Meeting Minutes

For those who cannot attend the chapter’s monthly meetings, the minutes will be posted every month.

New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists (NJ-SPJ) Meeting Minutes from the 3/23/15 Board Meeting.

Date: Sunday, March 23, 2015
Location: The Montclair Public Library, Montclair, NJ
Bob Schapiro, NJ-SPJ president
Ron Miskoff, NJ-SPJ treasurer and Rutgers University SPJ chapter liaison, NJ-SPJ past president
Jane Primerano, board member and immediate past president, NJ-SPJ
Miriam Ascarelli, NJ-SPJ vice president and NJ-SPJ communications director
David Levitt, NJ-SPJ contest chairman and past president, NJ-SPJ board member
John Ensslin, NJ-SPJ member-at-large and past president, SPJ
Elizabeth Oguss, NJ-SPJ board member
Anthony Buccino, at-large NJ-SPJ board member
Raymond Baldino, attorney, Furst & Lurie, and incoming NJ-SPJ member
Tara Williams, NJ-SPJ board member, secretary

I. Motions Approved

1. Attendees approved the Minutes from the December 9, 2014 Board meeting in Metuchen, NJ.

2. The Board approved (via acclamation) drafting a recommendation letter nominating Jennifer Borg, vice president and general counsel, North Jersey Media Group, as a candidate for a SPJ Sunshine Award.

3. Members approved the formation of a “J Day” committee, which will plan events for college journalism students and professionals. M. Ascarelli, J. Primerano, E. Oguss, B. Schapiro and R. Miskoff to serve on the committee.

4. Members approved a motion to pay $350 to K. Levitt for the graphic designs she created for the chapter.

II. Action Items

1. B. Schapiro reported NJ-SPJ may obtain permission to rent an office (for a nominal fee) in the New Jersey Historical Society’s building, pending approval from the organization’s board of trustees. This site would serve as the mailing address for NJ-SPJ and possibly house fundraising items.

2. Review the language and terms on organizational memberships, fees and benefits, specific to the entry fees associated with the NJ-SPJ Excellence in Journalism contest.

3. J. Primerano nominated the Union Hotel for a SPJ “Historic Sites in Journalism” Award.

4. B. Schapiro will draft information on 3 events he conceptualized and produced and will share it with R. Baker, who will share it at an upcoming regional directors’ caucus.

J. Ensslin suggested he share information about the board’s support of Lacey, NJ resident and freelance reporter Andrew Flinchbaugh. The reporter was arrested after he refused to give the camera he used to photograph a car accident to a detective with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office. The office later dropped the charges against the reporter after it determined the arresting detective had no valid search warrant for Flinchbaugh’s footage or camera.

III. Activities

Excellence in Journalism Contest

Contest chairperson D. Levitt reported the contest generated 470 entries with a 53 percent increase in profit ($3,750) from the entrants’ fees (provided the costs associated with the awards luncheon remain the same from last year), according to R. Miskoff. He also recommended the board decrease the food costs at this year’s awards luncheon.

R. Miskoff cited an 11 percent increase in entries since 2013 and 80 percent of the entrants were non-NJ-SPJ members. He also discussed his concerns with select entrants who claimed they were NJ-SPJ members (and therefore paying the $20.00 entry fee vs. the $25.00 non NJ-SPJ member fee) when they did not appear on the organization’s membership list. J. Ensslin noted SPJ instituted a membership rate 5 years ago and the benefits related to this rate did not include discounts on the national and state contests.

R. Miskoff and D. Levitt recognized B. Schapiro, as well as M. Ascarelli’s efforts to publicize the contest via Constant Contact and the website.

D. Levitt said the organization should attract a more diverse universe of entries, specifically the hyper local news sites.

Members discussed outreach to hyper local sites via social media (Twitter, Constant Contact, the NJ-SPJ website) and verbal communication to publications. Also discussed was the concern that New Jersey Press Association’s contest competed for entries. R. Miskoff shared that NJ-SPJ’s entries will actually “eclipse” NJPA’s entries over the next couple of years, which members said was significant. “They’re the Oscars; we’re the Golden Globes,” according to D. Levitt.

J. Ensslin noted that last year, The Record decided to start entering NJ-SPJ’s contest over the NJPA’s contest, given its limited newspaper budget. He also said the paper likes the fact that NJ-SPJ has a number of judges (for most of the categories) versus one judge.

J. Ensslin is scheduled to meet with Steven Tettamanti, acting executive director, the New Jersey Historical Society, about holding the Excellence in Journalism award event at this location (date to be confirmed.) Last year, $1,235 was spent on food and for the Yogi Berra Museum site rental. Members discussed offering a free drink ticket, as well as a cash bar as a way to manage costs, to attendees.

D. Levitt mentioned the deadline for judging the Minnesota chapter of SPJ’s entries was
March 31, 2015 (this date might be flexible.)

IV. The Annual Report

R. Miskoff recommended that the committee review the chapter’s financials before the May 1, 2015 deadline. He, J. Primerano and J. Ensslin agreed to examine information via email, if the committee could not meet in-person.

He also noted a $377 refund from SPJ. This refund reflects a motion adopted by the NJ-SPJ Board on September 1, 2014, in which it agreed to waive the $15.00 membership fee to NJ-SPJ members for one year. The initial local (and national) membership fees are processed via SPJ.

V. Events

1. “Courage Under Fire”

B. Schapiro reported 52 people attended the February 12, 2015 event held at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, NJ, based on feedback from Steven Tettamanti, acting executive director for the organization.

2. Possible Legal Issues Event

Attorney, former reporter with the North Jersey Media Group and incoming NJ-SPJ member Raymond Baldino and the board discussed a potential panel event related to shield laws, First Amendment rights and other legal issues.

M. Ascarelli shared her thoughts on creating a website section where a “Dummies Guide to Shield Law, OPRA” and other legal issues, in addition to panel events could be posted on the site. Members also mentioned that people with hyper local sites are interested in learning about the process involved in obtaining liability insurance, libel issues and incorporation.

