Officer’s report from the spring board meeting

In an effort to make our members aware of officer and board member initiatives, the Society For News Design leadership team is sharing reports from the spring board meeting. This is the first in a three part series of posts, which will also include reports from program and region directors.

Officer’s Report

Rob Schneider, President
David Kordalski, Vice President
Lee Steele, Secretary/Treasurer
Jonathon Berlin, Immediate Past President

WHERE WE STAND NOW: We had a challenging year in 2012, for many reasons. But thanks to a lot of hard work in the last six months, 2013 promises to be a lot better and more financially stable year for SND. For that work, we owe a great deal of thanks to Executive Director Stephen Komives and the work of Jonathon Berlin and Marshall Matlock in 2012 to help transition the creative competition to a more efficient cost structure. We did a great job of cutting expenses this year while contest revenue stayed strong and performed better than budgeted. So we are financially strong right now. But we still have some fundamental problems looming for the future, especially our drop in membership revenue.

TRAINING: In addition, we’ve secured the three largest grants in SND history that have not only help our financial bottom line, but also given us a much more robust training lineup for 2013. So we will have 12 training events on the calendar for the rest of the year, most of which are free to members or available at a low cost! Stephen Komives is helping organize eight free iPad/Mobile Design Quick Courses in locations across the U.S. and Canada (Washington, Chicago, Minneapolis, Toronto, Montreal and Louisville and a few more to be announced.) In addition, thanks to the work of Jeff Goertzen, SND will be hosting four “Graphics Garage” events (in Anaheim, Dallas, Chicago and Louisville.) And our international chapters continue to provide valuable training around the world.

COMMUNICATION: We are also committed to communicating better with our members and the visual journalism community as a whole, largely through our work on and social media. I’m proud of the work we’ve done this year continuing the “Conversation about Design” that Jonathon Berlin started last year on the site and we continue to identify opportunities to talk about design (most notably lately the coverage of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack.) Our goal is to be the visual voice of reason for journalists around the world and help fill a void in our industry right now, as many of our brethren have been taken out of newsrooms completely. We owe it to them, and to journalism as a whole, to continue to preach the principles that led to the creation of SND in the first place. We’ll also be sending out another great issue of Design magazine shortly (thanks to the help of Paul Wallen for finishing this issue. Paul is filling in for Suzette Moyer, who had to resign her position.)

Judges at SND34 in Syracuse, New York.
Judges at SND34 in Syracuse, New York.

COMPETITIONS: In February, we completed our 34th Creative Competition in Syracuse (thanks to coordinator Melissa Angle for her great work as well as C. Marshall Matlock and Shamus Walker for their continued hard work) and our third edition of our Digital Competition in Muncie, Ind. (thanks especially to Ryan Sparrow, Jeremy Gilbert, Joey Marburger and Tyson Evans for their hard work.) Both of our competitions continue to evolve and improve (especially on the digital side, where the strides these past few years have been nothing short of amazing) and it’s my goal to continue that evolution and improvement with the ultimate goal of enhancing them as educational events (both in the process of how we run them but also how we communicate the results.) And I’ve already talked about how we have cut costs while competition revenue has remained steady.

THE BOOK: With that educational mission in mind, we are now working with the Steve Layton and Indiana University to produce our 34th edition of the Best of News Design. In addition to the printed book you receive, we’ll be offering digital versions of the 34th and 33rd editions of the book with an eye on making the digital experience of our competition results more robust, visual and valuable in the future.

INTERNATIONAL WORK: One of the most amazing facets of SND is the international reach of the organization and the amount of varied activity from our 21 regions in the world.

To that point:

  • In March, SND-E hosted the 21st edition of the Malofiej Awards and World Summit in Pamplona.

  • In May, SND Chinese is hosting a three day Quick Course featuring editorial illustration and storytelling across platforms.

  • SND Scandinavian recently completed its news design competition and will host its workshop Oct. 10-11 in Copenhagen.

  • SND-DACH is already hard at work preparing for our 2014 Workshop in Frankfurt.

  • SND’s Region 20 (Middle East and Africa) is in the process of running its own regional competition right now as well.

  • SND India had a milestone, with the first entries from its regional to the creative competition.

SNDLOU: Ryan Hildebrandt is preparing a great workshop that will bring together a multitude of visual journalism disciplines and will focus on inspiration, education and examining the “why” behind the decisions we make across platforms. We’ll also be celebrating SND’s 35th anniversary this November. We’ll talk about how our history, and especially our origins, can help guide us to best serve our mission in the future. We are currently working on partnering with another organization that will help us look forward and to the future in a smart way that will help instruct SND’s future path.

WEBSITE: Digital director Kyle Ellis is working hard not only to develop new and better content for our website and other digital and social media offerings but also to redesign to reflect what our members have told us they want and need. He’ll put together a “hack weekend” May 4-5 to help fix and redesign parts of the current site so those improvements will start rolling out soon. We’re also working to make our job board easier to use and search and work more seamlessly with our current site. In addition, Kyle has been working on a larger scale master plan for that is exciting to think about but will also require a big set of resources as well and we’ll start pursuing grants for that shortly as well.

