National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago Chapter

2019 Proposed NABJ Constitutional Amendments

The NABJ Constitution/Operating Procedures Committee is recommending the adoption of two proposed amendments that would reduce the size of the Board of Directors from 14 to 11, streamline operations, clarify membership categories and return the organization to an even-year election cycle.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the proposed amendments:

Q1: How were these amendments placed on the ballot for consideration?

A1: As per the current NABJ Constitution, professional members and the Board of Directors had until Feb. 7, 2019, to submit proposals to the NABJ Parliamentarian. Seven proposals were submitted, vetted by the Committee and presented to the Board. The Committee endorsed two proposals, which were approved by the Board for consideration by eligible members.


Q2: Who among the membership had a say in proposing the constitutional amendments?

A2: President Sarah J. Glover appointed former NABJ Parliamentarian Melanie Burney as Chairman of a geographically and professionally diverse eight-member committee that includes a Founder, a former NABJ President, three former Parliamentarians, a former Regional Director and a Student. The Committee reviewed previous amendments, recommendations from the Strategic Plan and sought input from the Board and NABJ members. The Committee presented its recommendations to the Board of Directors in January and April. The Board discussed the re-alignment proposal at both the winter and spring meetings.The proposal was approved to be placed on the ballot during the 2019 spring meeting.The proposals were submitted to the membership on June 7, as mandated by the Constitution.


Q3. Why are we proposing to reduce the size of the Board?

A3: NABJ has changed and so has the industry. It will take time to right-size the Board. This proposal is a start and lays the foundation for what NABJ should do and how we might get where we should over time. The change will make our operation more efficient and effective and hold elected stakeholders accountable. Further, Board Committees and Task Forces should be streamlined and given specific objectives to better serve the organization.


Q4. Didn’t we just vote a few years ago to add a third Vice President? Why propose to eliminate the positions of Vice President-Print, Vice President-Broadcast and Vice President-Digital and have a single Vice President on the Board?

A4: The committee and many members believe that having a Vice President for Print, Broadcast and Digital is an outdated model and that having only one Vice President is forward-thinking. In these fast-paced and changing times, all journalists are digital. Our members and our association must be situated to remain relevant and competitive in a digital and multimedia era.


Q5: Why propose to eliminate staggered terms for those members serving on the Board of Directors?

A5: An amendment approved by members in 2014 necessitated having an NABJ election every year, costing the organization about $5,000 annually, plus added manpower by the National Office staff. In recent years, there have been few contested races or vacancies filled by the President with appointments. A two-year election is more practical and cost-effective. NABJ will use the time until the next election to improve recruitment and training to attract Board members willing to govern a nonprofit organization.


Q6: Why propose a change to an appointed Parliamentarian?

A6: An appointed Parliamentarian is more common in many organizations. The Parliamentarian should work closely with the President. The President should select a knowledgeable Parliamentarian with expertise in the interpretation of Robert’s Rules of Order and the NABJ Constitution.


Q7: When and how would the proposed composition for the NABJ Board of Directors take effect?

A7: If approved, current Board officers would continue until their terms expire. The three existing Vice Presidents and officers elected in 2019 would continue to serve through the end of their terms, or until they step down. Beginning with the 2021 election cycle, the entire Board would be elected to two-year terms.


Q8: What do these proposed changes mean for academic members?

A8: The Academic Representative position on the Board of Directors would no longer exist. However, this constituency of 174 members would still be well-served by its Task Force or Committee Representative to advocate and plan new innovative programming, support journalism professors at HBCUs and other institutions, as well as coordinate timely discussions at the Annual Convention and training for our students. Academic membership would still be open to high school, college and university faculty and other academic professionals, including administrators and trainers, with research and or teaching interests in journalism.


Q9: Why lump all of these proposed changes into one ballot item in Proposal 1? Why not multiple ones?

A9: Since the proposed modifications would mostly change the structure of the Board of Directors, it made sense to the Constitutional Committee to present them all together, as was the case when the Constitutional Committee proposed sweeping changes in 2014 in a single document. The Committee went to great lengths to ensure that no proposed change conflicts with anything in the document.


Q10: Who’s eligible to vote on the proposals?

A10: According to the current Constitution, professional members are eligible to vote on proposed amendments.


Q11: How do the proposed changes align with the Strategic Plan?

A11: The proposed changes address two of three recommendations from the Strategic Planning Committee:

1.)  To revisit the size of the Board

2.)  To reconsider the staggered election process

3.)  To address the lack of a succession of leadership plan


The Constitution Committee could not reach a consensus of a succession plan for this cycle and urges the incoming Board to revisit the issue.

Q12: Who are the members of the Committee?

A12:  The Committee members are:

·     Melanie L. Burney – Chairman, Former NABJ Parliamentarian (2003-2007)

·     Sandra Long Weaver – Founder

·     William Sutton – Former NABJ President and Parliamentarian, Journalism Educator

·     Cindy George – Former NABJ Parliamentarian and Regional Director

·     Lee Ivory – Former Board Secretary and Regional Director

·     Jerry McCormick – Former Regional Director and Chapter President, Journalism Educator

·     Juan Singleton – Former Chapter President

·     Janae Adams – Student