In addition to planning an in-person event, there was discussion that centered on the possibility of conducting a digital video event. R. Baldino to consider possible event topics and update B. Schapiro and M. Ascarelli.

3. August/September Event

M. Ascarelli spoke about a day-long event focused on students learning about journalism and issues related to journalism. R. Miskoff suggested a day-long program for minority students.

VI. New Officer Nominations

B. Schapiro recommended the board publicize a meeting at the end of April to nominate new officers in May.


B. Schapiro presented fundraising NJ-SPJ logo design ideas for items, such as tee-shirts, mugs, tote bags, etc., designs from Michael Koretzky. R. Miskoff liked the ideas, but emphasized the need to incorporate the national logo as a permanent chapter logo in order to identify with the national organization. Members voted to review updated versions of the fundraising logos.

VIII. NJ Meet-Up Group

B. Schapiro discussed forming an activity group based on R. Miskoff’s Meet-Up group in Union County.

IX. IT Vendor

R. Miskoff reported that we are maintaining our relationship with the WordPress specialist who oversees the NJ-SPJ website and its server.

Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Location: Empire Asian Fusion Restaurant, Metuchen, NJ
Bob Schapiro, NJSPJ president
Ron Miskoff, NJSPJ treasurer and Rutgers University SPJ chapter liaison, NJSPJ past president
Jane Primerano, immediate past president, NJSPJ
Miriam Ascarelli, NJSPJ vice president and NJSPJ communications director
David Levitt, NJSPJ contest chairman and past president, NJSPJ board member
Barbara Reed, NJSPJ past president, NJSPJ board member
Tara Williams, NJSPJ board member, secretary

I. Motions Approved by the Board Members
1. Minutes from the Oct. 2, 2014 board meeting were approved.
2. The Treasurer’s Report was approved.
3. A vote of 6 to 1 approved giving speakers/panelists from “How the Public Got that Story” and “The Troubles” event a book or NJSPJ-branded item as a gesture of appreciation.
4. All the board members approved the formation of an ethics-based committee to plan an event on SPJ’s new Code of Ethics (new vs. old), headed by J. Primerano and R. Miskoff and possibly S. Keith.
5. Members (5 to 2) approved $500 request for SPJ’s Regional Fund.

II. Action Items
1. In order to increase awareness among dues-paying NJSPJ members who are unable to attend NJSPJ board meetings in-person, NJSPJ Secretary T. Williams will email them the Minutes document and other information related to the organization and events it produces.
2. Members will create a separate list of dues-paying members in the Constant Contact database.
3. R. Miskoff will continue to research whether NJSPJ needs to file an I.R.S. 990 form, based on feedback from SPJ and NJSPJ members.
4. NJSPJ Contest Chairperson D. Levitt will consider updating the eligibility requirements for the contest.

III. Activities

NJSPJ Contest
With the NJSPJ contest launching on Jan. 1, 2015, contest chairperson D. Levitt continues to review the contest categories and eligibility criteria for entrants. In an effort to increase the number of new entries from different news sources, members discussed updating the contest rules. Expanding the coverage area of potential entrants to a 50-mile radius outside New Jersey to include the Greater Philadelphia and New York areas was discussed. Allowing news stories about activities outside of New Jersey, yet impacting New Jerseyans was also discussed.

Members agreed the contest needed to be well-publicized in order to reach new outlets and will contact the hyper local news site community through Debbie Galant’s New Jersey News Commons initiative at Montclair State University, New Jersey Citizen’s Action and members from the Keystone, PA chapter of SPJ.

Members also discussed the possibility of advertising the contest on and north

B. Schapiro discussed the need to find alternative ways to raise money for the chapter (aside from the contest).

Attendees continued to discuss NJSPJ-branded items, including tee-shirts, mugs and tote bags. Other ideas included charging less for membership dues and more for services, including panels and conference-types of events that offer training. Also discussed was sending out a short survey, asking members what they would like to gain from their membership.

The Ed Maloney Event
J. Primerano reported the Oct. 20, 2014 event, “The Troubles with Northern Ireland as News and History” with journalist Ed Maloney at St. Peter’s University (the Guarini Institute was a co-sponsor) was “very well-received.”

She said students learned a lot about the Troubles that they may not have known. She also mentioned the Institute would be happy to host another event and waive the $375 fee to rent the room where the event took place.

How the Public Got that Story Event
B. Schapiro shared positive feedback from the panelists from the Nov. 16, 2014 event, “How the Public Got that Story” at the Montclair Public Library. He also mentioned that he received 110 RSVPS and 41 people did not attend the event.

Ways to decrease no-shows (e.g., charge a nominal entrance fee) and excess food and beverage costs were also discussed.

IV. Future Events
Members discussed several topics for a future event. An open records event idea proposed by member E. Kratzer was approved. J. Primerano (and R. Miskoff) volunteered to plan an event partnering with Rutgers University’s S. Keith, William Paterson University or NJIT to address SPJ’s new ethics code.

B. Schapiro proposed an event with lawyers, entrepreneurs and journalists where topics/issues related to the industry, such as liability, libel and starting a new business like a hyper local website would be covered. He also mentioned a “mini-regional” event; a 6-hour event with three different events, lunch and a social occasion as a possible revenue-making model. Everyone approved a suggestion to vote on event budgets and other event-related items via email.

