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SPJ board policy manual

A brief introduction

In October 2018, Society of Professional Journalists President Alex Tarquinio formed a task force, chaired by SPJ Secretary-Treasurer Matthew T. Hall, to review and update SPJ board policies and post them prominently on the SPJ website. They appointed board members Lauren Bartlett and Andy Schotz, regional coordinator Kathryn Jones and former board member Bill McCloskey to it. The group reviewed 20 years of policies.

The SPJ board unanimously approved the policies in this manual on Sept. 5, 2019, directing staff to post it in a convenient place on the SPJ website and share it with SPJ board members annually after each election. In approving this manual, the SPJ board also directed it be subject to biennial review by the incoming president and read by future board members closely so staff and volunteers can comply with all policies and can change with the times. Suggested improvements should always be considered.

If board members have any questions at any time, they should contact SPJ HQ.

Last but not least, there has been a long tradition of supporting board decisions.

Members of the board of directors should take care when handling disagreements with board decisions. They should be thoughtful with the words and language they choose to express disagreement with any decisions made by the board. They should feel free to share opinions and respective reasons to encourage thoughtful debate. But they should take care not to criticize the organization as a whole because of a difference of opinions.

Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications selection policy

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Awards recommendations policy

With nominations solicited from members and open to anyone, the following committees will rank and recommend finalists by June 1 in the event of a September annual convention — or three months before the convention otherwise — to the full SPJ board for its approval:

The Awards & Honors Committee will solicit nominees and rank and recommend finalists for:

The SPJ FOI Committee will solicit nominees and rank and recommend up to three finalists for the Sunshine Award.

The Ethics Committee will solicit nominees and rank and recommend one or more finalists for the Ethics in Journalism Award winners.

The Journalism Education Committee will solicit nominees and rank and recommend finalists for:

The SPJ board will choose the Wells Memorial Key recipient(s) by June 30 in advance of a September annual convention — or at least 60 days before the convention otherwise. The board will take into account member comments and suggestions regarding nominees. After the Wells Key presentation at the annual banquet, the board will explain why it picked that year’s recipient(s). The Wells Key should be given to a person attending the convention. However, the Wells Key may also be awarded posthumously.

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Board transparency policy

The Society of Professional Journalists is built on the foundation of the First Amendment and values transparency and openness. SPJ believes that the business of its members should be done before the members and invites everyone to participate. SPJ also believes that information about the organization should be shared publicly in a timely manner. The board adopts the following practices to foster accountability.


SPJ national meetings must follow the spirit of open meeting laws.

Records and Communications

Society records and communications should be as open as possible to foster understanding, trust and efficiency. In general, just as with meetings, the essence of state public record laws should apply to SPJ functions, in spirit and/or letter.

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Campaign guidelines

These election campaign guidelines should be followed by all candidates for the SPJ national board of directors and regional coordinators. Candidates with questions should ask the SPJ Nominations Committee Chair or the Executive Director.

Headquarters staff will format and send to members emails compiling messages from all announced candidates three times during the election cycle for the announced candidates. The Executive Director will determine the timing of the staff campaign transmissions. The preferred timetable is four weeks, two weeks and one week before the convention.

No candidate may use the membership database for campaign or political purposes.

Candidate speeches will be no more than three minutes in duration and will be delivered during the opening business meeting. Those speeches will be streamed live and made available on the election home page as soon as possible after they are delivered. The order in which candidates give speeches will be based on the alphabetical order of their last names.

While candidates, because of hotel contract restrictions, may not post signs in the convention hotel, fliers, buttons and other literature may be distributed.

Contact the SPJ Executive Director (or designee) to arrange for display space near the convention's registration area or trade show. All candidates will receive information about board and committee meetings before the convention.

Candidates are encouraged to attend board and committee meetings that are applicable to their prospective position. Candidates may purchase advertising space in Quill, the convention program or SPJ's convention electronic publication at rates discounted 50% off the current rate card. Contact SPJ Executive Director (or designee) for information.

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Composition of national committees policy

To help groom new leadership and have effective advocacy, SPJ shall once a year invite all members in good standing to apply to serve on SPJ’s national committees. Every June, SPJ shall send out a notice to the membership with a list of national committees and ask that members apply by two weeks prior to the annual convention.

Furthermore, each SPJ national committee shall:

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Conflict of interest policy

SPJ staff, volunteers, national board members and regional coordinators must disclose when they have any actual or potential conflicts of interest, or perceived conflicts, between the interests of the Society of Professional Journalists on one hand, and personal, professional, and business interests on the other.

