Where we stand

Dear JAWS members,

The JAWS board has suspended Andrea Stone from the listserv for posting comments that violated our code of conduct and the values we hold as an organization. Andrea has apologized on the listserv.

The board has decided NOT to punish people who shared Andrea’s message outside of the listserv, which contravenes our listserv policy, because it would have a dampening effect on whistleblowers who are raising awareness of the serious issue of racial inequality within our organization.

That said, our listserv policy does state: “You should not redistribute other people’s words or email addresses from this list to people or publications outside this list. Likewise, if someone writes to you privately, ask and obtain her permission before posting her words to this forum. Violation of these precepts may be cause for removal from the list.”

We should also note that our policy clearly states that a listserv is not a place for private communication: ”You are responsible for your own words. Keep in mind that although this listserv is considered ‘private space’ for JAWS members, it is impossible to promise that no one will ever quote your messages. This is not the place for private, one-on-one, communication.”

Our new Code of Conduct also states that we are not OK with certain behaviors, including: “Displaying or posting material that seeks to embarrass or disparage a member.”

Several of our members believe that this happened to Andrea when her comments were shared on Twitter. They have asked the board to take action against those who shared Andrea’s post.

The board, along with members of its diversity committee, met on Monday to discuss those concerns, but ultimately decided it was the content of Andrea’s post that was the problem — not the people who shared it.

The mission of JAWS is to “support the professional empowerment and personal growth of women in journalism and work toward a more accurate portrayal of the whole society.” That requires standing up for those who call out injustice when they see it – even if it’s uncomfortable.

 

If we truly believe in inclusion, JAWS must examine everything that has happened through a lens of equity rather than equality. Equity requires taking into account the individuals, the context, the background and the larger social constructs behind an action. We fell short of taking a strong stance against bias and racism immediately after CAMP, but that will change going forward.

That said, we will be reviewing our listserv policy, related policies and communications tools to find new ways to ensure we have productive, supportive dialogue that’s valuable to members and essential to the future success of JAWS.

We have a challenging road ahead of us as we build a stronger JAWS, one that takes a firm stance against racism and works to dismantle centuries of bias and discrimination. We are not alone in this challenge. Professional organizations across the country – and our nation at large — are wrestling with these same issues. But we draw the courage to walk this road from you all and the deep love you have for this organization, this  industry and each other.

Sincerely,

The JAWS Board of Directors