Date: Thursday, October 2, 2014

Location: Rutgers University, New Brunswick Campus

Attendees: Joint Meeting of the NJSPJ Chapter and the Rutgers University SPJ Chapter based in New Brunswick, NJ

Bob Schapiro, NJSPJ president

Ron Miskoff, NJSPJ treasurer and Rutgers University SPJ chapter liaison, NJSPJ past president

Jane Primerano, immediate past president, NJSPJ

Miriam Ascarelli, NJSPJ vice president and NJSPJ communications director

Frances Burns, NJSPJ past president, NJSPJ board member

David Levitt, NJSPJ contest chairman and past president, NJSPJ board member

Tara Williams, NJSPJ board member, secretary

Helen Llewellyn, student, NJIT

Susan Keith, NJSPJ board member, advisor, Rutgers University SPJ student chapter

Chelsea Pineda, president, Rutgers University SPJ student chapter

Allie Ambriano, secretary, Rutgers University SPJ student chapter

Mary McGowan, public relations liaison, Rutgers University SPJ student chapter

Emily, incoming member, Rutgers University SPJ student chapter

I. Motions Approved by the Board Members

1. Minutes from the August 31, 2014 board meeting via Skype video conference call.

2. $375 fee to rent space at St. Peter’s University for the Oct. 20, 2014 event, “The Troubles with Northern Ireland as News and History” with journalist John Maloney (the Guarini Institute is a co-sponsor.) B. Schapiro and F. Burns noted we may not need to allocate the entire amount if the co-sponsor contributes money and/or attendees make donations toward the event.

3. Rutgers SPJ members will be reimbursed for gas and tolls if they attend the November 16, 2014 event, “How the Public Got that Story” at the Montclair Public Library.

4. A committee with R. Miskoff, J. Primerano, S. Keith and Rutgers University SPJ student members was formed to coordinate an event focused on journalism ethics, including SPJ’s revised Code of Ethics.

5. B. Schapiro and E. Kratzer to approve all expenditures related to Nov. 16, 2014 event while looking for opportunities to economize.  Last year’s “Who’s a Journalist?” event cost around $2,000 (food; sound system; facility rental).  Suggestions were made to decrease the amount of food at this year’s event and donate excess food to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

6. The fee of approximately $2,000 for the software vendor used in the SPJ contest, Better Newspaper Contest, was approved.

7. NJSPJ to create a satellite chapter at NJIT, Rutgers (Newark campus) and Essex County College with the help of M. Ascarelli and NJIT student H. Llewellyn.

8. First 10 Rutgers-Newark SPJ student members will be subsidized $32.50 of the $37.50 SPJ membership fee.

II. Action Items

1. Discuss any updates on NJSPJ financials before next board meeting.

2. D. Levitt to ask his daughter if she would be interested in creating a design for a NJSPJ t-shirt.

3. B. Schapiro to examine the Ascarelli’s sound system for possible use at the Nov. 16, 2014 event.

III. Activities

1. F. Burns shared information on the event she conceptualized, “The Troubles in Northern Ireland as News and History.” The event will be held at 7:00 p.m. on October 20, 2014 at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City (Duncan Family Skyroom on the 6th floor.)  Reporter Ed Maloney will speak about his experience as director of Boston College’s The Troubles oral history project.

M. Ascarelli has publicized the event on the SPJ website and Facebook page and via the NJSPJ newsletter e-blast.  St. Peter’s also publicized the event, according to F. Burns and The Deadline Club website also posted event information.  F. Burns said E. Maloney published event information on his blog and she contacted Irish publications.   

Burns noted some (people) say journalism is the first draft of history and in some sense this oral history project was an attempt to create a second draft of history.  She also noted it is interesting that there is no shield law for academics. 

B. Schapiro thanked F. Burns and M. Ascarelli for coordinating this event.

2. B. Schapiro shared information on the Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014 event, “How the Public Got that Story” at the Montclair Public Library.  The event will focus on how the public learned about the Bridgegate scandal. Speakers and panelists include The Record’s Shawn Boburg, who won the George Polk Award for his reporting on Bridgegate; Matt Arco, Star-Ledger’s New Jersey statehouse reporter and former PolitickerNJ reporter; Matt Katz, award-winning WNYC reporter and former Philadelphia Inquirer statehouse reporter; John Reitmeyer, The Record’s veteran New Jersey statehouse reporter, Jennifer Borg, vice president and general counsel, North Jersey Media Group; reporter Jana Winter, Fox News; Mary Alice Williams, NJTV anchor and former vice president and founding anchor, CNN, and former NBC Today Show weekend anchor; and The New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, author of “Boiling Mad: Behind the Lines in Tea Party America.”  B. Schapiro also pointed out New Jersey historian William Gilette’s will talk about the Civil War.

3. R. Miskoff proposed an event that would explain SPJ’s revised Code of Ethics—how to interpret it; what’s new; what do reporters need to know now.

B. Schapiro encouraged this idea as a part of a January 2015 program that would include attorneys.  R. Miskoff and Rutgers student attendees suggested a joint NJSPJ and Rutgers University program based on the importance Rutgers professors placed on media ethics.  D. Levitt suggested an ethics program about ethical behavior; when information can spread in weird and unpredictable ways through the Internet, incorporating the revised SPJ Code into the discussion.  S. Keith suggested coordinating an event that coincided with Rutgers media ethics classes that would be in session early next year. J. Primerano, R. Miskoff and S. Keith agreed to volunteer their time to coordinate an ethics-focused event.

IV. Specific Topics Discussed

1. NJSPJ Meeting Configuration and History

B. Schapiro discussed the structure of the board meetings (monthly; there are meetings held during the summer some years) and the history of the SPJ membership, which impacted the meeting locations. 

A few years back , NJSPJ was mainly based in Middlesex County. With the new officer slate based mostly in Essex County, many of the recent events have taken place in this area (e.g., the July board meeting held at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, during which 18 people attended).

2014 SPJ National Convention Topics

Code of Ethics Revision

For the first time in 16 years, SPJ revised its Ethics Code to reflect technology updates (e.g., Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms).  The revision, which was approved by the majority of Convention attendees, including B. Schapiro and J. Primerano.  It includes an annotations feature allowing reporters look up questions related to the Code; the attendees did not come to a consensus on a linking policy.

Annotations: Reporters should update their online articles with notations if they need to correct information that was reported incorrectly initially.  The corrected information should be noted in an updated piece with a link to the original story, which should be annotated with corrected information, also.

Linking: While some attendees on the Ethics committee thought it was a good idea for reporters to insert hyper links to source material referenced in their articles, others expressed concern that this policy could potentially endanger people’s lives (if links were placed connecting to people).  Also debated was concern about placing links to select people, places, etc., in an online story (e.g., if a reporter includes a link to one organization, is she/he obligated to include a link to every organization in the piece?) 

