By Arlene Washington and Alysee Shelton
Members of the nation’s largest minority journalism organization elected their 20th president Friday, choosing Bob Butler over Sarah Glover in a tight race.
Butler, a KCBS Radio reporter in San Francisco and veteran member, will take the reins of the National Association of Black Journalists at a time when the nearly 3,000-member advocacy group is trying to get a better handle on its financial well-being.
After receiving the news that he had won, Butler told supporters who were about to gather for a victory prayer inside his hotel suite to wait. “I’ve got to tweet first,” he said.
Relieved, he took several deep breaths and repeated “Yes.” Several people in the room cheered.
“I’m very happy,” Butler said. “I’m ecstatic, I’m overjoyed. I’m humbled that the members of NABJ are going to trust me for the next two years to lead the organization. I think our future is very bright.”
Butler thanked Glover, who he beat by 22 votes, for her service and the 251 people who voted for him.
NABJ leaders were recently pushed to be more fiscally responsible and transparent about how they spend members’ money. The new president will have to work closely with the board of directors and executive director to keep NABJ on a path of progress.
In addition to handling NABJ’s financial concerns, Butler also said he will work to increase diversity and generate employment for journalists of color, particularly blacks in media. At a time when journalists throughout the country are losing jobs, many NABJ members have said the organization needs to provide more training and other career development opportunities for minorities in the field.
Glover, a social media editor for NBC10 Philadelphia, took her loss in stride.
“It’s OK, it’s OK,” she said, managing a smile as she sat on a couch in her suite, surrounded by a few supporters. “As a member of the NABJ organization, I’ll still be an active member. I’ll be involved. I’m not going anywhere.”
Both Glover and Butler campaigned at the NABJ 2013 Convention until the results were tallied, taking final walks around the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla., to rally last-minute votes.
Butler, 60, shook hands with members inside the career fair, one of the convention hotspots. Glover, who also exchanged handshakes as she passed through the convention center, constantly checked her text messages and emails between the in-person greetings.
“Long work and no pay — it’s finally over!” Butler said as the 5 p.m. EST voting deadline approached.
“I’m feeling great and I’m excited,” Glover said, as members of her campaign team passed out Sarah Glover pins around her.
During the campaign, Butler said NABJ needs money for training and paying its bills, and that the organization must remain a media watchdog and ensure that the industry reflects diversity. Glover said NABJ’s financial stability will weigh heavily into whether it has a successful future, and that the group needs to help keep its members employed.
The two were among 21 candidates contending to make up NABJ’s new executive board. The president serves a single, two-year term. Other national officers cannot serve longer than two consecutive, two-year terms in the same office. Regional directors also cannot serve longer than two consecutive, two-year terms.
Outgoing NABJ President Greg Lee inherited many tough issues when he was elected NABJ president in 2011, including finances and tension between NABJ and other minority journalism groups that ultimately led to NABJ splitting from UNITY: Journalists of Color, now called UNITY: Journalists for Diversity.
More recently, Lee has been at odds with current executive director, Maurice Foster, over how the organization should run. Many of the issues that Lee pledged to tackle with the executive director and board remain a concern, such as boosting membership and keeping the group on the right financial path. The yearly convention remains the organization’s largest revenue maker. The 2013 Orlando convention drew 2,045 registered participants.
As president, Butler will have to lead the board in an effort to stabilize its rocky relationship with the executive director.
Butler said he does not “anticipate we’ll have the same tension and strife.” He declined to discuss Foster’s future because it was a personnel matter.
“I think we really have to take a look at how we operate,” he said. “We have a brand and we have to do what it takes for our brand.”
The board will have a couple of new faces.
Besides electing a president, NABJ members also picked vice presidents for both print and broadcast, a secretary, treasurer, regional directors and an associate representative.
The vice president of print election was a rematch from 2011. Incumbent Errin Haines Whack, a staff writer at the Washington Post, successfully held her seat, defeating Denise Clay, a writer and editor at the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.
“I’m humbled,” Whack said. “The NABJ members trusted me to fight and work hard for them. I look forward to the second term. It’s really special.”
Dedrick Russell, a reporter at WBTV in Charlotte, N.C., won the vice president of broadcast seat, winning over Lisa D. Cox, a producer at KTLA-TV 5 in Los Angeles who just served a term as NABJ secretary.
Corey Dade, contributing editor for The Root news website in Washington, D.C., won the secretary position over Michael Feeney, staff writer for the New York Daily News.
In the parliamentarian race, incumbent Cindy George, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, kept her position. She defeated Caleb Wilkerson, supervising producer and director for Discovery Communications in Maryland.
Treasurer Keith Reed, senior editor at ESPN The Magazine, was unopposed, as were candidates in five other races: Region I Director Sherlon Christie, Region III Director Gayle Hurd, Region IV Director Vickie Thomas, Region V Director Mary Benton, Region IV Director Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig and Associate Representative Dawn Roberts.
NABJ student members elected Khorri Atkinson, 21, a student at York College, the City University of New York, as their student representative to serve as a liaison between the organization and the younger membership. However, Eric Burse said he plans to contest the race due to Atkinson’s involvement with the student project. Atkinson was removed from the project by team leaders once it was discovered that he was a candidate for student representative.
The Monitor reporter Justin Madden contributed to this story.