Wow, what a month! I am reminded every day that JAWS is like no other place or organization. I have come to expect our robust listserv discussions on topics such as Jill Abramson’s recent firing as well as links to heart-wrenching gorgeous essays. I love reading news on book deals and jobs opportunities. We all benefit from the intimacy our fellow members have cultivated over the years. And sharing that experience with more women in journalism – especially at this time in our industry when so many need the kind of support we provide – is gratifying. As I wrote in my fellowship letter, I want JAWS to welcome those who need this community. Our membership growth over the past few years shows how relevant we are, and the financial support that has grown along with it shows that our mission is compelling.
We have a newsletter packed with reports about activity on many fronts, but here are a few highlights.
First, I am very proud to tell you about three new fellowship opportunities targeted at journalists who can help us continue our rich tradition of embracing diversity of all types; these are in addition to our traditional 10 Emerging Journalist fellowships. Thanks to some generous private donors, we are able to support a mid-career fellowship and an entrepreneurial fellowship this year. And we are also thrilled to have support for a diversity fellowship targeted at journalists who are traditionally underrepresented in newsrooms. Getting great people to CAMP is a wonderful way for us all to give back; watch for our crowdfunding effort to support the Emerging Journalist fellowship program starting June 1.
Second, I have convened a new committee led by past president Dawn Garcia to look carefully at our organization’s long-term needs to be sure we have the right staff and structure in place to support our 700+ members and meet the goals set out in our Strategic Plan. We will also be asking for membership feedback throughout this process.
In the meantime, we have retired the unpaid, volunteer ambassador position and created three part-time staff positions to carry out the crucial business of JAWS through the end of this year. We are very lucky to have had candidates with experience, commitment and passion step forward to fill these roles.
The board on May 10 approved these part-time contract appointments through 2014, when we expect to have permanent staff on board.
Operations and CAMP Director: Adrienne Lawrence. The board found her organizational abilities, demonstrated experience in bookkeeping and management systems and energy and enthusiasm to be key in making her the top candidate among those who applied for the operations director and CAMP director positions. Adrienne, who had been working on CAMP plans with co-chair Megan Sweas, resigned from the board earlier this month. Her detailed knowledge of the plan will give her a running start to assure that we have a stellar symposium this fall in Palm Springs, California. Details on CAMP here.
Development Director: Kat Rowlands. The board’s commitment to not only put on a great CAMP but also meet member requests for more regional programming means that we have to secure the revenue to support that work. As immediate past president, Kat has a solid track record over the past few years of making a compelling case to supporters for JAWS and the work we do to empower women in journalism and work toward a more accurate portrayal of society. Kat’s work in this area helped JAWS raise $54,000 in individual donations, $24,000 in CAMP sponsorships and $13,000 from the onsite and online auctions last year, among other successes. She has generously offered to donate her compensation back to JAWS.
Other great news to share:
We want journalists across the country to have at least a taste of the JAWS experience of CAMP, so we are stepping up regional gatherings and trainings. This month, JAWS members are gathering for potlucks across the country as part of our Spring Fling.
For existing members, we have launched our new membership portal, called YourMembership. This is cause for celebration. Seriously. Board members and other volunteers have spent months creating this interface that will significantly improve membership experience and record-keeping efficiency. Upload your résumé and photo, check out your fellow members’ work, find a mentor. This new members-only site will also allow us to post board meeting minutes and financial reports. Read more here.
CAMP update. Our CAMP organizers are planning a stellar program for Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 in Palm Springs, California. We have Amy Bernstein, former JAWS president and current editor of the Harvard Business Review, confirmed to speak at CAMP. We also have a documentary film festival planned of women telling women’s stories. We have a panel on podcasting 101 and a whole tech track organized by board member Hilary Powell. We have panels on social justice and coding. The Fran Lewine interview will feature Edie Lederer interviewing Linda Deutsch.
As we know, women are still underrepresented in media. I am proud to say I am the president of an organization working hard to change that. If you want to get involved in JAWS on the board level or you know someone who would, please send names to the nominating committee, chaired by board member Nancy Day. The committee will send questionnaires to nominees in the next few weeks. Once nominees’ applications are reviewed and candidates are selected, per our bylaws, we will vote on the 2014-2015 board slate during our general membership meeting at CAMP.
Meanwhile, I am taking advantage of the last few days of my five-month maternity leave, which has allowed me to run JAWS full time and take care of my baby boy. Although I’ll soon be sitting in my office with windows that don’t open, I am looking forward to dusting off my audio and video equipment to tell stories professionally (not just at bedtime). I know many JAWS members have gone through this transition and I plan on calling on our sisterhood for help and guidance.
We have a hard-working board to help guide us, new staff to get the business done and all of you to provide the active and insightful substance of JAWS. If you have questions or feedback please reach out to the board. Everyone’s emails are listed on the website.
Happy summer, everyone!
Lauren M. Whaley