NPC split on PR professionals' voting rights

WASHINGTON: PR professionals are mounting an impassioned campaign at the National Press Club (NPC) for passage of a constitutional amendment giving their two representatives on the club's 14-member board of governors the right to vote.

WASHINGTON: PR professionals are mounting an impassioned campaign at the National Press Club (NPC) for passage of a constitutional amendment giving their two representatives on the club's 14-member board of governors the right to vote.

NPC's affiliate and associate members, many of whom are PR practitioners, represent 49% of the club's membership and pay 51% of the club's dues.

While many members view the voting rights issue as a matter of fairness, others believe that granting voting rights to the two non-journalist board members could mark the beginning of PR's dominance over the prestigious club.

The club's membership "obviously is of two minds" on the issue, noted Rick Dunham, NPC president and senior White House correspondent for BusinessWeek.

Dunham favors granting affiliate/associate board members voting rights. "It boils down to fairness. I think it's fair that they have two votes out of 14 on the board," he said. "Active journalists will still be the only ones who vote for the officers."

Supporters of voting rights tried to win passage of the amendment two weeks ago at a general membership meeting, but a quorum of active members was not present. The issue is likely to come up for another vote at either a special meeting or the next membership meeting in January, Dunham said.

Affiliates are primarily former NPC members, while associates comprise news sources, including PR professionals. Members in either category are not eligible to serve as NPC officers and cannot vote for officers.

Gayela Bynum, who is serving her second term on the board as an affiliate/associate representative, emphasized that by supporting voting rights the affiliates and associates are not trying to take over the club. "We can't run for office and we're not trying to run for office," said Bynum, who works as a public affairs specialist in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Lou Priebe, a long-time PR professional who is serving his first term on the board, noted that the other 12 board members could easily override the two votes of the non-journalists if any conflict should ever occur.

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