By Shanaé Harte and Harmony Porter
NABJ’s elections, once highly competitive, are going uncontested this year. Some members wondered whether lack of interest may be the issue. However, the candidates, the chair of the election committee and some board members believe the problem lies elsewhere.
“I think people just have in the back of their minds that the elections are only important when the president runs,” Ray Metoyer, the 2022 elections committee chair, said. “I think a lot of people were just more concerned and so happy about coming to the convention. They didn’t really think about running.”
Treasurer Walter Smith Randolph, who is running for re-election, agreed but said he also thinks the divisiveness of past elections might deter people from stepping forward.
Sia Nyorkor, who is running for parliamentarian, agrees that past elections might have scared potential candidates.
“Sometimes in the past, we’ve had some spicy elections, and that can turn people off,” Nyorkor said.
The fear of losing also prevents people from declaring candidacy, she said.
Some people choose not to run because of the amount of work the board requires, candidates said.
Region IV Director Tre’Vell Anderson, who is running for re-election, explained that being on NABJ’s board requires hours of dedication. Because the position is unpaid, some people refuse to fully commit. But for them, making the association more inclusive for Black queer journalists is more important than receiving a check.
“Being a board member is a lot of work for free,” Anderson said. “And we do it because we care about this organization, we care about the future of this industry.
“We have all of these kind of ethical and moral thoughts within ourselves about why we do this work,” Anderson added. “I think people don’t want to do the work.”
Other uncontested races include Kathy Chaney for vice president-print, Dr. Syb Brown for academic representative and Raschanda Hall for media-related representative. The Region II director seat remains vacant.
Although most of the candidates are comfortable running unopposed, they would like to see more interest. Nevertheless, there were benefits.
“I like not having to campaign,” Smith Randolph said, “especially with this being the first convention in person in three years. So not having to call up people and ask for the vote and track people down and ask them if they accept the vote is nice.”
Anderson added, “We’re already working. Members running a campaign, on top of whatever the regular work is, … it’s taxing. It’s a lot. And so I’m not going to lie and say being unopposed is not wonderful because it is.”
The unopposed races made Metoyer’s job easier because he did not have to monitor candidates’ social media posts and campaigns to ensure the candidates were following elections protocols. Instead, the election chair enjoyed interacting with people he hasn’t seen in years as well as new NABJ members.
Still, Metoyer encourages eligible NABJ members to run for a position on the board because of its importance. As the chair of the election committee, Metoyer acknowledges there needs to be more outreach to ensure that races are contested and board positions are filled.
“It is important that we have contested races if we can, you know, so we’ll just have to work on it a little bit,” Metoyer said. “But I think, I think the next time I know it’ll be busy next year because it’s a presidential election.”
Candidates didn’t have to talk about their positions this year, but some of them shared their plans for the coming term.
Smith-Randolph hopes to gain more financial surpluses in preparation for a possible recession. Other candidates hope to be able to better cater to regional chapters and as parliamentarian, Nyorkor plans to work on establishing NABJ chapters in every state.
Metoyer encourages members to listen to board meetings through Zoom or stay up to date with the NABJ website to learn about the importance of being on the board of directors. “They might change their minds about why they think [they] should run because we do a lot of good work,” Metoyer said. “And this organization is in great shape, mentally, financially, spiritually and in the programs that we offer.”