2. Society of Professional Journalists vs. Society for Professional Journalism Name Rebranding

B. Schapiro explained the SPJ membership over the last 10-16 years has changed as a result of the consolidation in the newspaper industry with many reporters now working in different industries. This change led to the proposed name change of “Society of Professional Journalists” to “Society for Professional Journalism.”

B. Schapiro and J. Primerano voted to keep “Society of Professional Journalists,”  which reflected the majority of votes at the TN convention.  The Press Club of Long Island (PCLI) and the South Florida SPJ chapter voted for the name change.

3. Garden State Scholastic Press Association Conference

J. Primerano met with 3 members of the Journalism Education Association at the convention.  The members asked her to write an article for its journal on how NJSPJ and SPJ college students interact with high school journalism students and advisors specific to the Garden State Scholastic Press Association Fall Conference at the end of October.

She said NJSPJ is recognized for its work with student advisors.  J. Primerano is speaking about lede and headline writing.  R. Miskoff is making a presentation on taking straight news story and turning it into 4 forms of narratives and how to publish your high school newspaper as an i-book.

4. Parsippany Focus

With the support of NJSPJ and the New Jersey shield law, Parsippany Focus news website publisher Frank Cahilll challenged a subpoena from the Parsippany-Troy Hills township attorney, which was ultimately dismissed. The action was related to research and online stories Cahill wrote criticizing Parsippany’s mayor and other township officials.

The township attorney’s basis of the subpoena alleged that Cahill was not a journalist because he served as a marketing/public relations professional in his capacity of designing websites (for clients including 6 members of the Parsippany Town Council).  R. Miskoff noted, historically, publishers created marketing promotions for organizations that may be covered from an editorial standpoint.  He also noted that news organizations should have liability insurance policies (approximately $1,200 to $2,000 a year).

5. SPJ Contest Ideas

In an effort to promote NJSPJ’s annual contest and increase award submissions (submission fees help fund the chapter), B. Schapiro contacted the Deadline Club, the Long Island and Connecticut SPJ chapters about creating a regional award category for local television outlets.  These organizations expressed limited interest in participating since they are satisfied with their level of submissions.

Alternative ideas include tweaking the existing broadcast media categories by expanding/creating the category for “Best New Jersey Coverage”; allowing organizations to submit their best 5 stories for this category and possibly eliminate specific categories, including “Best New Jersey Coverage”; “Spot News”; “Business Writing”; “Enterprise.” “Best Obscure Event/Place, etc.” category was suggested.

R. Miskoff suggested the contest include hyper local news websites.  J. Primerano reported NJ News Commons agreed to promote the contest in January.  The New Jersey Press Association promotes the contest, according to B. Schapiro.  R. Miskoff mentioned students should enter the “Mark of Excellence” Awards on the SPJ website.

6. NJSPJ Branded Items

B. Schapiro suggested we need to create SPJ-branded items, which can be given away at student journalist events, as well as sold to help fund the chapter.

Suggestions included SPJ’s new Code of Ethics printed out on a laminated sheet (the consensus was that this was too expensive and impractical); bookmarks; wallet-size guide; reporters’ notebooks (some student journalists receive these for very low cost, according to R. Miskoff); canvas tote bags; pens; and coffee mugs. 

Many members liked the idea of an NJSPJ-branded t-shirt.  D. Levitt volunteered to ask his daughter to create a design for the tee; R. Miskoff said he knows a manufacturer that could give us a good price.

7. SPJ Student Chapter Formation

B. Schapiro explained options for creating a satellite NJSPJ chapter that would include Essex College, NJIT and Rutgers University in Newark. M. Ascarelli also suggested an August workshop/conference focused on topics related to planning college newspapers for students from different NJ colleges.  R. Miskoff suggested having Rutgers University student members serve as advisors for other student chapter initiatives.

8. Board Meetings Via Video Conference

All of the board members agreed they would participate in another video conference call for the next board meeting.

9. Rutgers SPJ Topics

C. Pineda expressed her members’ interest in learning about internships with news organizations.  She also expressed interest in obtaining journalists for theme-paneled events by tapping into the NJSPJ network.  B. Schapiro noted he could help suggest jobs in broadcast field. R. Miskoff said The Asbury Park Press, The Record and Bloomberg are hiring. B. Schapiro noted the NJSPJ job bank on its website. J. Primerano said the weeklies are always looking to hire part-time reporters.  B. Schapiro suggested pitching stories as a freelance reporter.

New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists (NJSPJ) Meeting Minutes from the 8/31/14 Board Meeting.

Date: Sunday, August 31, 2014

Location: Via Skype Video Conference Call

Attendees: Bob Schapiro, NJSPJ president

Ron Miskoff, NJSPJ treasurer

John Ensslin, NJSPJ member, past president, SPJ, National

Miriam Ascarelli, NJSPJ vice president and communications director

Elizabeth Oguss, NJSPJ board member

Tara Williams, NJSPJ board member, secretary

I. Motions Approved by the Board Members

1. Minutes from the July 23, 2014 board meeting at The New Jersey Historical Society were approved.

2. $100 contribution toward purchase from a New Jersey winery for Legal Defense Fund fundraiser at the National SPJ Convention in Nashville, TN (Sept. 4-6, 2014). Jane Primerano to deliver contribution.  Approved by acclamation.

3. NJSPJ to advocate “Membership = Survival” proposal that was circulated to members.  Key points: lower the national dues to $20.00 from $75.00; charge $5.00 student membership fee; allow NJSPJ to form student chapters.  There was a roll call vote.  The motion passed 5 to 1.  These recommendations will be presented at the SPJ Convention.

Note:  On September 1 following this meeting, NJSPJ eliminated its $15 dues for a period of one year.  This action can be taken by joint action of the treasurer and president.  They took this action after the discussion at the meeting and consultation with immediate past president Jane Primerano.

II. Action Items

1. B. Schapiro to consult with J. Primerano on the national proposal for a name change, from The Society of Professional Journalists to The Society for Professional Journalism.  They are the state delegates at the national convention in Nashville.

