University Chicago. Hilary Fosdal also will be a delegate.

Tony Noce, chairman of the Watchdog Fund Committee, said Geoff Dougherty, former editor of Chi-Town Daily News and Chicago Current, still has not returned a $5,000 watchdog grant the Club gave him in March 2009. Beth said she has talked to him, and Geoff wrote the Club a letter saying he would use the money at the Chicago Current after the Chi-Town Daily News folded. But both have folded, and now Geoff is an editor at the Chicago Reader. The board decided to write Geoff another letter and also send it to the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation so they know we are keeping watch over grants.

Tony has been speaking to freelance journalist John Conroy about a watchdog grant, as well as keeping up with Steve Rhodes of the Beachwood Reporter about the $3,000 grant we gave him for an investigation.

For a FOIA update, Abdon said police personnel files have been exempt from the state FOIA law. He also will keep abreast of the court case involving Northwestern University’s Innocence Project.

Sue Stevens said the Club provided $100 in baskets for the national Legal Defense Fund auction.

Meeting adjourned at 10:59 a.m.

— Secretary Kristen Schorsch

Addendum from Treasurer Howard Dubin 8-16-10:

The Chicago Headline Club Foundation received a $100 this morning from Dawn Turner Trice and Hannah Trice for our “Scribe Aid” fund.