Examples of an actual or potential conflict include (but are not limited to):

If there is even the slightest doubt, a person should disclose.

Disclosure must be made:

Society of Professional Journalists Conflict of Interest Policy Statement

The standard of behavior at the Society of Professional Journalists is that all staff, volunteers, and board members scrupulously avoid conflicts of interest between the interests of the Society of Professional Journalists on one hand, and personal, professional, and business interests on the other. This includes avoiding potential and actual conflicts of interest, as well as perceptions of conflicts of interest.

I understand that the purposes of this policy are to protect the integrity of the Society of Professional Journalists’ decision-making process, to enable our constituencies to have confidence in our integrity, and to protect the integrity and reputations of volunteers, staff and board members.

Upon or before election, hiring or appointment, I will make a full, written disclosure of interests, relationships, and holdings that could potentially result in a conflict of interest.

This written disclosure will be kept on file and I will update it as appropriate.

In the course of meetings or activities, I will disclose any interests in a transaction or decision where I (including my business or other nonprofit affiliations), my family and/or my significant other, employer, close associates will receive a benefit or gain. It is my responsibility to state my connection and potential conflict on any topic as it comes up during a discussion. After disclosure, I will remove myself from the discussion and leave the meeting, unless I am called on to answer questions. I will not vote on the topic.

I understand that this policy is meant to supplement good judgment, and I will respect its spirit as well as its wording.

Signed: _____________________________________________   Date: _____________

Printed Name: __________________________________________________________

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Convention registration bag policy

Non-SPJ items included in the registration bags at SPJ's national convention must be:

SPJ's marketing director or director of events shall compile an inventory of registration bag contents and ensure the above policy is followed.

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Convention voting transparency policy

At SPJ’s annual convention, resolutions and bylaws amendments may be brought to the floor for a vote by delegates. During the convention, SPJ members elect national officers and directors for the coming year through an electronic process. The Society shall make public in a timely manner election vote tallies and the results of all votes taken at business meetings.

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Discretionary spending policy

The board shall approve any expenditure over $5,000 that is not authorized in the annual budget.

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EIJ sponsorship policy

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Electronic voting policy

The SPJ board may vote unanimously via email, but a single vote shall make moot any motion.

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Executive director evaluation policy

The executive director shall be evaluated annually by the president of SPJ, the president-elect of SPJ and the president of the SPJ Foundation. The evaluation committee will share its findings with the SPJ and SPJ Foundation boards at least one week before the first meeting after the annual review, and may recommend that the SPJ Board of Directors search for a new executive director.

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Executive director hiring policy

The presidents of SPJ and the SPJ Foundation shall appoint an equal number of members to a search committee. The SPJ president shall appoint one additional member to serve as committee chairman with voting privileges. The committee will forward a list of one or more candidates it deems qualified, from which the SPJ Board of Directors will vote to hire the executive director. The SPJ Board of Directors shall immediately notify the SPJ Foundation of its decision.

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Investment policy

General provisions

Standard of Care

Asset Management



Investment objectives

Recognizing the need to manage day-to-day operations; fiduciary responsibility to our members; and desire for a prudent guide for the present and future direction of our assets, our investment priorities shall be:



Steady income from interest and dividends

Preservation of Capital

Investment management policy

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Reimbursement guidelines for board members and regional coordinators

Reimbursement Stipends

As of Fiscal Year 2019, SPJ Board Members and Regional Coordinators receive the following annual reimbursement stipends for work and travel done on behalf of SPJ:

Reimbursement Guidelines

Board Members and Regional Coordinators receive annual reimbursement stipends for work they do on behalf of the Society. They have a fiduciary responsibility to the Society and stipends must be used strictly for work related to SPJ. Stipends shall run from annual convention to annual convention. The secretary-treasurer shall be responsible for monitoring the expenses.

Approved reimbursements include:

The following expenses will not be reimbursed:

The goal of the stipend is to offset travel expenses for board members who travel around the country for SPJ business, as well as Regional Coordinators who travel to the annual convention and around their own regions. All parties should use their best judgment when requesting reimbursements.

Board members and Regional Coordinators should make every effort to stretch the SPJ dollar by using the least expensive form of travel.

Board members and Regional Coordinators are free to secure their own lodging for any SPJ event. However, the reimbursement request must not exceed the rate at the “headquarters” hotel.

Expenses incurred for spouses/significant others are not eligible for reimbursement.

A key word to insert before all eligible reimbursements is “reasonable.” SPJ does not expect volunteers to stay in shoddy hotels and eat every meal at fast-food establishments. Likewise, staying at five-star hotels and dining at expensive restaurants every night similarly are discouraged.

