Spring meeting tackles strategic planning

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Board Backs Two-Year Term for Future Presidents

By Karlyn Barker

The Journalism & Women Symposium’s officers and directors gathered April 13-15 in Albuquerque to help craft a new leadership framework for the future. As part of this effort, the board voted to recommend changes to the by-laws, the most significant of which would set two-year terms for future JAWS presidents.

Talking late into Friday night, most of Saturday and again Sunday morning in a combined spring meeting and strategic plan retreat, the board plowed through an agenda of pressing issues for JAWS, including efforts to boost financial resources, build a diverse membership and expand programs and services.

But the focus of the weekend was a new strategic plan for JAWS, one of the promised payoffs from the past year’s matching fund campaign. President Julie Dunlap set up a full-day session with Anne Hays Egan, a Santa Fe-based consultant who specializes in helping non-profits chart their futures and meet new challenges.

Egan, who has also put together a survey for the general membership to help set program priorities, led board members through a discussion of the mission and vision of JAWS. She is also working with JAWS through the summer as we finalize the strategic plan and finish other projects to provide a roadmap for future activities.

The proposed by-laws revisions, subject to approval by members attending this September’s conference, are designed to provide more organizational continuity, clarify the terms and duties of officers and other board members, and better define categories of membership and voting eligibility. First vice president Julia Kagan and board member Eunnie Park worked with JAWS veteran Betsy Wade, a past member of the board, to draft the changes.

In other action, the board agreed JAWS needs to do more to help members build technical and leadership skills. It also informally endorsed a plan to enhance the profile of JAWS by being a more visible presence at national journalism conferences and by continuing to take stands on media-related issues, such as the board’s recent vote condemning the racist and sexist remarks of Don Imus.

Board member Megan Kamerick, who heads the membership committee, bluntly flagged a chief obstacle as JAWS seeks to attract younger members who work in a range of media outlets. For some, she said, “Coming to JAWS Camp is a whole month’s rent.” The board suggested several ways to make JAWS more accessible, including holding down the cost of fall camp, seeking more support for scholarships and sponsoring more regional events.

President-elect Dawn Garcia gave an update on the ongoing re-design of the JAWS web site, which this summer will move to a new host, Westhost. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out www.jaws.org. There are plans to provide more job postings on the site.

Board members and other JAWS supporters have taken on several tasks with impact this year, including soliciting contributions to match the $20,000 grant from the Challenge Fund for Journalism. (JAWS blasted past that goal, raising a final total of $34,126 by the May 31 deadline! See Dawn’s report on page 1.) The board has also worked with member Sydney Shaw to contact “Lost Campers” and lure previously active members back to the fold. JAWS’ current membership stands at about 350, with 100 to 135 attending camp in any given year.

Board members also discussed how to mark the 25th anniversary of JAWS in 2009 – details to come – and how to develop or strengthen programs to mentor new and aspiring women journalists, improve career skills and help members find jobs or change careers.

The weekend wasn’t all business, though. Longtime member Martha Burk, who writes for Ms. Magazine and has led the effort to open the Augusta National Golf Club to women, threw a party at her new Albuquerque home for the board and several dozen women journalists and educators from northern New Mexico. JAWS signed up seven new members!

Karlyn Barker is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C..