2015-16 ASNE President Pam Fine's speech

ASNE President Pam Fine, Knight Chair for News, Leadership and Community at The University of Kansas, gave her speech during the ASNE business meeting on the last day of the ASNE-APME conference at Stanford University. Click here to learn her vision and enthusiasm for the future of ASNE. 
By tradition, these acceptance speeches are supposed to be short. So, as Elizabeth Taylor told her eighth husband, I won't keep you long. 

I'm truly honored and delighted to be ASNE president. Twenty years ago, I joined this organization at the encouragement of my then boss Tim McGuire, former editor of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Tim told me ASNE was a great place to pick up ideas and get connected to a network of news leaders who were focused on change and quality journalism. 

Today, I believe those are still great reasons to be part of ASNE. 

And that's what I want to focus on for the next few minutes: ASNE as an organization that is looking forward and provides a forum for ideas, vigorous advocacy for the First Amendment and diversity, important human connections and professional knowhow. 

I want to point us to the next 20 years and the role ASNE can play in helping ensure that quality journalism continues to thrive.

I'll do that under the headings drones, clones and crystal balls.

First drones. UAVs or unmanned aircraft vehicles are a good example of why and how ASNE needs to be at the forefront of efforts to fight laws that would unduly obstruct the newsgathering process.  

It's expected that in five years, news organizations will routinely be using drones to shoot live events, show the impact of natural disasters, provide 3-D images of buildings and more.  

But as you may have heard in an earlier session with ASNE legal counsel Kevin Goldberg, several states have already passed or are considering legislation that would unduly limit the safe and constructive use of drones in newsgathering. Last month, ASNE joined with 30 other news organizations to fight such legislation in California. 

Whether it's about drones or other new technology, ASNE must rally with and build coalitions to keep bad laws off the books and to fight for open records, access and transparency. 

During this next year, our First Amendment Committee, led by George Stanley, will partner with Lucy Dalglish and Dana Priest at the University of Maryland on a set of cybersecurity seminars for news leaders. 

This seminar will combine two things ASNE can do best: Provide practical information and thought leadership on critical matters. Among the issues we'll be discussing in Maryland is how news organizations can push for government transparency on the Web while recognizing the need to protect private information. 

The First Amendment Committee will also be working with Goldberg to develop a legal hotline for members. If you have an access issue or legal question, then you'll be able to reach out to him for counsel. 

We'll also continue to clamor for the right of journalists to operate freely and without fear here and abroad. Today, we stand with our good friends at The Washington Post and numerous other journalism organizations in condemning the Iranian government for its cruel incarceration of journalist Jason Rezaian. 

We stand and hold hands with all journalists who are threatened for doing their jobs. 

Now for clones:

I think it's fair to say that not too long ago, some of us in the news business were guilty of thinking of our audience members as genetic copies, masses of white people who for all practical purposes wanted and received the same types of news, at the same time, day after day and year after year.

I'm sure you'll agree that it was a mistake to ever think of news seekers as some sort of clones, particularly at the expense of women and people of color. 

Today, thankfully, journalists are seeing audiences through narrower demographic, psychographic and geographic lenses. As a result, your newsrooms are better today at providing news and information that is timely, distinctive and relevant for individuals and communities of varying interests and news needs. 

Yet, there's more to be done. As a whole, news organizations are not changing fast or well enough to satisfy black and Hispanic news consumers. The American Press Institute reported last year that only 25 percent of blacks and 33 percent of Hispanics believe they're covered accurately. 

Part of the reason is that newsrooms new and old collectively still underemploy journalists of color. That's bad for journalism and bad for business. 

Columbia University business school professor Katherine Phillips wrote in Scientific American last year, "Diversity makes us smarter."

She said and I quote, "The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision-making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. Even simply being exposed to diversity can change the way you think. 

"This is not just wishful thinking, it is the conclusion I draw from decades of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers."

Diversity is one of ASNE's three pillars, along with leadership and First Amendment advocacy. 

In the coming year, under the leadership of Diversity Committee Chair Karen Magnuson, we'll start to retool our ASNE Newsroom Census to make it more relevant to digitally focused newsrooms. We want to broaden this effort to measure the impact of coverage on communities, and to collaborate with other organizations. We don't want to count heads just for the sake of producing numbers. We want to catalyze newsrooms to provide more opportunities for women and journalists of color, and especially for those just coming out of school. 

During the year, we also will be making efforts to diversify our membership. We want more decision-makers at all levels, on all platforms, including the emerging leaders who participated in our Minority Journalism Institute here in Palo Alto. Our Communication and Membership Committee, led by Mizell Stewart, has already begun to consider how to increase the appeal and value of an ASNE membership. 

Personally, I stand before you proud to be the seventh woman president of ASNE. I can also check off a couple of other boxes as the first president who is a full-time academic and the first one who is gay or at least out. My wonderful partner Judith G. Levy and I just celebrated our 18th anniversary. 

I'm equally proud to report that the rest of ASNE's ladder is richly diverse. Our next three presidents will be Mizell Stewart, Alfredo Carbajal and Nancy Barnes. Kudos to all of the members and our board for making that happen.

And that brings me to my final heading, crystal balls. 

Doug Clifton, now retired as editor of the Miami Herald and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, once described his perfect newspaper as "part X-ray machine, part crystal ball."

I think Clifton's prescription would be good for ASNE, as well.

This organization is committed to helping editors provide smart coverage and leadership on the issues and events happening now. We're also committed to helping news leaders anticipate the changing needs of citizens and consumers.

In January, in partnership with Jeff Jarvis and the Tow-Knight Center, we're hosting a seminar at The City University of New York on how to make newsrooms more audience- and product-focused.

Our Leadership Committee, headed by Debra Adams Simmons and Alfredo Carbajal, is also working to create a set of seminars for emerging leaders. You'll hear more about those in the coming weeks and months.

In closing, I want to restate what I wrote in my candidate statement five years ago when I ran for the board. I think it still fits today.

"ASNE must vigorously use its bully pulpit to champion the free flow of information and quality journalism; increase collaboration in programming and other services; and most importantly, continue to recruit, welcome and engage new members.

"This past year was transformational for ASNE in terms of widening its tent. Next year should be even more so.

"ASNE needs to be a vital voice and player in helping newsroom leaders challenge convention, experiment and share best practices.

"To my thinking, it's not a given that the organization will remain viable without hard work, smart efforts and members who are committed to its survival. We must build on all the good things ASNE has done in the past by having an energetic and clear focus for the years ahead."

Thank you.