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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Notice of my resignation

Here is the text of the notice of my resignation from SPJ, which went out on Friday:
I wanted to let you know that on Monday I resigned from my part-time position as Membership Manager of the Society of Professional Journalists. As most of you know, I’ve spent a lot of volunteer time over the years working on behalf of the organization at the local, regional and national level and still believe that its mission—to improve and protect journalism—is a worthy one.

However, it became clear to me last week that SPJ’s current direction is not to fulfill that mission for ALL journalists. Specifically, a small segment of its national leadership (elected, not staff) made what I believe was an uninformed decision that could be detrimental to freelance journalists, one of the few segments of its membership that was actually growing. After spending four years advocating for independent journalists, I found myself unable to sell an organization that says one thing to attract such members and acts in another to potentially cripple those members in their ability to negotiate fairly for rights and compensation, indeed to survive professionally.

The decision to sign on to an amicus brief in support of National Geographic over a freelancer along with other media organizations (not “journalism advocacy organizations” as was originally stated in the press release), made without the input of the national freelance committee, has the appearance (and note I say “appearance”) of a conflict in that it was recommended by SPJ’s legal counsel, which also lists National Geographic as a media client.

More importantly, I see this decision as a fundamental shift in the Society’s advocacy from never weighing in on labor/management issues because it has both in its membership to now weighing in on behalf of publishers (management) over freelancers (labor). SPJ had no reason to take a legal stand either way. We were the lone journalism advocacy organization along with the Time Inc.’s, Conde Nasts, Hearsts, Gannetts and Forbes of the world. In fact, it's not even clear that the case is ongoing.

In my resignation letter I indicated that I would be spending more time on my journalism and less time advocating for journalists. That’s not entirely true. I am spending more time on journalism. But I’m also a firm believer that you get what you give, so of course I will be doing what I can to help other journalists—just not through SPJ.

As most of you also know (some more than others), I have never hesitated to point out when I think the Society has gone astray. I do not regret my doing so on this issue, despite my staff position. I was willing to sacrifice financially and professionally on this point.

As a freelancer, I have to make careful choices about where I invest my money. I thought SPJ had my back, but this decision and the subsequent conversations have proved otherwise.

I do, however, remain hopeful that SPJ will find its way back to its mission through the many wonderful, talented and dedicated people who comprise its membership. I am proud to count so many as friends. In addition, I consider myself fortunate to have worked closely with a fantastic staff who work tirelessly to support the membership. My regret is that I’m no longer able to work with such a talented group of individuals.

Thank you for your support over the years! Keep in touch and perhaps we will one day work together again.

My best,
Wendy Hoke


Patti McCracken said...

You know, the only reason I finally joined SPJ (last September) was because--for the first time--it seemed to have something of value to me as a freelancer.

That was a brief ride... I doubt I'll be signing up again.

Wendy Hoke said...

Yes, it was an unfortunate turn of events, Patti.