The structure of public radio newsrooms is changing. And that’s prompting PRNDI, a.k.a. Public Radio News Directors, Inc., to revisit its bylaws, which layout the organization’s objectives, who it represents, and the balance of power in the organization. The newly formed Bylaws Committee, which I am chairing, is looking at drafting revisions for consideration by the general membership at the conference in Salt Lake City this June.
We, the Bylaws Committee, had our first meeting earlier this month. In a discussion of the issue at hand, we observed there is no other organization that represents public media journalists at large, and yet, PRNDI has had difficulty growing its membership. That may be because active membership and board eligibility are limited in the current bylaws to people called “News Directors”. (The current bylaws are posted here.)
We know many people now involved in the editing and direction of news content at public radio stations aren’t called “News Directors”.
At larger stations, like WHYY in Philadelphia, news management is way more dispersed. “The head of news may be a VP, but under him or her are many people who manage the news,” says Naomi Starobin, a Bylaws Committee member who is herself the Managing Editor of Keystone Crossroads, a reporting collaboration involving several public media stations in Pennsylvania.
Brian Bull, also a committee member, reports that where he works — WCPN in Cleveland — TV, radio, and web are fully integrated, so there is a managing editor and an executive editor leading the production of content across platforms. There, Bull says, “the ‘news director’ title has vanished.”
No one at Red River Radio in Shreveport (the other end of Louisiana from me in Baton Rouge) carries the “news director” title either. Instead, Kate Archer Kent is the News Producer, a one-woman band making the decisions on day-to-day coverage.
You may well be able to describe another variant with the org chart at your station.
While the structure of newsrooms is in flux and on into the future, PRNDI can continue to have a meaningful role in supporting quality journalism in public media, whoever is producing or guiding it. Toward that end, the Bylaws Committee has adopted a set of goals in revisiting PRNDI’s bylaws:
- Clarify who and what PRNDI represents and define the roles and activities the organization encapsulates.
- Broaden opportunities for involvement in PRNDI.
- Maintain equity in the organization between the stations, individuals, and other entities represented.
- Accordingly, revise as necessary rules in the PRNDI Bylaws regarding "active membership", "non-voting members", committee membership, board eligibility, and the objectives of the organization.
- Consider renaming the organization.
This discussion of the bylaws is crucial for PRNDI, and it’s not just for “News Directors” (that’s why we’ve got a couple committee members who don’t currently have that title). We’ll be keeping you updated along the way as we look at drafting a set of revisions to present at the conference. In the meantime, please encourage all your newsroom colleagues to weigh in by contacting any member of the Bylaws Committee:
Amy Jeffries, Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org
George Bodarky, email@example.com
Bob Beck, firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Gildea, email@example.com
Erin Hennessey, firstname.lastname@example.org
Naomi Starobin, email@example.com
Brian Bull, firstname.lastname@example.org