III. Other Noteworthy Items:

1. B. Schapiro noted the National Writer’s Union (NWU) statement in response to freelance journalist James Foley’s murder.  He mentioned the NWU’s plan to publicize the large news corporations’ lack of support (e.g., healthcare coverage, etc.) for freelancers and that James Foley will be a topic at the SPJ convention.  R. Miskoff suggested an SPJ member address freelance journalists’ lack of support from news corporations, as well.

2. B. Schapiro noted he is in the process of confirming panelists for a November 15 or 16 event, “How the Public Got the Story.” Confirmed panelists so far include Fox News reporter Jana Winter; Jennifer Borg, vice president and general counsel, North Jersey Media Group and reporter John Reitmeyer, The Record.

IV. Specific Topics Discussed

1. Code of Ethics Revision

According to B. Schapiro, the (ethics) revision will be a major issue at the national SPJ convention.  Those present discussed how B. Schapiro and J. Primerano should vote, as they are the only two members who can vote at the convention.  The consensus was that they should vote in favor of the Code of Ethics Committee revisions, but not the amendments proposed by individuals.  Yet they should vote their conscience, if things change at the convention. 

R. Miskoff noted “some people used the (Code) of Ethics as a bible or constitution; if it says it is in the Code of Ethics, it has to be that way.”   

B. Schapiro referenced a story about a New Jersey school board that “punished” student journalists because they did not adhere to the code of ethics.  J. Ensslin pointed out that he wrote that letter emphasizing the ethics code was a “voluntary code.”  B. Schapiro pointed out that many “prominent” members do not adhere strictly to the ethics.

2. Society of Professional Journalists vs. Society for Professional Journalism Name Rebranding

J. Ensslin said he is in favor of the name change, which is a “more accurate description/advocate for journalism.”  He explained the Name Change Committee morphed into another committee, which discussed ways to make SPJ more relevant to younger members.  He cited 21 recommendations that were developed (by this committee.) 

Examples included extending post-graduate dues for one extra year, creating a mentor-in-chief role, updating the ways in which SPJ communicate to younger members and posting more jobs on the website.

R. Miskoff countered the name change will “send a signal in the wrong direction.”  He also said, “The Society for Professional Journalism sounds like a PR group.”  B. Schapiro noted the current name gives people a sense of identity.

M. Ascarelli commented she feels that restructuring dues in order to recruit more members who are younger is a more important issue for the organization’s bottom line.  She noted that people who attended SPJ events were 40 years old and over.  Interestingly, the consensus was against the name change, but in favor of many of the arguments behind it.

3. Proposal to Lower SPJ’s National and NJ Dues

B. Schapiro cited the draft proposal he, J. Primerano and M. Ascarelli developed and plan to discuss at the SPJ Convention.  In the current draft, they proposed lowering the national dues from $75.00 to $20.00; charge $5.00 student membership fee; and allowing NJSPJ to form student chapters.

B. Schapiro cited the reasons why SPJ practices should align with direct marketing (testing ideas with NJSPJ’s 94 members).  If testing fails, it would not wreck National SPJ, according to Schapiro.

R. Miskoff commented B. Schapiro’s recommendations are “a good idea” and people will oppose the proposals on practical grounds (the $75 fee pays staff salaries, airfares, possibly convention costs.)

J. Ensslin said lowering SPJ’s $75 membership fees was a “bad idea.”  He explained “$75 to belong to SPJ is reasonable, especially when you look at Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) and a host of other professional organizations.”  He said the proposal will be “DOA at the convention.” 

He said that $75 is reasonable (he was a former membership chairperson for the national SPJ chapter.)  He also said that people use dues as an excuse not to join SPJ and that the NJSPJ chapter could not conduct a pilot project because every chapter would want to do this.

While disagreeing with changing the $75 fee, J. Ensslin agreed with changing the way student chapters are formed and agreed with eliminating the $15 fee (the NJSPJ Board president and treasurer can do this, according to R. Miskoff.)

B. Schapiro agreed his proposal to eliminate the $75 national fee would be DOA at the national convention.  He noted he had no plans to be active in the national SPJ board.  He and J. Primerano spent the last 2½ years trying to get people to join.  He noted he mentioned Quill Magazine and website content behind the paywall and the right to attend the national convention. He emphasized the thing they are buying is a sense of identity.  J. Ensslin mentioned he sells the networking aspect that accompanies membership.

B. Schapiro, M. Ascarelli and R. Miskoff voiced their concerns with the $75.00 fee based on the feedback they received from students, a journalist from a major radio outlet and journalists from the Chinese and Portugese communities and citizen’s groups. 

Bottom line: If NJSPJ and SPJ do not do something radical (e.g., lower fees), the organizations might not exist 5 years from now.  J. Ensslin noted that member ship had declined by 25 percent over the last five years, but that the decline ap peared to level out this year.

Members discussed the Skype format for meetings.  Everyone agreed it was a very good and substantive session.

NJ Society of Professional Journalists

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

NJ Historical Society, 52 Park Place, Newark, NJ

Attending: President Bob Schapiro, Treasurer Ron Miskoff, board members Miriam Ascarelli, Jane Primerano (past president), David Levitt, Elizabeth Oguss, Maureen Nevins Duffy, Frances Burns, Anthony Bucchino; and Erin Roll, Brian Pujada, Helen Llewellyn, Kate Morgan, J.C. Kaelin, Emily Kratzer (temporary secretary)

NJHS host Steven Tettamanti treated the group to a tour of the building, its exhibits and resources.

2014 forum: Bob reported that Nov. 15 or 16 will be the 2014 forum at the Montclair Library. The topic is most likely “Impact! The 24-hour news cycle” with consideration of what 24-hour news does to the breaking-news concept when news comes out in dribs and drabs. The “name” speaker will be announced later.

