Strategic Planning Process Ahead for the Society

Article excerpt

Board approves first step to long-range focus effort

TC he Society of Professional Journalists is in transition. Again. We've been there before, but this time we're better prepared.

Executive Director Greg Christopher has left to add his knowledge and skills to the John Purdue Club at Purdue University. His contributions and leadership will be sorely missed. But his departure also presents us with a rare opportunity to examine where we have been and where we are going.

Thanks to Greg, SPJ is headed in the right direction. Over the four years he ran the Greencastle office, he took SPJ from questionable financial health to a robust fiscal fitness.

Since the 1993-94 fiscal year, assets have risen from $504,708 to $982,908. Invested reserves are now $475,903; they were $168,823 a year ago. Current revenue stands at $1.73 million, up more than 6 percent from the previous year.

Greg also leaves behind an energized staff. Quill Editor Maggie Balough will be interim executive director while we search for a permanent replacement. She, like Greg, has some strong and creative ideas for strengthening SPJ.

This period of change is a good time to review SPJ's action plan. The last major effort to look at goals and missions was about 10 years ago. So, while we search for a new executive director, we'll be reviewing our objectives, too.

Here's what I hope will happen over the next year.

First, committee chairs are being asked to do a reality check on the goals that the action plan assigns to their respective committees. Their comments will be returned to the Planning Committee, headed by President-elect Wendy Myers.

Meanwhile, we're looking for an outside expert in strategic planning to help us brainstorm a new and improved plan-a plan that's specific where it needs to be and visionary where it ought to be. For this long-range noodling, we journalists, so focused on daily deadlines, probably need-pardon the expression-professional help.

The board of directors has endorsed this idea. The process will lead to serious strategic planning after a new executive director is on board.

Our most critical need is to increase membership. That's tough, because journalists are not joiners. We need to make SPJ an organization that a serious professional cannot ignore. The Membership Committee is chaired by Steve Rynkiewicz, who will apply his considerable energies to increasing our membership and thus our influence.

We also have to face the consequences of rising public hostility toward the news media. Expect more legislation at all levels of government-from Congress to city councils-to limit press freedoms, and more libel suits charging victimization by the media.

SPJ's Legal Defense Fund, now headed by Bruce Cadwallader, and Freedom of Information Committee, which our new secretary-treasurer, Kyle Niederpruem, continues to lead, will have to be particularly vigilant.

Chapter Health and Welfare, under Deb Hurley's continued guidance, will simplify chapter requirements and create new achievement levels and incentives. …