Reimbursement Requests

Requests should be submitted using an SPJ expense report form (available at spj.org). Receipts or copies of receipts must be included with all reimbursement requests.

All requests for reimbursement should be submitted within 30 days to SPJ headquarters. Expense reports submitted more than 60 days after the expenses have been incurred shall not be reimbursed, at the discretion of the executive director.

The reimbursement stipend timeline runs from the close of the national convention to the close of the following national convention in accordance with board member terms.

Stipends shall not be used for any purpose other than reimbursing approved SPJ-related expenses except that at year’s end, all board members’ unspent expense reimbursements will revert to the general fund for reimbursement of those individuals who had expenses in excess of their limit. These excess reimbursements will be applied pro rata when necessary.

Questions about reimbursements or requests for waivers should be directed to SPJ’s executive director.

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Release of LDF applicant information policy

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) will not publicize personally identifying information from Legal Defense Fund (LDF) applications beyond LDF committee and subcommittee members, members of SPJ's national board and select members of SPJ's administrative staff.

However, SPJ may publicize non-personally identifying details from LDF applications to promote awareness and understanding of an issue. The publicity of such details shall require approval from SPJ's national president.

Once an LDF grant has been awarded, SPJ shall publicize identifying information about the grant recipient. Portions of the recipient's application may be publicized, with the applicant’s consent, to promote awareness and understanding of an issue.

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Sponsor disclosure policy

The Society of Professional Journalists sometimes solicits cash and in-kind contributions from individuals and organizations outside of its national convention.

For such events coordinated by the national headquarters that require SPJ fundraising, underwriting and/or partnerships, the Society shall disclose to its members and event attendees the following information:

The Society shall disclose, upon request, the dollar amounts of all contributors.

The Society shall disclose this information proactively, using the most effective media, so that the information is readily available to event attendees and to members at the time they receive mailings or otherwise come into contact with the product or service connected with outside financial support.

Disclosure statements shall include a disclaimer that says acceptance of a contribution does not mean the Society endorses the contributor or its products, services or viewpoints.

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Third-party records policy

The Society of Professional Journalists, or Society, shall conduct its business openly and transparently.

Upon request, the Society shall provide its members with the details of its approved transactions with third parties. Within five business days of receiving a records request, the Society must respond by either providing the information in the format requested (e.g. electronic, hard copy); acknowledge the request and provide a reasonable estimate of the time required to respond to the request; or deny the record request.

Additional time may be needed to have the requestor clarify the request; assemble the information; notify third parties of the request; or determine whether any information requested should be denied in whole or in part. A majority of the Society's board must vote to deny a records request and SPJ's executive director will provide the requestor with a written explanation for that denial.

A reasonable fee will be assessed to recover the actual costs to gather and make copies of the records request. The requestor will be notified beforehand and will receive an itemized estimate as to this cost. The fee should be waived, as determined by the Society's executive director, should the request be for the good of the Society. Making information available electronically, at no charge, is preferred.

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Whistleblower policy for SPJ/SPJ Foundation


The Society of Professional Journalists ("SPJ") and the SPJ Foundation (“Foundation”) (collectively, the "Organization") require directors, officers and employees to observe high standards of business and personal ethics in the conduct of their duties and responsibilities. As employees and representatives of the Organization, we must practice honesty and integrity in fulfilling our responsibilities and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

Reporting Responsibility

It is the responsibility of all directors, officers and employees to report violations or suspected violations in accordance with this Whistleblower Policy.

No Retaliation

No director, officer or employee who in good faith reports a violation (hereafter, a "report of wrongdoing"), including, but not limited to, a report of wrongdoing concerning accounting, internal controls or auditing matters, or provides truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any federal offense to a law enforcement officer shall suffer harassment, retaliation or adverse employment consequence. An employee who retaliates against someone who has made a report of wrongdoing in good faith is subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment.

This Whistleblower Policy is intended to encourage and enable employees and others to raise serious concerns within the Organization prior to seeking resolution outside the Organization. An employee who knowingly or recklessly makes statements or disclosures that are not in good faith may be subject to discipline, which may include termination. Employees who make a report of wrongdoing pursuant to this Whistleblower Policy can and will continue to be held to the general job performance standards of the Organization.

Therefore, an employee against whom legitimate adverse employment actions have been taken or are proposed to be taken for reasons other than prohibited retaliatory actions, such as poor job performance or misconduct by the employee, is foreclosed from using this Whistleblower Policy as a defense against lawful actions of the Organization.

