We hope all is well. Since Friday's official announcement of PABJ no longer being affiliated with NABJ, there's been a misinformation campaign from some critics of the decision unlike anything we've seen before. One would think they would actually read our public statement in full and not put out blatant lies or details that lack context -- but here we are. As Black journalists and media professionals, you all have the power to inform yourselves adequately and sustainably. Before posting and/or sharing information about PABJ, ask yourself if you've gotten it confirmed from our official platforms and/or directly from our PABJ leadership.
For starters, PABJ has been fully transparent and responsive to the membership's concerns around NABJ affiliation. Yes, there really was a reason for us to challenge the compliance issues raised by NABJ regarding our status as a chapter. And no, we have remained steadfast in listening to PABJ members who made it clear that they didn't authorize us to give their professional emails to any other third-party, including NABJ.
During February’s General PABJ membership meeting, you all voted for the PABJ Executive Board to send a letter to NABJ’s leadership requesting an apology and more clarity regarding a defaming letter they sent to “PABJ Stakeholders” about the chapter’s leadership regarding the audit. In March, I sent an email to inform you all that after several attempts at reaching out to their leadership, they have refused to respond back to our multiple requests to meet and have denied offering any apology for their concerning behavior.
We are disheartened by the misinformation that's been shared by some NABJ members who haven't reached out to PABJ leadership about our decision. As Black journalists and media professionals, such skills should be of second nature. But common sense isn't always common.
For those members who haven't been staying abreast of PABJ's ongoing dialogue with NABJ, here's a brief summary. Following our March 2022 update to members, PABJ was informed by NABJ that the chapter audit didn't require membership emails. Following the NABJ Convention in the summer, and after speaking with some NABJ Board members in-person, our PABJ Exec Board made the decision to submit a chapter audit in the fall.
At the time, PABJ believed that it gave NABJ everything it had asked for (financials, annual report of activities, bonding, board members being NABJ members, a membership roster of names and affiliations) -- but we were informed by a NABJ Executive Board member reviewing the audit form that it was incomplete due to us not providing the professional email addresses of all of our members.
Yes, you heard this correctly -- NABJ had changed their policy over the summer.
During the late summer, NABJ created a revamped Membership Committee that created new policies to enforce regarding the chapter audit. One of those new polices was that all chapters must include the professional email addresses of all of their members (including those who aren't NABJ members) in their audit.
Please read the email that was sent to me on October 31st regarding how our audit application was deemed incomplete over the request for professional affiliation, which required email addresses:
PABJ's application is under review and we find that the membership roster is incomplete and missing information about the PROFESSIONAL affiliation used to join NABJ (i.e. workplace, organization, professional email address).
Per the NABJ constitution:
(b) The applying organization, at the time of its application for alignment with NABJ, and at the time of the annual renewal of that status, submits to NABJ a membership list showing that two-thirds of the organization’s members are eligible for NABJ status as provided in Chapter 4, Article I, Sections 2-6 of this constitution.
I realize this information is delayed as I had work and other NABJ board commitments that needed my attention.
I have talked with Madame President Dorothy Tucker and she agrees to give the PABJ chapter a 2 week extension from TODAY, October 31, 2022 to get this information in.
Any questions, let us know.
Yours in service,
Chair, Membership Committee
After several back and forth exchanges, I finally sent the following concerns via email to NABJ leadership on October 31st:
This is pointless and tedious. The NABJ By-laws don't explicitly require chapters to give all of the professional emails of their members from their respective orgs. You all are choosing to mandate this independently.
I've made it very clear that forcing us to do so in order to be compliant serves as a conflict to the membership overall. Again, you don't have to require this, for it is not explicitly in the bylaws in regards to submit such emails. You're making this a mandate that's tacted on to the audit. It can be changed, you're refusing to adjust for all respective 501(c)3s seeking affiliation.
Again, some chapters might not care, but mine do. And this shouldn't be a deal breaker. Members of my chapter who aren't NABJ shouldn't have to give their professional emails to a third party organization.
You're literally holding us up to be complient on this one single matter. Again, the Bylaws don't explicitly call for it.
