Nora López, a 33-year news vet and current Metro Editor at the San Antonio Express-News, is NAHJ’s new president, beating her opponent, Nancy San Martín, by a margin of more than 40% – 302 to 125.
López’s overwhelming support follows criticism from members, outraged over the board’s decision to call off elections in 2020 and postpone them for a year.
That prompted a campaign by former NAHJ national presidents*, ex-board officials and numerous members, calling on the board to reconsider its decision, which was in violation of the organization’s bylaws. After considerable pressure, the board reversed its position.
It also generated a lot of momentum and prompted several members to run for office, with some of the positions being contested.
The winners in the other open races are:
Arelis R. Hernández, VP Print; Julio-César Chávez, VP Broadcast; Keldy Ortiz, Financial Officer; Yvette Cabreram VP for Digital; Blanca Rios, Secretary; Jessica Retis, Academic At-Large Officer; McNelly Torres, General At-Large Officer; Jennifer A. Marcial, Spanish Language At-Large and Luis Joel Méndez González, Student Representative.
According to numbers provided during NAHJ’s last board meeting on Thursday, October 1, there were 1648 eligible voting members. Just 550 voters participated in the 2020 NAHJ election, but that number reflects the highest turnout in the organization’s history.
“I can’t get over the turnout, what amounts to a mandate really from the members for transparency in our organization. Also, this board is 75 percent women! So that’s pretty cool,” López tells Media Moves.
“I was motivated to run for president after the current board voted to cancel elections. A group of us fought to restore those elections and in the process, restore our group’s integrity. I am committed to leading a board that will be transparent in its dealings, that keeps members informed, and will continue to make training a priority. And we should advocate on behalf of all members and be sensitive to colleagues who have faced prejudices and racism.”
Julio César Chávez, a D.C.-based Reuters producer, elected to VP of Broadcast, says what happened this year at NAHJ compelled him to act.
“I was pushed to run after the original elections were canceled, and how NAHJ leadership acted like it wasn’t a big deal, taking advantage of member apathy. The talking point was that the elections were postponed vs canceled, but if President Trump postponed the elections for a year things would not have been treated so casually,” he states.
Chávez, a first-time NAHJ board member, wants to dive right in.
“One of the major points of my platform, and my promised first action, will be to provide hostile environment training for all NAHJ members in preparation for election night protests. Too many journalists have been hurt this year, and our job is getting more dangerous every week,” hesays. “We need to step up and give people the knowledge and tools to keep themselves safe during assignments.”
The Spanish Language At-Large seat was the most contested, with three candidates. The winner, Jennifer Marcial, wants to bring back a renewed effort to address the needs of the Hispanic media membership base.
“I have served on the local board in Central Florida for the past three years and have seen first hand the issues our journalists face day in and day out across different platforms: television, print, digital, radio. I have seen this amplified in Spanish Language media,” says Marcial. “I’ve worked in Spanish news my entire career and I’ve never had a chance of interacting with any of the Spanish-at-Large officers about any of these challenges. It is time the NAHJ board is more transparent and accessible to our members.”
Eight proposed bylaw amendments were supported by voters, but did not pass, because quorum was not met.
Full election results:
Nora Lopez: 302, 70%
Nancy San Martín: 125, 29%
Write-In: 2, 0%
Arelis R. Hernández: 386, 99%
Write-In: 5, 1%
Julio-César Chávez: 259, 62%
Fin Gómez: 157, 38%
VP for Digital
Yvette Cabrera: 379, 98%
Write-In: 6, 2%
Diana Fuentes: 186, 46%
Keldy Ortiz: 222, 54%
Rafael Olmeda: 183, 43%
Blanca Rios: 238, 57%
Academic At-Large Officer
Jessica Retis: 376, 99%
Write-In: 3, 1%
General At-Large Officer
Steve Soliz: 90, 22%
McNelly Torres 327, 78%
Spanish Language At-Large
Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio: 202, 51%
Rafael Mejía: 116, 29%
Sal Morales: 82, 21%
Kimberly Cruz: 14, 12%
Luis Joel Méndez González: 67, 58%
Kate Sequeira: 35, 30%
Do you agree that student members have the right to vote for the entire Board and all items presented to voting members?
YES: 288, 70%
NO: 124, 30%
Do you agree to reaffirm that the Student Representative on the Board of Directors has the right to vote on all Board matters?
YES: 336, 80%
NO: 82, 20%
Do you agree that the Board cannot cancel an election but if they must postpone, must hold an election no later than the second Friday of October?
YES: 389, 95%
NO: 20, 5%
Do you agree that the outgoing Board members will immediately become non-voting ex-officio and must meet with their replacements during a 30-day transition period? The new board will meet as soon as possible, not necessarily “immediately” after the election.
YES: 359, 89%
NO: 43, 11%
Do you agree that the Board can only go into executive session for the following three reasons; to discuss legal matters, land acquisition or personnel matters and if any action is taken, it must happen in the open?
YES: 361, 91%
NO: 36, 9%
Do you agree that minutes should be taken and published whenever there is a quorum present and the Board takes action?
YES: 398, 95%
NO: 19, 5%
Do you agree that all minutes, meeting agendas, budgets and at least five years of financial records should be published in the membership-only section of the website? (NOTE: If approved, this bylaw will take effect Jan. 1, 2021)
YES: 386, 95%
NO: 21, 5%
Do you agree that the membership should be given at least a week notice prior to a meeting, including the agenda? In case of an emergency meeting, membership will be immediately notified across multiple platforms.
YES: 406, 97%
NO: 11, 3%
*Disclosure: I am one of the NAHJ former national presidents who participated in the effort to pressure the board to reinstate elections in 2020.