Twitter account: We need a working group to maintain our presence on Twitter. We need to recover our password and decide what information to share on a regular basis without duplicating efforts of other similar professional groups (for instance, on job leads). Helen suggested active presence on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Board member-at-large: It was moved and passed to have John Ensslin complete the board’s composition by being a member-at-large. Bob asked members to come to at least three board meetings per year and be as active as possible.

Foundation for Open Government (FOG): Created by the NJ SPJ, the organization is a educates people on how to use the Open Public Records Act. Ron said that each SPJ chapter needs to have a First Amendment program each year, and it is important for SPJ to stay involved with FOG to maintain a level of journalistic professionalism perhaps not found by citizen activists who use the same FOI tools as journalists.

SPJ national convention:   

SPJ name change: Bob commented that national SPJ is having a debate over our name; choosing between the Society OF Professional Journalists and the Society FOR Professional Journalists.

Student dues: Bob will be advocating for lower dues for students and fewer barriers to creating student chapters on campuses. Ron noted that students can only join a student chapter if it exists on their campus, and for students to attend the national convention, they have to be a member of a campus chapter. Currently, the only NJ student chapter is at Rutgers, from which Ron retired June 30. He guided the chapter since 1990. The new advisor is Susan Keith, who plans to become and SPJ member.

NJ SPJ’s third vote: Because the chapter’s enrollment has declined, it lost its third vote at the national convention. The chapter needs 94-plus members to have three votes. Bob plans to vigorously protest and to appeal the situation.

Joint sponsorship of events: Bob reported that he, Miriam and Jane are to meet with the NJ Press Association Friday July 25 to explore how we can enhance our common interest in perpetuating for-profit, competitive journalism.

Contest committee: Committee chair Dave reported that we need to have a better contest. The group will work on refining categories and identify areas where we aren’t getting enough entries. The group will reach out to media outlets which have not been participating recently. We also will connect with online journalists. Jane will contact NJ Commons. Bob suggested a special award category for NJ news coverage by NYC’s major network affiliates. Elizabeth suggested a two-tier entry fee, one for publishers and one for individuals. Ron noted that only about 13 percent of this year’s competitors were new entrants – mainly staffers and some freelancers. Kate suggested more outreach via social media to reach online journalists.

Treasurer’s report: The treasurer announced the amount of funds in the bank. This exact amount will not be included in the minutes, but it is a healthy balance. The amount is announced every month. . The 2014 awards contest brought in $2,445.60 after expenses.

There was an impromptu door prize, to benefit our hosts. Through random drawing, Miriam was awarded a membership in the NJ Historical Society, courtesy of NJ-SPJ.



Oct. 4, 2012 Cafe Paris, Metuchen

Present: Jane Primerano, president; Bob Schapiro; Barbara Reed; Miriam Ascarelli; Libby Bruch; Frances Burns

1. Treasurer’s Report: Ron submitted report by proxy. Bob S. moved to post financial report on Web site. Passed. Bob S. moved to buy additional domain names like spj-nj. Passed.

2. The contest: The contest is going on line with Better Newspapers. Walter O’Brien is supervising online submissions. Michelle Maskaly is handling publicity on social media.Barbara described the work involved in the contest, says most of it comes at the end. There’s a discussion of Marsha’s continuing role in organizing things.

3. The Regional Conference: The conference will be held April 12 and April 13 in New Brunswick. John sent a report, saying there is still a search on for places to hold the Friday night reception and the Mark of Excellence lunch. Otherwise, we have good spaces for events at Rutgers.The program committee consists of Libby, Jane, David Levitt and Frances.

4. Bob Schapiro’s report: White Paper Committee met. It consists of Warren Boroson and Dan Casino. Casino wants to do study of whether having people covering local meetings reduces corruption. Discussion of whether putting stories on the SPJ-New Jersey site will actually provide any enlightening data.

Documentary committee is planning meeting.

Bob is also meeting with Montclair Film Festival people.

Respectfully submitted,
Frances Burns


July 18, 2010 The Orchid Metuchen

Present: Ron Miskoff, Jane Primerano, Eli Holtzman, Sue Livio, Barbara Reed

The NJ PAC was not exorbitant in its fees and below what IRE and NJPA get. The $20 price was low. The half-walls separated guests, and the speaker had to talk from a difficult space, with a large pillar between her and some of the guests. Paying $10 to park was seen as high, and we need to email attendees.

Of less expensive places to park near the PAC.

The Board decided to go with the PAC for next year, assuming fees remain the same, relatively.

Discussion occurred about the content itself. We’re a grass roots organization, and the entries reflect that. We are charging a reasonable fee, and nationally we were the lowest in pricing for entries. Multi-entries could drop to $17 or 18, some said, but that was countered by the fear of a flood of entries, which is never fair.

Also, the entries are self-selected. We cannot claim the contest is clearly the best of NJ journalism. Possible collapsing of categories: the layout awards, those in photography, editorial and opinion writing—one category rather than weekly and daily. We may also want to combine the series category with investigative.

The Awbrey Award category necessitates some action on the part of the winner; it is given for more than writing the story. Ron Miskoff will write new copy for the brochure for next year explaining that.

*We were down in broadcast awards. Nothing came from My9 News, for example. Radio was undersubscribed. Sue Livio indicated that we need to contact the NJ Broadcasters, Gannett, various news directors, asking to encourage their submission on behalf of their staffs. Robert Bugai has been asked to send letters, as he has done in the past. Sue also pointed out the enormous amount of work the contest entails. She will be helped this coming year by Eli Holtzman, Jane Primerano, and Barbara Reed. Others may also be asked to help. The contest is the ONLY chapter fundraiser.

*We need to make a list of news entities without any entries to the contest. Rutgers Magazine and Media General are two we should contact.

*We agreed that a new category, tried for the first time this year, multimedia reporting, be promoted more.

The O’Brien Award must be judged by out-of-state folks every year, Ron Miskoff pointed out. It is awarded jointly with FOG. We paid for the crystal plaque this year, so FOG will pay for it next year.

We talked about a program idea featuring local online news. Those that are flourishing should be invited to speak on a panel. Patch, possibly owned by aol, and John Ward of Redbankgreen would be invited.

