By Drew Kerr
University of Iowa
SPJ’s new president-elect, Clint Brewer, said after his election Saturday that he plans to use the office to help make the organization a better advocate and resource for the average journalist.
In addition to electing Brewer, delegates also decided by a vote of 70-65 to reject an amendment to SPJ’s bylaws. The proposed amendment sought to permit the organization’s membership to cast ballots in future elections.
Brewer, the executive editor of The City Paper in Nashville, Tenn., and a member of SPJ for 15 years, said he hopes to focus more attention on issues of concern to local chapters, improve online services, and strengthen communication between members and their national representatives on the board.
“Though we’re a national organization, the issues people have are local issues,” Brewer said. “They want to know how we are going to help them do their job.”
Brewer said his attention to such issues was a big reason for his election victory. He downplayed the significance of complaints he made about campaign literature that promoted both Cadwallder and secretary-treasurer candidate Jim Parker. Brewer had said during the campaign that the material violated SPJ rules prohibiting board members from campaigning for others.
“I just thought what I had to say resonated more,” Brewer said. “I don’t know, maybe they liked the bow tie.”
Parker, who Cadwallader said paid for and printed the post-card sized flyers, lost his bid for secretary-treasurer to Dave Aeikens, SPJ’s current legal defense fund chair. Joe Wessels also ran for the seat.
Cadwallader, a member of SPJ since 1982, said the defeat disrupted the traditional path to office that has existed on SPJ’s National Board. Typically, the Secretary-treasurer runs unopposed for the position of president-elect.
“It’s a sad commentary on the way things have gone,” said Cadwallader, the courts reporter for The Columbus Dispatch. “A lot of dedicated volunteers never get their due. I’m not talking about myself here. I’m just saying.”
Despite the “sting of politics” Cadwallader said, “I’ll be an SPJ member tomorrow and probably for life.”
The vote on the amendment that would have allowed members to vote ended the business session. After over an hour of sometimes passionate debate, a decision was reached not to allow members to cast a vote in future elections. Changing the by-laws would change the tradition of delegates voting on behalf of their chapter at the annual national convention.
Had the amendment been approved, SPJ members would have been able to cast their votes online or by telephone.
Outgoing SPJ President Dave Carlson said he was disappointed the measure wasn’t adopted because it could have enfranchised the 40 percent of SPJ members who don’t belong to a chapter and the 50 percent of student chapters who don’t attend SPJ’s national conference.
“We’re journalists. We’re all for openness,” Carlson said after the meeting. “How can we defeat this and not feel guilty about it?”
Carlson said he hoped the amendment, which was tabled two years ago, would receive another vote next year.
Other proponents of the amendment said it would help SPJ retain members and give members without the financial means to attend the conference a chance to have a voice.
Opposition to the amendment came from delegates who said members in their local chapters weren’t informed and didn’t care about the election and that personal interaction at the convention was a vital part of making an informed vote.
“Some of us came into this convention with no sense at all who we would vote for,” said delegate and former Wells Key winner Peter Sussman, an independent journalist and author from Berkeley, Calif.
Sussman said SPJ could consider allowing chapter-less members to forge virtual chapters that would elect delegates to vote for them at the national conference. SPJ could also increase the number of votes given to a chapter to allow them to cast ballots in favor of multiple candidates, he said.