I would expect better from NABJ to be more accommodating on matters like this. I'm beginning to wonder why this is such a big deal for the national organization to have this particular detail. Again, we're willing to fairly and reasonably provide everything else.
At that point, NABJ never reached back to me or the PABJ board and went forward with mandating this policy across the national organization. Here's an excerpt from a memo they sent to chapter leaders on November 17th:
Our current governing document also states that “at the time of its application, for alignment with NABJ, and at the time of the annual renewal of that status, (chapters) submit to NABJ a membership list showing that two-thirds of the organization’s members are eligible for NABJ status." (Chapter 5; Article 1; Section 1-b)
Let’s work together to strengthen our membership rosters while helping our chapters achieve compliance heading into 2023. This can be easily accomplished through the annual audit that is due December 1. During the audit process, we ask chapter presidents to submit a membership roster annually that includes local members’ media affiliation and business or professional email.
A note about email submissions: For a business or professional email, vdodson@ABCnewspaper.com, for example, is sufficient.
Other examples of accepted email types:
If it's easier for you to just share your current local roster, please do so. The Membership Committee understands that many chapters have non-media members but again, only 2/3 of the local roster must be eligible for national membership.
Given that PABJ was currently considered non-compliant because we refused to give NABJ all of our member's emails and they offered us no alternative -- we were at an impasse that appeared to have no end in current sight. So given that we weren't going to compromise our chapter's request not to give away such information -- the PABJ Executive Board decided not to complete the chapter audit with that requirement -- forfeiting our affiliation with NABJ altogether. To be clear, this was one of several major reasons previously discussed as to why we decided to depart -- but this was fundamentally the straw that broke the camel's back.
To reduce any further rumors, gossip, and confusion on our stance. Here's a brief FAQs on this:
Question: So what does this directly mean for you as a PABJ member?
Answer: Nothing major. PABJ is an independent 501(c)3 that solely fundraises and supports itself outside of NABJ. PABJ has never been fiscally sponsored or co-owned by NABJ. Our organization predates NABJ's very existence.
Question: Will PABJ forever not be affiliated with NABJ?
Answer: Only time will tell. If the next NABJ President (who will be elected next year) decides to influence better policy on behalf of organizations like PABJ, then things could definitely change. PABJ would love to be affiliated with NABJ, but not under these current inequitable terms.
Question: How long have PABJ leaders raised these issues with NABJ?
Answer: For over a year, we have been in back and forth emails and communication with NABJ board leaders and staff about these concerns. PABJ leaders have previously discussed these issues during our general membership meetings.
Question: What does NABJ President Dorothy Tucker mean when she says PABJ "will not receive the benefits of being affiliated with the National Association of Black Journalists"?
Answer: Now unaffiliated with NABJ, PABJ cannot apply for their Chapter of the Year award, we won't get the chapter affiliate discount during the NABJ convention, and we won't be eligible for their micro-grants they give out to chapters. To be honest, it's not that big of a deal to our overall operations as a nonprofit.
Question: But how does this individually affect me if I'm a NABJ member?
Answer: You simply won't get a chapter affiliate discount for the NABJ convention. That's it. As an individual NABJ member, you will still have all of your other privileges and benefits associated with their organization.
Question: But how does this individually affect me if I'm a PABJ member?
Answer: It doesn't. NABJ doesn't run anything over here at PABJ.
Question: What social/cultural changes, if any, will happen from this current succession from NABJ?
Answer: We will not be using any NABJ logos, wordage, and/or promoting any of their programming within our organization. But no worries, we rarely did anyway.
Question: Would there be a problem if PABJ members want to be NABJ members on their own?
Answer: Absolutely not. Our board members are individually NABJ members, but as for PABJ affiliation -- they have made it difficult to be associated with them as a nonprofit in good faith.
Question: Last question, what can I do, if anything?
Answer: Nothing much, just await the opportunity to support better NABJ members running for their board in 2023 to hopefully change this policy around.
Question: Okay, final question. If the policy changes in favor of PABJ, will we apply for affiliation again?
In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to myself or the board if you have any further questions.