Ron Miskoff gave a report from the Anniversary Event. He recommended the venue, The Crown Plaza in Edison (used to be Clarion on Rt. 1). It would be a buffet, on a weekday evening. A fuller report will appear online to the Board. We set the date as September 14.

The treasurer, Jane Primerano, gave a report. While all expenses are not yet in, we took in $10,805, spent about $4,000 on expenses and plaques. We also got $4,463 from the Deadline Club for our participation in the regional conference.

Ron has agreed to speak with the person Seth Mandel had located at Rowan. She wants to start another student SPJ chapter.

Our next meeting will be at The Orchid, on Sunday, August 23rd.

Respectfully submitted,
Barbara Reed and Jane Primerano


Present: Fran, Eli, David and Barbara. However, we had additional conversation/input from Ron Miskoff and Sue Livio via cell phone

The Awards Luncheon: It was determined that the NJPAC was a good place to present the Awards.

a) A complaint: insufficient dessert (fruit salad doesn’t cut it)

b) Our speaker, Wendy Ruderman, was excellent, refreshing and not pompous.

c) We need to build-in child prices: for instance, half-price for a child under 12.

d) Parking prices of $10 seemed too high for some; others disagreed.

If we use the NJPAC next year, we can scout out cheap-$5-places within walking distance.

e) Food was plentiful, tasty.

f) We need to get all prices nailed down, in writing, if we use them or any other place.

g) FYI, in checking our bills, this year’s event was about $600 higher than last year’s but had about 20% more people in a nicer venue.

The Contest itself: Sue Livio did an outstanding job, again this year as Contest chair.

Many of the big players, such as Gannett and the Star-Ledger, no longer support the contest and their journalists do not enter, so if our Contest is to reflect the best of NJ journalism in the state, that creates a big hole.

a) We might want to consider giving individuals a break for multiple entries;

our prices are too high, perhaps. We need to lower fees for individuals, again perhaps. (Barbara will attempt to learn what other chapters charge.)

b) We need to consider what would be a better, more viable, and more credible contest.

c) Issues to ponder about the Contest also:

1) How can we be sure our contest entries are returned on time?

2) Questions about the brochure occurred—not valid, more irksome.

3) Judges’ errors about name of entry and reporter(s) create a problem at the end, when timing is critical. We need to automate our system somehow in this area.

4) We need to find a way to close the gap between when entries come in and when they go out to the judges; it now takes about a month.

5) We did not know how much the Contest brought in as Jane could not attend.

6) Sue will deal with the last certificate, the final step in the Contest for this year.

The July Event:

a) We learned from Ron that there is no pressure to have this event in July or August for that matter, because Guy is not leaving until October.

b) While his leaving is not the be-all and end-all of the event, it is a relief to know we are able to take our time a little in planning it.

c) Fran would like to try to find a church as a venue. She and Ron will continue to work on this project.

d) I personally did not know any of this, and had I known, would not have called the meeting on such short notice. (We even came up with the dates of Sunday 25 or August 1.)

Our next meeting is for Sunday, July 18, 2010. Please put it on your calendar and try to be present. As you can see from the above, we need to make some important decisions then, about the above and other matters.

Warmly submitted,
Barbara Reed


April 28, 2010 The Orchid Metuchen

Present: Barbara Reed, acting president; Jane Primerano, Treasurer; Sue Livio; Dave Leavitt; Eli Holtzman; Frances Burns

President’s report : Barbara Reed

Conference call for previous meeting cost $78. If we do it again, Robert Bugai knows site for free calls. Jane says chapter made money on New York regional conference. Walter says there is no problem with access to e-mail list.

PRSA (Public Relations Society of America and PRSSA) event at Rutgers University — The faculty adviser to the student chapter told Robert not to display the SPJ chapter banner at the event. Ron to talk to chapter president. Eli makes motion that SPJ must get equal billing at any event chapter co-sponsors. Jane seconds the motion, which passes unanimously.

Jane on future regional conferences. The 2011 regional conference will be in Providence, and the 2012 at Stony Brook, sponsored by the Long Island chapter.

Ron and Seth have not yet talked to possible chapter adviser at Rowan.

The awards event is to be June 6 at the NJ PAC (now June 13). To be at 3 p.m. unless we find out that will make the food significantly more expensive. Decide on sandwich buffet menu for food. Fifty-first anniversary Guy sendoff to be in second half of July.

The next meeting is to be May 23, 5 p.m. at Orchid.

Frances Burns, chapter secretary


by conference call March 28

Present: Barbara Reed, Sue Livio, Ron Miskoff, Jane Primerano, Seth Mandel, Frances Burns

Regional Conference: New Jersey chapter put up $2,000. The Rutgers student chapter has $2,700 from university for conference, other expenses. Ron moves that pro chapter should contribute $700 to allow more students to attend. Passed unanimously.

Upcoming student chapter events include the editor of the AP stylebook on April 20.

Rowan University student chapter. Seth has name of potential advisor.

Awards event: Barbara wants to invite Amanda Bennett of Bloomberg to speak. Motion to hold event at 3 p.m. passes.

Robert to investigate venues.

Motion to distribute Walter’s list of names of contest entrants with contact information to Robert and others. Passes.

Barbara Reed, president


January 2010 meeting was called to order at The Orchid, Metuchen. Present: Barbara Reed, Acting President; Jane Primerano, Treasurer; Board members: Ron Miskoff; Guy Baehr; Eli Holtzman; Frances Burns

President’s report — Barbara Reed

Barbara suggests posting pictures of contest winners on the chapter Website. ID is needed on all pictures. It was suggested to using links to winning entries, also putting the pictures on Facebook, with the links there. She also wants an e-mail blast every week from now until the contest deadline, reminding people about the contest.

No treasurer’s report.

Jane Primerano reported on the regional conference, April 9 and 10, New York City. Attendees can stay in the New Yorker Hotel,the official conference hotel, but events will take place at CUNY in midtown. The registration cost is $175 for professionals and $150 for students. New Jersey will provide bags for the conference. New York also expects us to kick in $1,600, which we will presumably get back. Jane outlined the proposed panels, including a two-parter on jobs being organized by Jerry Dunphy and Sri Srinevassanon on blogs.

