Majority of the NASW Board opposes officer amendment

Sep. 25, 2018


I agree with the board. I'm a freelance journalist, so I know how hard it is to keep from doing some sort of advocacy work. But during times when I haven't been able to make ends meet with strictly journalism, I have taken jobs that are quite distant, primarily working in law offices. I think opening officer roles up to non-journalists is a slippery slope. I also think the board is correct that splintering the NASW will not improve things for anybody, although I might think about leaving NASW if I thought it was trending towards PR rather than journalism. I do understand that there are many excellent writers who work in the media departments of universities and governmental agencies, but to me that automatically means those writers will always have to make their institutions look as good as possible, and that has the potential to compromise the writing. But the NASW has been a crucial part of my science writing career, and I'm certainly not ditching it any time soon.

emhollan's picture

Much of the discussion concerning the proposed amendment to allow non-journalists to be considered for office has evolved into questions of conflicts-of-interest, should a non-journalist be elected to one of the four officer posts.  Given that the board chose to, once again, voice its opposition to the amendment and do so using its sole ability to speak to the entire organization, I am sadly convinced that none of the signatories to that missive have any real concept of what conflicts-of-interest really entail!

No one expects for journalists to give up their right to vote when they take on that job.  But they are expected to (1) not allow their personal beliefs to color their reporting and (2) avoid lobbying, politicking or otherwise working on behalf of, or opposed to any issue, candidate or party.  Doing the latter can cost them their jobs!

Likewise, when an individual takes on a leadership position in an organization, they no longer can argue that their actions reflect only their own personal positions.  They gave that up when they chose to represent the membership.  Their personal and professional judgement can and should affect their decision-making on behalf of the membership but they should never work at odds against any member or group of members.

The proposed amendment grew from a grassroots movement within the organization aimed at leveling the playing field for all members, regardless of who they worked for.  Based on the dialogue on the listserves, many, many members see this as an effort towards equity.

The current statement by the board is clearly a conflict-of-interest and those who signed it should apologize to the members of NASW.


Earle Holland

Asst VP for Research Communications (ret.)

Ohio State Universit

The Board and Officers note that a similar amendment two years ago failed. Yes, it failed by a very slim margin, less than 5 percent of the 700 votes cast. And then the Board statement slams overall voter participation in that election as evidence that the membership didn’t really care about the issue much. 

Of course, every one of the members who signed that statement was elected in a contest in which many fewer votes were cast than were cast in the amendment election. So perhaps the Board’s logic is that members really don’t give a hoot who their Board and officers are?

maggiefox's picture

I have to say I do care, but, being old and feeble-minded, I cannot remember how I voted on this issue. I am getting emails lobbying for the amendment. I voted by proxy and I think maybe the wording was confusing. I don't suppose there is any way to check, or to recall my vote and cast it again? If I was confused, maybe others were, too.

Anyway I do think it's an important issue.

michelebaum's picture

I voted for the amendment two years ago and support it today. These days, I am neither a PIO nor a journalist, though I've been both over the course of my career. My current role is primarily internal communications, as well as liaising with the various federal and state agencies that fund the work of scientific investigators affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh. NASW has been useful for my professional development in many ways and, of course, it's always great to reconnect with friends at meetings.

Bottom line, we all have the same goal to bring accurate, compelling science stories to the public. This argument is disheartening. If a candidate doesn't meet your personal smell test, don't vote for him or her. It's a simple question of fairness. 


Drexel University online

ASU Earth and Space Journalism Fellowship