2019: And then there was “The Nine”

The current SPJ national board of directors is continuing to shrink, sort of. By the fall of 2019, “The Nine” will begin their journey as a more “strategic, nimble” SPJ board of directors.

By Sharon Dunten

This article was updated and corrected on Dec. 20 at 1:05 p.m.

For many years the SPJ national board was comprised of 23 members which also included the regional directors and at-large directors. In 2017 at the EIJ17 convention in Anaheim, Calif., the SPJ members approved that “a more practical and efficient” nine-person national board will start in the fall of 2019. Let’s just call them “The Nine” for clarity’s sake.

So why did the SPJ national board announce on Dec. 12 that two more at-large directors were appointed when it is trying to slim down the board? There will be 4 vacant national board positions available the fall of 2019 at the EIJ19 conference in San Antonio, Texas.  

J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ national president

The additional appointed national board members may very well be calculated. SPJ National President J. Alex Tarquinio said it “‘is a unique, transitional year … and the board is ‘hashing out what it means to be a more strategic, nimble board'” and continue to establish policies and procedures this next year while making a smooth transition to the final “The Nine.”

“The two [recently] appointed director at-large positions were created with the intention of bringing critical expertise to the board. The first appointees attest to this goal,” stated the SPJ press release on Dec. 12 along with the introduction of Ivette Davila-Richards and Victor Hernandez as the two appointed director at-large positions.

Per SPJ Bylaws, Richards and Hernandez were chosen by the current SPJ board to begin in 2019 the new annual process of selecting two at-large directors who are only appointed by the SPJ national board for a one-year term. After the 2019 election, this process will continue with every newly formed SPJ nine-member board each year. Richards and Hernandez will serve until September 2019, stated Tarquinio in an email to SizingUpTheSouth.

Ivette Davila-Richards (@IDRichards) joins the national board with eight years of leadership experience with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ); and Victor Hernandez (@ToTheVictor) who “has received accolades for his digital and management expertise,” stated the SPJ press release.

Ivette Davil-Richards, appointed SPJ National at-large director

Davila-Richards is currently a freelance assignment editor for the Fox News Channel, and previously spent 10 years as an associate producer for CBS News in New York. At NAHJ, she served as the New York chapter president, regional director for the Northeast, and as vice president for broadcast on the national board. She was an SPJ Diversity Fellow at this year’s convention and has since joined the Society’s national Diversity Committee.

“Mentoring, advocating for diversity, and serving the public is a passion of mine.”

– Ivette Davla-Richards

Hernandez brings more than two decades of professional experience from leading-edge newsrooms, journalism education programs, and technology startups. He recently served as the director of media innovation at Banjo, a technology startup specializing in event detection used every day by global newsrooms. Prior to that, he spent 12 years at CNN, working extensively within the organization’s editorial leadership and product technology areas.

Victor Hernandez, appointed SPJ national at-large director

As a longtime SPJ member, he served on the task force that ultimately proposed the restructuring of the national board, as an advisor to the student news project at EIJ conferences, and as a trainer at national and regional conferences. 

“I’m both honored and thrilled at the opportunity to join the SPJ board and give back to the organization, it’s members and the field of journalism. I look forward to helping foster change and build toward the future.” 

Victor Hernandez

Tarquinio said the appointment of these two journalism leaders marked an important step in this unusual year. “Their expertise will be invaluable to the board’s ongoing evolution,” she said.

Meanwhile, several national board positions were phased out in 2018, or will be phased out at the 2019 elections, as the board continues to be reshaped until “The Nine” board takes over in San Antonio. By next fall the final phase out will also include the elimination of remaining regional director positions. Their positions will move into the regional coordinators designation outside the national board structure. For instance, if current or potential regional leadership candidate runs in 2019, he/she will receive only the christening of “regional coordinator” but will no longer hold a position as a SPJ national board member.

Tarquinio also stated that according to the Bylaws passed in 2017 the President-Elect and Secretary-Treasurer board positions will be an open positions during the national board election in San Antonio.

“The Nine” board will also have two additional at-large directors vacancies and these positions will serve a two-year term that will not be appointed but voted in by SPJ members at their annual Excellence in Journalism conference. Tess Fox and Mike Reilley, currently at-large directors, will continue to complete their two-year terms until 2020.

She shared with SizingUpTheSouth on what she sees “The Nine” national ballot might look like for the EIJ19 elections next fall:

  • 1. President – Patti Gallagher Newberry
  • 2. President-Elect – open
  • 3. Secretary-Treasurer – open
  • 4. At-large Director – Mike Reilly (fulfilling two-year term)
  • 5. At-large Director – Tess Fox (fulfilling two-year term)
  • 6. At-large Director – open
  • 7. At-large Director – open
  • 8. At-large Director – appointed by “The Nine” board
  • 9. At-large Director – appointed by “The Nine” board

Sharon Dunten is the Assistant Regional Director – Region 3 and editor of SizingUpTheSouth.com. She is a freelance journalist and photojournalist based out of Atlanta with Dunten Media Services LLC. dunten.spjregion3@gmail.com