GRANTS: Thanks to the leadership of Stephen Komives, we’ve secured the three largest grants in SND history over the past six months ($56,000, all of which have helped enhance our training.) And we’re pursuing more grant opportunities that will allow us to serve our members even better in the future. We’re also exploring more opportunities to partner with other journalism organizations in the future to better enhance our missions and the journalism community as a whole. We’ll spend some time this afternoon working on the beginnings of that process.

FOUNDATION: We’ll be working to refine our SND Foundation’s mission and increase our fundraising so that we can serve more students and journalists who desperately need our help and need the educational benefits we can give them. SNDF President Neal Pattison and SND Vice President David Kordalski will be leading that charge.

DATABASE: Lee Steele will be working with Stephen Komives to improve the quality and quantity of our competition databases on our website and explore the best path toward getting all 34 years of competition results in a digital space. In the immediate future, though, we will change our database vendor and get a much more stable system at a cheaper cost and one that will allow us to have the past 20 years of (from SND14 to SND 34) which itself will be an amazing improvement for the website that we’ll want to tell everyone about.

MEMBERSHIP: Membership continues to be a huge problem for us (we are losing about 100 members each year) and we’re going to work this afternoon to try and improve that by creating a corporate membership model that will better reflect the realities of the industry and help increase our revenue. The truth is we have to find a long-term strategy for membership to help SND build a stable revenue model for the future, otherwise our membership numbers reflect a ticking clock toward us having to make much more difficult decisions. We have to build a future blueprint for SND that features a viable, sustainable economic model that will give us more stability in the future. We’ve made great strides in this area over the past four years and we can’t stop now!

The SND Louisville workshop will take place November 7-9.
The SND Louisville workshop will take place November 7-9.

2014 WORKSHOP: I’m excited about all the hard work Stefan Knapp has put into Frankfurt 2014 and while it will be an exceptional workshop, we will also have to plan for a smaller contingent from the U.S. So this also creates an opportunity for us to explore having our 2015 workshop in the spring instead of the fall. It makes sense for a lot of reasons, and I think we could pick a great destination in the U.S. to host this workshop. We’ve already been laying the groundwork over the past few months and I’m hoping we can move toward making a decision on this in the next few months. We’ll explore some options Saturday afternoon as well.

2014 BOARD MEETING DATES: While we know our Fall 2014 board meeting will be in Frankfurt, we have an opportunity to find a different Spring 2014 board meeting location (and find a good logistical time to make a site visit to Frankfurt, possibly tying it to a SND officer visit to Malofiej in March 2014?) Orlando would be great site for the spring board meeting and it would be great to tie a Quick Course to that event as well. I’d like for us to identify a date for this event in the next month.

BOARD APPOINTMENTS: Jonathon Berlin did a great job filling a lot of vacant board positions last year and so we are mostly taken care of in this regard. However, the board positions are constantly fluid with people moving in and out of them so we need to create a backlog of good people who could possibly help us in the future. In addition, we’ve found this year that we may need to change the structure of some of the board positions to help us in certain areas. We’ll discuss more on Saturday afternoon. 

Here are the 2013 goals for SND, as set by Rob Schneider, with input from other officers and the board:

OUTREACH: Communicate, Educate, Project (Our Future)


  • Be the visual voice of reason to our members and the visual journalism community
  • Communicate with our members constantly
  • Daily through, social media
  • Weekly through email blasts
  • Monthly with an officers report (written by President or Executive Director)
  • Communicate with visual journalism community constantly
  • Give context, analysis to design. Continue the “conversation” about design
  • Take a stand on issues
  • Broaden, improve social media strategy and execution
  • Be a leader to the international visual journalism community
  • Focus on places where we can make a difference


  • Host eight training events this year,four graphics garages, four other events
  • Produce digital publications that advance the conversation about visual journalism; eBooks for SND33 and SND34 annuals
  • Two issues of digital version of Design magazine
  • Tell history of visual journalism
  • Find best way to activate as many of our databases as possible (and find way to make them more visual)
  • Begin process of finding grant to digitize our archives
  • SND LOU workshop (Celebrate our 35th anniversary, Celebrate our future be relentlessly optimistic as our theme)
  • Reach out to Past Presidents for history, inspiration, guidance for future event at SND LOU
  • Continue to evolve our competitions in to educational events (either in person or digitally)

PROJECT (our future)

  • Develop five-year plan for SND with viable economic model for future
  • Update bylaws to reflect our current reality
  • Redesign to be a visual journalism leader
  • Develop corporate membership model (increase membership revenue over 2012)
  • Find path to reach out to high school member publications as well
  • Seek two new grants (I need help wording this goal)
  • Partner with other journalists (ONA, ACES, etc.)
  • Revamp SND Foundation
  • Raise more money than last year
  • Fill out and revamp board
  • Develop mission for SNDF’s future
  • Transition creative competition and digital competition to future
  • Figure how/when of transition of creative competition to digital entry
  • Continue to organize structure and categories for digital competition and improve digital entry
  • Focus on future as an educational event; determine whether we should combine this event with the workshop (possibly Spring 2015?)

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