Vince Duffy has his work cut out for him, with a goal to boost membership significantly – a goal he’s set himself for the group. He also wants to increase journalism training, but without grant money to do so. But that’s what the news business is about these days – doing more with fewer resources.
Just back from the Radio Television Digital News Association’s annual conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., newly installed chairman Vince Duffy says he has set specific goals for the group – increasing membership by at least 25%, beefing up its role as an advocate for journalists and providing more industry training.
“I warned [the other board members] that this would be their task,” says Duffy. “And no one said no.”
“Our challenge is to continue to provide the quality of news we have done in the past at a faster pace and with fewer resources,” he says. “It’s what the audience demands.”
RTDNA is ready and able to achieve those goals after a rebuilding period, the new chair says. “A lot of the last two years was just getting the organization running in the right direction,” says Duffy, who is news director of Michigan Radio (WUOM-FM), an Ann Arbor-based public radio station that reaches 80% of the state’s population through simulcasts.
Duffy has been with Michigan Radio, an NPR affiliate, for about five years. He came to the station from Kent State’s WKSU-FM Kent, Ohio, where he was the program director.
Duffy has been an active member of RTDNA for about 15 years, the last four of which he has been on the board. Duffy also is an active member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The Public Radio News Directors Incorporated.
At RTDNA, he succeeds Kevin Benz, who now serves as the board’s past-chair and, as such, chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation. Benz is the GM of the online publication Culturemap Austin following many years in TV.
With the group’s current membership hovering around 1,050, Duffy says RTDNA is going to have to ramp up its outreach efforts to grow.
News professionals should not be surprised if they get a call from a local RTDNA ambassador when they say, change jobs. Duffy says that task will largely belong to the group’s regional directors.
“A lot of people don’t join just because no one asked them to,” Duffy says.
Increasing membership, goes hand-in-hand with Duffy’s two other goals – increasing advocacy and education – since they constitute concrete membership benefits.
Duffy says he wants RTDNA to be equated with “advocating for journalists, speaking for journalists and defending journalists. I would like to see a lot more of that.”
In the 10 months since industry veteran Mike Cavender became the group’s executive director, RTDNA already has boosted its profile as a First Amendment advocate, Duffy says.
The group has gotten twice as many mentions in the press and other outlets than it did in the previous 12 months, Duffy says.
Most recently, the organization’s attorney has joined a campaign urging lawmakers to reject portions of proposed federal “leaks legislation” which RTDNA believes infringes on First Amendment rights.
Duffy says he wants RTDNA state coordinators be “the eyes and ears” of the organization within their states, indentifying issues that affect journalists and demand attention.
Such an approach will enable the organization “to react faster to situations,” he says.
Giving members what they want also means increasing education and training, Duffy says.
While RTDNA’s training efforts currently focus on its annual convention, Duffy says he would like to provide more year-round opportunities.
That, too, will require the group to step up its outreach with potential partners, from employers and universities to other news organizations, as grant money that RTDNA used to rely on for education is no longer available.
“The days of large organizations handing us a big check and saying ‘go train’ are long gone,” he says.
Journalists’ need, and desire, for continuing education was evident at last week’s conference, which, for the second year in a row, RTDNA co-sponsored with SPJ, Duffy says.
The conference, which offered more than 60 sessions, including a few daylong workshops and appearances by CBS News chairman Jeff Fager and former CBS newsman Marvin Kalb, drew about 1,000 attendees to Ft. Lauderdale.
Although that number is down from the 1,300 individuals who attended the 2011 convention in New Orleans, a larger number of news directors and other decision makers were in the mix this time around, Duffy says.
Figuring out how to make old and new media work together was the No. 1 topic on attendees’ minds, just as it has been for several years, Duffy says.
“That remains a challenge for all the members no matter what their primary media is,” Duffy says.
“All of us know how to put a story on the Web; that’s part of our jobs,” he says. But journalists continue to be “frustrated” by social media – by how to go beyond just posting stories on Facebook and Twitter, he says.
Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia University’s first chief digital officer and a digital media teacher, was one of the conference’s top draws, according to Duffy.
A specialist in explaining technology to journalists, Sreenivasan has written extensively on the subject for outlets including The New York Times and BusinessWeek. Sreenivasan hosted a session on leveraging digital technology in journalism and improving the use of social media.
“They know the basics but really have the hunger for finding out more,” Duffy says. “We would like to make sure we have training in the upcoming year that would address aspects of the clever and effective use of social media.”
Duffy says the organization will use feedback from this year’s conventioneers to fine tune next year’s conference, which will be held in Anaheim, Calif. He hopes that event will be a draw journalists on the West Coast who have not been able to travel recent conferences in the East.