Reporting Violations

The Organization has an open door policy that employees share their questions, concerns, suggestions or complaints with someone who can address them properly. In most cases, an employee's supervisor is in the best position to address an area of concern. However, if you are not comfortable speaking with your supervisor or you are not satisfied with your supervisor's response, you are encouraged to speak with anyone in management or leadership whom you are comfortable in approaching. Supervisors and leadership are required to bring a report of wrongdoing to the attention of the executive director and/or president of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, who have responsibility to investigate all such reports. For suspected fraud, or when you are not satisfied or uncomfortable with following the Organization's open door policy, individuals should contact the executive director or president of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, directly.

Accounting and Auditing Matters

The board of directors of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, shall address all reported concerns or complaints regarding corporate accounting practices, internal controls or auditing. The executive director shall immediately notify the boards of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, of any such complaint and work with the board until the matter is resolved.

Acting in Good Faith

Anyone filing a report of wrongdoing must be acting in good faith and have reasonable grounds for believing the information reported is true. Any allegations that prove not to be substantiated and which prove to have been made maliciously or knowingly to be false will be viewed as a serious disciplinary offense. Good faith exists when the report is made without malice or consideration of personal benefit and a person has a reasonable basis to believe the report is true; provided, however, a report does not have to be proven to be true to be made in good faith. Good faith is absent when the disclosure is known to be malicious, false or frivolous.


Wrongdoing includes financial or accounting fraud, and violation of laws, regulations, or policies regarding accounting practices, internal controls or auditing matters.

Adverse Employment Consequences

Examples of adverse employment consequences include demotion, suspension, termination, transfer to an inferior position, denial of promotions, denial of benefits, and denial of compensation as a direct result of a report of wrongdoing.


A report of wrongdoing may be submitted on a confidential basis by the complainant or may be submitted anonymously. A report of wrongdoing will be kept confidential to the extent possible, consistent with the need to conduct an adequate investigation.

Handling of Reports of Wrongdoing and Administration of Policy

The executive director or president of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, will notify the sender and acknowledge receipt of a report of wrongdoing. All reports of wrongdoing will be promptly investigated and appropriate corrective action will be taken if warranted by the investigation.

The boards of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, shall be primarily responsible for the administration of this Whistleblower Policy; provided, however, the board shall work closely with the executive director to ensure the effectiveness of this Whistleblower Policy and may delegate to management and/or third parties, including professional advisors, responsibility for all or part of the administration of this policy. The board shall be provided quarterly summaries of all reports of wrongdoing made pursuant to this policy.

For each report of wrongdoing, an inquiry will be initiated to determine if the report can be substantiated or has merit. That inquiry will be made by such person or persons (the "Investigating Officer") designated by the boards of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, to review the report, which person may include members of the SPJ board, the executive director or the outside legal counsel of the Organization.

The Investigating Officer shall make a determination, in his or her reasonable judgment, whether a reasonable basis exists for commencing an investigation into the report of wrongdoing. The Investigating Officer may conduct an initial informal inquiry. The purpose of the initial inquiry of the Investigating Officer is to screen reports of wrongdoing so that the boards of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, does not have to examine immaterial or spurious reports. Nevertheless, the board shall have oversight authority and review on a regular basis reports of wrongdoing that were screened out for immediate reporting to the board. If the Investigating Officer does not screen out a report of wrongdoing, he or she shall promptly forward such report to the president along with the Investigating Officer's conclusions (even if preliminary or qualified) about the merits of the report.

Following the receipt of any report of wrongdoing from the Investigating Officer, the boards of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, will investigate each matter reported and recommend that SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, take appropriate corrective or disciplinary action, if required. The board may enlist employees of the Organization and/or outside legal, accounting or other advisors, as appropriate, to conduct any investigation of a report of wrongdoing.

A confidential file for each report of wrongdoing will be maintained for an appropriate time period. The executive director or other appropriate management personnel may be contacted to determine what employment action, if any, should be taken. Results of all investigations will be reviewed by the executive director and reported to the board of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be.

Claims of Retaliation

Claims of acts of retaliation should be submitted to the executive director or boards of SPJ or the SPJ Foundation, as the case may be, as applicable. The recipient of such claims will immediately notify the executive director or the Organization's outside counsel who will initiate a confidential investigation.

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Work visa opinion letters policy

It is the policy of the Society of Professional Journalists to decline requests from those seeking opinion letters in an effort to obtain a work visa. This policy is in effect because:

The Society may, however, issue a letter confirming an applicant’s membership status with SPJ.

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