Below is a statement initiated by the DC Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists after this week’s announcement of the resignation of the Society’s executive director. Several SPJ chapters and chapter presidents signed on to the statement because of our shared concerns about the timing of the announcement and its limited dissemination. The statement that follows gives more details about our concerns.
Dear national board of directors:
We wish to register our concern about the way that the departure of Society of Professional Journalists executive director Alison Bethel McKenzie was announced. As journalists ourselves and as active members of the premier U.S. nonprofit representing the values of transparency, public service, oversight and accuracy, we believe this could have been handled in a much more transparent way.
The sole description of this departure was that Bethel McKenzie “resigned.“ This statement was not attributed to anyone.
We fully appreciate that this is a personnel matter and that many details must be kept private. However, it is incumbent, we believe, among all organizations to be as transparent and detailed as possible under such circumstances. Indeed, the boilerplate information directly below the two sentences announcing her resignation and wishing her the best in future endeavors starts by saying: “SPJ promotes the free flow of information …”
We write to you in a cooperative spirit in hoping to positively contribute to the organization’s well-being. We hope you will include local chapters as much as possible in this process.
This brief news release was issued at around midnight on April 29, 2019. Unlike with most other press releases from this association, it was apparently not sent to members of the media. Nor was it sent to members themselves.
This announcement was not released on social media, either. Unlike most other announcements from our group. Best communications and public relations practices dictate releasing even negative information in the same or similar ways as positive information.
We request that going forward, the association and its board do a better job communicating to all stakeholders about such important issues. For starters, who is the point person or people to whom questions can be addressed, such as what will be the process for picking a successor to Bethel McKenzie. How can they be contacted?
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
The boards of the DC Pro, Chicago Headline Club, Florida Pro and San Diego Pro chapters of SPJ
And on their own behalf:
Anna Walsh, Maryland Pro Chapter president
Jordan Frias, New England Pro Chapter president
Stephanie Bluestein, Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter president
Amanda Waldroupe, Oregon Territory Chapter president