WASHINGTON — Members of the Public Radio News Directors Inc. voted at their annual conference Saturday to adopt the name Public Media Journalists Association.
The change, proposed after a year of internal deliberation, formalizes the organization’s goal to serve journalists throughout public radio, not just news directors.
“What we want to do is better serve our members and to be able to grow our membership,” said Terry Gildea, executive director of what is now PMJA, before the vote.
Last year, after members passed a motion to consider a name change, PRNDI formed an Identity Committee to look into the issue and bring a recommendation to this year’s conference.
“We’re pulling in a much larger group of people in our industry that are content producers, content makers, but not necessarily wearing that hat of news director,” Gildea said during the meeting. “News directors are still important to us,” he said, pointing out that newsroom leaders must still hold a majority of seats on the organization’s board.
PRNDI President Alicia Zuckerman said the association would be stronger if it can attract leaders who work in a wider variety of newsroom jobs, including producers, reporters, editors and interns. “I really think we are stronger as an organization if we make room for that,” she said. “And this is an organization that wants to make room for that.”
Discussion about the name change prior to the vote was largely positive, though one member expressed reservations. Kimberley Pierce Cartwright, news and public affairs director at WNCU in Durham, N.C., said she did not want to drop the word “radio” from the association’s identity. “With the name change, radio won’t be the focus anymore,” she said.
“We wouldn’t be serving our membership well if we didn’t acknowledge the other platforms,” Gildea responded. “… This is an acknowledgment that we are trying to serve our membership in a more comprehensive way.”
As a member who attended PRNDI’s first conference, Cincinnati Public Radio News Director Maryanne Zeleznik said it “breaks her heart” to see the name change. But the organization has already opened itself up to people who aren’t news directors, she said. Zeleznik served on the Identity Committee that recommended the name change.
“The organization has already changed,” she said. “Maybe the name is just catching up, but it still breaks my heart.”
PRNDI was formed more than 30 years ago as a way to improve working relationships between station news directors and NPR, according to an organizational history by Tripp Sommer, former news director at KLCC in Eugene, Ore., and a PRNDI founder. One of the first resolutions the organization passed called on NPR to move editing of stations’ stories away from its national desk. The recommendation prompted NPR to hire a Southern Editor. Another resolution called for allowing reporters from member stations to receive payments for coverage they produce for NPR.
Despite the decision to replace “radio” with the word “media” in its new name, the association isn’t opening its membership up to public television journalists, Gildea said, responding to a question from the audience. “The answer is, ‘No, not at this time,’” he said. “But we’ll see what the future holds.”
For now, he sees the association growing by getting “more public radio newsrooms … more involved in the organization,” he said. At the time of the name change, about 110 public radio stations support the organization through membership.
PMJA members also approved a proposal to update newsroom staffing criteria that define small, medium and large stations in the organization’s bylaws.
Small stations are now defined as employing between one to five full-time newsroom staff (a change from one to three full-time journalists under the previous criteria); medium stations have four to 15 newsroom employees (previously four to seven); and large stations have more than 16 newsroom employees (from eight or more). Under PMJA’s bylaws, one representative from each of the station-size designations holds one seat on the association’s seven-person board. Two at-large representatives represent all stations regardless of newsroom staffing, and they can be employed in newsroom jobs other than news director
The new station-size criteria were used in electing board members at this year’s meeting.