Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hugo Balta's Observations on NAHJ's Town Hall Meeting

Dear NAHJ Nation,
My name is Hugo Balta and as many of you know, I am running for NAHJ President. 

Like several members, I joined Tuesday's town hall meeting to better understand and discuss NAHJ's financial report with the Board leadership (President Michelle Salcedo, Finance Officer Russell Contreras), interim Executive Director Anna Lopez and accountant Andrew Powell.
Here is what I learned:
Without a doubt, confirmed by Mr. Powell - NAHJ would not be in the black....not even close to a surplus if not for laying off the staff and shutting down the office.
Cutting to profitability is a  double edge sword. It's a ticket you can only punch once.
So, the staff was laid off in 2011 to get in the black -- what are current NAHJ leaders planning to do for an encore in 2012 (and beyond afterall, there is no staff left to cut)? 

   The only answer my opponent could come up with to that question was "stay the   course". That is not a clear and strategic plan.

The staff was key in fundraising and the Financial Officer had no definitive answer as to how he or the Finance Committee who came up with the austerity budget plans (ed) to grow NAHJ's finances.
Fundraising is the lifeline of any not-for-profit. That is a 52 week a year job that the staff oversees and the Board is responsible for.
The national convention has historically been NAHJ's best fundraising event.
It is irresponsible to learn weeks before the convention that there isn't a confirmed location (let alone decision) for the national convention in 2013. The process should have been completed weeks ago (in order to give the new Board and staff a solid plan to execute).
The answers we received are unacceptable.
Of course, NAHJ needs to make fiscally prudent decisions in organizing a national convention, but that does not give the leaders a license not to organize one. And for the leaders (the Financial Officer included) not to know that the last convention (Orlando) was profitable is absurd.
I believe in producing engaging, solid regional conferences that mirror the national convention (as a compliment), but not as a substitute. The interim Executive Director herself said the increase in regional conferences was a pilot program that generated few attendees and even fewer dollars when compared to the national convention.  

I agree wholeheartedly with President Salcedo's assessment that recruiters are not going to the annual convention because they're not finding the candidates (mid level career) that they are looking for. Hell, I'm testament to that (ESPN hired a third party recruiting company to find me: a qualified candidate for management with a sensibility for the Latino community in English and Spanish language markets).
The answer is not  - don't organize a national convention. The answer is treat your sponsors and members like the clients they are and improve NAHJ's services. Ask what their needs are and supply that demand.
I wrote about my concern of my opponent's plans to end with annual conventions last week; I invite you to read more  about it by clicking on this link: http://hugo4nahj.blogspot.com/2012/07/end-of-annual-conventions-for-nahj.html
Sal Morales asked (of the candidates for President) if we would consider partnering with other associations in producing annual conventions (as a way to manage cost), but was not given the chance to hear our response.....well, here it is: Yes.
I've already explored that opportunity with associations that represent Latinos in journalism and communications as well as other journalism organizations. All not-for-profits have been challenged by the changes in the industry and economy....we can all grow by pulling together - and not lose our identity in the process. I underline communications because it is time to embrace change. NAHJ needs to evolve, we need to welcome back members who are in the communications field.
Lastly, a member asked if the current leadership knew how much money NAHJ had in the bank. The answer again was not clear. That's a number that should roll out of the Financial Officer's mouth before the member finished her question.
NAHJ Nation, do we need a second half like the first half? 

Board member after Board member resigning, relationships with other affinity groups strained, mistreatment of members and sponsors, short cut solutions to long term problems and a storm of negative controversy.
We can do better.
Vote today.
Together we can bring NAHJ back!
Let's bring back the stability, reputation and pride.
I am Hugo Balta and I want to be your next NAHJ President.
Yes, we can!
Si, se puede!

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