2000 Annual Membership Meeting Minutes

By NASW Secretary Laura van Dam

President Joe Palca opened the meeting by calling on Treasurer Deborah Blum to present some good news. Deborah reported that the organization had a budget surplus of $20,032 in 1999. Total funds, including operating budget, checking account, money market and CDs, totaled $216,792; half of which is now held in cash reserve. This is quite a difference from the days when NASW typically operated at a deficit.

This news brought a spontaneous burst of suggestions from those assembled as to how best to use the surplus funds. Suggestions ranged from lowering workshop fees, to eliminating dues, to setting up an endowment for the executive director's salary. Joe favored spending on programs that will enrich the organization's goals.

Laurie Garrett suggested investing a portion of the funds in the stock market. This raised a question from the floor as to whether NASW has a policy of socially responsible investing (currently, no such policy is in place). Peggy Girshman pointed out that investing in stocks could pose the potential for conflict of interest, since many NASW members cover technology and bioscience companies.

Joe called for a vote on the proposed 2000 budget and it was adopted.

Joe thanked Howard Lewis and Lynne Friedmann for their work this past year on ScienceWriters. Joe then announced that Howard plans to retire from his post as editor-in-chief and that the board has selected Lynne to succeed him, with Bob Finn serving as deputy editor. The NASW board discussed asking the three most recent past presidents to serve on an editorial board to assist with ideas and matters of interest to NASW. ScienceWriters will also move toward increasing its online presence.

The annual workshops continue to develop in scope and value. This year's offerings brought in 150 people for the Wednesday meetings at NIH and close to 400 registrations — almost 20 percent of membership — on Thursday. Joe thanked Deborah Blum, Carol Cruzan Morton, Robin Marantz Henig, Bobbi Bennett, Mary Knudson, Paul Lowenberg, and everyone else who helped organize the two-day event. Joe also announced a formal search was underway for the paid position of workshop coordinator.

Rick Borchelt, who started the mentoring program five years ago, spoke next on the "tremendous" job Kelli Whitlock and Mariette DiChristina had done organizing the student and professional matching effort for the second straight year. A large number of volunteer mentors this year enabled 28 pairs to participate in the program. This year also marked the first year that former students in the program served as mentors themselves.

Volunteers are needed for next year's mentoring effort in San Francisco. Contact mentor@nasw.org about your interest in this valuable program. Next year's program will also include a critique session for "mentees" and new NASW members. If you're interested in developing this, contact Mariette.

This coming year should also see the creation of an online mentoring program involving student submissions. More details will come in ScienceWriters and on the NASW web site. Rick announced he is stepping down as chair of the education committee; the new co-chairs will be Kelli and Mariette.

Carol Cruzan Morton discussed the continuing interest in increasing NASW's diversity in membership. With this effort in the initial stage of development, she and Carol Ezzell have been gathering information on the efforts of other organizations in this regard. If you have ideas to share, send a note to diversity@nasw.org.

Speaking on behalf of the nominating committee, Joe noted the upcoming elections, pointing out that there are two ways to become an NASW board nominee. If interested, you can get in touch with Richard Harris, chair of the committee, or have 20 members sign and submit a petition on a candidate's behalf.

Robert Lee Hotz, who co-chairs the membership committee with Laura van Dam, said the board had decided to continue requiring two sponsors for membership, following an online question about the matter. He pointed out that many avenues exist for getting to know members, particularly given NASW's strong listserv presence. For their part, NASW members who are contacted by interested parties can help by first reading their clips and encouraging interested people to attend local science-writer groups.

The board is creating several new categories for NASW's Science-in-Society awards. In addition to the newspaper and magazine categories, two broadcast awards will be given: one for television and another for radio. Other new awards will include an online and a book category. Beryl Benderly and Carol Cruzan Morton will chair a committee to write qualifications for the new awards and to find judges. Harvey Liefert suggested creating a category that recognizes the work of public information officers.

In new business, Laura van Dam expressed interest in what the explosion in the number of jobs for science writers means in terms of new writers' understanding of journalism standards and ethics. Members who have thoughts on this can contact her at lvandam@nasw.org.

Another new avenue of interest is the developing world of electronic publishing. Robin Marantz Henig, Joel Shurkin, and Laura van Dam are forming a committee to look into whether NASW should affiliate with any online publishing operations. Joel noted that the American Society of Journalists and Authors has a connection with iUniverse. The new committee is looking for volunteers and suggestions about this matter.

Beryl Lieff Benderly brought up the idea of NASW offering members organized tours to places such as the Galapagos Islands. Member suggestions are welcome. Beryl is joined by Barbara Hyde in exploring the potential for this added membership benefit.

Joe entertained a question from Larry Krumenaker about equity among NASW's local affiliates. Joe pointed out that only some of the local groups ask for money from NASW, and that the organization is receptive to requests, including helping affiliates to get underway.

Laurie Garrett offered a tribute to Victor Cohn, NASW's president in 1960 and 1961, who died just days before this year's NASW meeting. Joe noted that NASW had planned to award Vic with a lifetime achievement award. (Alas, it was awarded posthumously to Vic's family.)

Richard Harris, immediate past president, commented that some members have been concerned that the back of the NASW membership card no long offers a press credential, due to the recent changes to the NASW constitution. Joe responded that an editor's letter should suffice when a credential is required. He does not think it is appropriate for NASW to act as an arbitrator in disputes over whether an individual member meets a particular organization's requirements for press credentials.

Despite a full agenda, the meeting progressed briskly due to Joe's typical efficiency and adjourned leaving everyone with ample free time before the annual AAAS-Whitaker Awards banquet.

October 2, 2015

Drexel University Online

Amplify the signal