The Contest New Jersey is exchanging entries with the Connecticut and Pittsburgh chapters. Guy urged sending entries by registered mail, UPS or Fed Ex to avoid problems with packages getting lost in the mail. It was suggested that Ron and Sue write notes with the email blasts, talking about how the contest is structured, that one does not need to be a member to submit, that no fancy binders should be used with the entries as they are thrown out, and how the contest works, i.e., judged by judges from other, out-of-state SPJ chapters. Another thought was to highlight the Barto, Awbrey and O’Brien awards.

Discussion occurred about planning an event in May that would combine saying farewell to Guy Baehr as he moves his life to the Caribbean and celebrating the chapter’s 50th anniversary, inviting all former presidents still in the vicinity. Suggested venues include the Rutgers Faculty Club and the Main Street Trattoria (which opens for private parties on Sundays.) Barbara to make some calls. Ron will handle invitations.

Memorial for Martin O’Shea was discussed. Ron will write something for the SPJ Website.

A program will take place at Rutgers in early March on online sources. It will be a workshop.

It was decided to ask if the type size on the Website could be increased by one size for ease of reading.

Ron announced that FOG is considering hiring an administrator, who could also fund-raise for the organization.A consequence would be that our dues to be organization must be raised. SPJ could contribute $1-2,000.

Meeting adjourned about 8:45.

Frances Burns, secretary.


December 2009 meeting was called to order after 7 p.m. at The Orchid, Metuchen. Present: Guy Baehr, Fran Burns, David Levitt, Ron Miskoff, Barbara Reed

Fran was thanked for the minutes, and it was decided that minutes would be sent to the website, through Cindy Walker, within two weeks after the meeting, also announcing the next meeting date.

Jane Primerano sent a treasurer’s report: We have about $15,000 available.

The contest for 2010: Walter O’Brien’s report was circulated. He is ready to send the brochure to Cindy for the website and may have already done so. Walter needs to use the national list fro NJ and needs the online access code to get to it. Guy said he could use Guy’s code, etc. The print version of the brochure is at the printers, and the postal list will go to the mailers Monday. He wants to send an email blast—and asks for the best time to do it.

Discussion occurred about when the optimum times would be. The decision was to send the brochure to printer during Christmas week, at the latest, and mail it out by first week of January, at the latest. An e-mail blast should occur during first week of January, and more as well. Walter will retrieve the excess copies from the printers in Piscataway. Barbara will ask Robert Bugai if he will distribute them to newsrooms, as he has done before. Also, all entries for all categories in the contest should go to Marsha Bergman.

Sue Livio sent her report. She was pleased that the print version is at the printer and the e-mail blast is in the works for the early part of January. Sue asked Keystone (PA) and Connecticut SPJ chapters to swap entries with us next year.

Program maybe for first week in March, possibly at Rutgers. Robert Bugai has an excellent person named Heatherington, and we can ask Sree Sreenivasen of Columbia (and Channel 7) to appear also. May mean spending money for the speakers.

Party for Guy Baehr on his move to the Dominican Republic will take place, but he prefers an “intimate” kind of party. Venues were discussed. Possibly the Rutgers Club, upstairs, would be appropriate, especially since Guy will be inviting people from Rutgers, possibly to take place during the last week of January. David Levitt was selected as a kind of “This-is your-life” moderator.

Possible tribute to Martin O’Shea, who died this week, with FOG members as well. Maybe a March event. Ron Miskoff, president of FOG, told of a special FOG fundraising occasion honoring John Farmer, now dean at Rutgers Law School. We may become involved with that. It is extra-special as his father was with the Star-Ledger. Ron Miskoff thought we should be involved in the O’Shea death announcement by putting a box on our website about it; he will write an appropriate notice for the website. Also, we should be involved in paying for a better-than-normal death notice. Others agreed these actions should occur.

Discussion took place about an idea Fran Burns had about checkbook journalism. This was discussed briefly but will be revisited at the next meeting.

The Region One conference, to be in NYC in April, was discussed for a long time, and various people had ideas for programs there. Jane Primerano has an idea about covering trauma, and she weighed in via phone. David Levitt thought we should get media analysts such as John Morton and the person heading the Knight News Challenge. Ron Miskoff spoke of “New Media on a Budget “ for the regional. Possible speakers are someone from The Patch (by AOL), new journalism graduates, unconventional graduates doing journalism unconventionally. David Levitt chimed in with “What are the new niches?” Future must show savvy folks, it was agreed. He also spoke of Mark Pitman(?) of Bloomberg, a reporter most responsible for the word “sub-prime” and showing the movie, “American Casino” at the conference with a panel to discuss the movie.

Meeting was adjourned by Acting President Barbara Reed at 9 p.m. Next meeting: Monday, January 18, 6:30, The Orchid.


Meeting at The Orchid, Metuchen on Nov. 15, 2009. Present: Barbara Reed, acting president; Sue Livio; Seth Mandel; David Levitt’; Eli Holtzman; Ron Miskoff: Frances Burns From Middlesex County College: Professor Melissa Edwards; students Tatiana Smith; Phillip Vazquz; Hector Bonilla.

Acting President’s Report: Barbara arranged for chapter to co-sponsor and attended a panel on Race and Ethnicity at the Newark Museum. It was an excellent discussion with high-profile speakers, including the historian Eric Foner.

In the absence of the treasurer, no treasurer’s report.

Barbara suggests organizing a workshop like the one done by the Western Washington chapter on finding information on line. Suggested people include Joe Tyrrell, Sri Vanyan (spelling?) from Columbia, who is probably unwilling to travel to New Jersey.

Discussion of holiday party in honor of departing board member or of some sort of get-together with Harvey Fisher for belated celebration of 50th anniversary. Put off until New Year.

Rutgers student chapter holding an event Nov. 18.

Middlesex County College urged to start a student chapter.

Next meeting Sunday, Dec. 13 at the Orchid.

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