Chris Roush reported on his Talking Biz News site earlier this month that a Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) confidential strategic assessment report acknowledges that SABEW “seems stuck looking in the rear-view mirror rather than implementing changes that will catapult SABEW forward.”
The leaked report, according to Roush, “proposed widespread changes to the organization, including a total revamping of its membership structure and its pricing, re-doing its five-year-old website and improving in its fundraising and evaluating its training efforts.”
A week after Roush’s story was published, SABEW president and McClatchy economics reporter Kevin Hall sent a letter to SABEW board members reminding them that leaking information is a breach of the fiduciary duty to the organization. I’m told there is one board member “who is taking the heat,” suspected of leaking to Roush.
From Hall’s letter to the board:
Folks, this is to remind all board members of what their fiduciary duties are and offer some ideas for “best practices” for those serving on the boards of volunteer organizations such as ours.
If you haven’t heard by now, the confidential SABEW strategic assessment and response from the executive committee and executive director were passed along to Chris Roush at the University of North Carolina, which once was under consideration as a potential home for SABEW. He used the information for a posting on his Talking Biz News blog.
It’s tempting to say “this is what journalists do.” We do, after all, seek to publish things that others wish remain private.
However, those of us who have taken on the role of being a governor of SABEW have competing obligations — responsibilities to SABEW itself and your fellow board members.
Separate from the issue of whether the sharing of board documents is a breach of a governor’s fiduciary responsibilities, it’s without question a breach of trust.
Here’s what Roush (left) tells Romenesko readers: “My story was designed to foster discussion about SABEW’s future. I’m disappointed the organization has chosen to react in this way. A journalism organization’s business should be open and respect journalism practices that its members regularly use such as obtaining documents from anonymous sources.”
Hall writes in an email: “The letter indeed has my name on it and was sent to everyone who received the strategic assessment so that no one would feel singled out. I truly have no interest in learning who the person is who shared the information, just sent out a reminder of what are the fiduciary responsibilities are for SABEW board members. …
“We respect [Roush] right to publish whatever he sees fit. But from where the SABEW board stands, being a member comes with fiduciary duties and a responsibility to colleagues. It is disappointing that information was shared, but we are certainly not the first board that’s suffered this, and it is a bit puzzling given that there is nothing under consideration that is seemingly so sensitive that it’d rise to a level of interest beyond our small world.”