What’s in A Name?

Apr 20, 2015

Now that radio is, well, no longer just radio, what does that mean for the future of Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI)? I’m not talking about the future of PRNDI as a journalistic organization — that I’m confident is not in doubt — but just what the group is called. In an age where our newsrooms are doing much more than what we broadcast over the air, does “radio” still have a place in our title?

And while I’m questioning our name amidst the changes in our industry, should we considering dropping “news director” from our title? Did I hear a gasp? No, really, let’s talk about this. Does having “news director” in our title limit our ability to grow as an organization because we’re not seen as welcoming to reporters, producers, digital news editors, etcetera? I’ve heard from at least a couple of reporters over the years who’ve said they didn’t think they could come to a PRNDI conference because they weren’t a news director. Also, should we consider the fact that not everyone responsible for the day-to-day direction, reporting and editing of local public newsrooms has the exact title of “news director?”

I don’t think there is an easy answer to whether PRNDI should change its name. There is a lot to weigh in addition to the questions posed above. Will a name change really attract new members? Could we lose existing ones? How much would it cost? Will it create a public relations mess? Would we lose credibility in any way?

All that said, there is, of course, precedent for journalistic organizations changing their names. The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) became The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). And in March of last year, the board and members of the Northwest Broadcast News Association (NBNA) approved renaming the organization the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association (MBJA). According to the MBJA website “the decision was reached after several years of discussion, committee meetings and planning, to better reflect the group’s identity.”

Over the past several months, a PRNDI committee has been hard at work reviewing our bylaws and coming up with revisions that may be necessary to clarify our mission, grow the organization, and make it more inclusive. Changes to membership categories and who can serve on the board will be up for vote during the business meeting at the annual conference in Salt Lake City this June. A new name is not among the proposed changes, but the changes are likely to prompt the question. So, let’s start the conversation.