Ad Hoc Committee on Constitutional Review: Operating guidelines

Formed just a few weeks ago, the Ad Hoc Committee on Constitutional Review has outlined its mission and operating guidelines.

Mission:

  • Primary: To evaluate what NASW — as an organization and as a community — will stand to gain and stand to lose if the Constitution is amended to allow PIOs and other non-journalists to be eligible for election to the NASW executive board (President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer).

  • Secondary: to understand more fully the feelings, experiences, motivations, concerns, and/or grievances that underlie the recent discussion of allowing PIOs or other non-journalists to be officers, and exploring more broadly how these issues might be addressed in other ways.

Article IV, Section 1:

Current language:

The elected officers of the Association shall consist of a president, a vice-president who shall be president-elect, a treasurer, and a secretary, who shall all be ex officio directors. A substantial majority of an officer's science-writing activities shall be journalism. Officers may not write press releases or otherwise act on behalf of an institution or company to affect media coverage while they serve in office. Officers who engage in such activities shall notify the Board immediately. They may remain on the Board, but the Board shall appoint another fully qualified member to carry out the officer duties.

Proposed change:

The elected officers of the Association shall consist of a president, a vice-president who shall be president-elect, a treasurer, and a secretary, who shall all be ex officio directors. Candidates shall be regular members in good standing at the time of their nomination.

The Ad Hoc Committee will:

  1. Collect feedback from NASW members by:
    1. Setting up an email address (adhoc2016@nasw.org) through which members can send in comments about the proposed amendment to the committee.
    2. Introducing question(s) in the annual membership survey to better understand the composition of the organization, types of work members engage in and likely member responses to amending the constitution or not.
    3. Conducting exploratory outreach to NASW members representing a diversity of professional activities and histories within the organization.
  2. Consult other professional associations about how they define and avoid conflicts of interest in the work of their members and officers.
  3. Consult other organizations about whether/how the proposed amendment might affect their partnerships or other interactions with NASW.
  4. Consult ethics and editorial guidelines of journalistic outlets about restrictions placed on employees and/or contributors being part of organizations that permit non-journalists to be officers.
  5. Describe the variety of work our members do in both journalist and non-journalist roles (including reporting, public information, technical writing, educational materials, etc.).
  6. Identify some possible scenarios and describe likely outcomes of each, based on the collected evidence.

The committee will report its findings to the Board no later than April 30, 2016.

The following NASW members have generously volunteered to serve on the ad hoc committee (in alphabetical order):

  • Siri Carpenter, freelance, Madison, WI
  • Doug Fox, freelance, Alameda, CA
  • Lee Hotz, staff journalist, The Wall Street Journal
  • A'ndrea Messer, PIO, Penn State University
  • Jill Sakai, PIO, University of Wisconsin
  • Nidhi Subbaraman, staff journalist, The Boston Globe

The committee members, who will determine their own structure and process, will be working hard over the next six months to explore this issue. We'll keep you updated on the committee's activities, and will publicize their report widely through nasw.org, ScienceWriters magazine, and social media.

Nov. 13, 2015