It surprises no one more than me that we are already closing in on a year since I become president of the FCCJ. We will hold an election in June and a new board and president will take over soon thereafter. First of all, thanks to each and every one of you for your support over the course of this year.
As we near the end of the current board's tenure, I wanted to share a few thoughts and lessons from my time in leadership at the club. I hope this is valuable to the next board and president, and to everyone who helps steer the FCCJ into the future.
Although I came into office with decades of experience in journalism and management, I confess to beginning as a novice in understanding the dynamics of our club. It's been a learning experience like no other. The president's role is formidable in the best of times, and these are times that have tested every one of us.
New world: The FCCJ has a deservedly proud history, but we must do more to adapt to the new world of journalism. What we do professionally is reshaped every year by new technologies, from digital media to artificial intelligence, and by new expectations from our readers. Our press club does not serve the same kind of members it did in 1945 or even 2005, yet the structure and operations often seem decades behind the times. To take just one example that I have raised repeatedly, we can stream our press conferences on YouTube, yet we cannot create a business model to profit from this online content. We need to adapt our mission for this new reality, reimagine what a foreign correspondents' club should be in this era. This is why, as I mentioned last month, I'm in favor of fresh blood on the board and on our committees to rethink everything single thing we do. The shining examples of how new people can contribute to the board are Taeko Nagayama and Dave McCombs; Jake Adelstein has also brought fresh ideas to our LAW committee, while Thisanka Siripala has infused F&B and PAC with her creativity. Please consider running for the board or volunteering for a committee -- the FCCJ needs your input.
Lack of continuity: At the same time we need to adapt, we struggle with continuity. With our annual elections, the people leading key functions change so quickly that it is hard to complete critical initiatives. Priorities can change from one board to another, frustrating our partners and vendors. I know this issue has come up repeatedly in the club's history and various solutions have been proposed, including two-year terms on the board. I suggest a modest step – a president's council made up of the three previous presidents who could advise the current leader. Whether the next president adopts this committee is of course voluntary. More dramatic steps, like two-year terms, should be considered by the general membership.
Imbalance of responsibility: The structure of our club today distributes responsibility in jarring, incongruous ways. I believe our board should act more like a traditional board of directors, advising the general manager and staff on issues but not managing them day to day. More responsibility, more control should be in the hands of our full-time staff, an amazing group of people who have gone above and beyond at the FCCJ for years. The board – made up of volunteers with full-time jobs elsewhere – should not get into the minutiae of daily operations.
Financial management: For an organization with financial challenges, we have a serious shortage of expertise on the subject. We are always months behind in calculating our financial performance and, even then, we lack fundamental metrics, like cash flow. This is a dire position as we face a potential crunch. This is not for lack of effort. Yoshiyuki Hirado and Mehdi Bassiri are amazingly dedicated. Rick Dyck has done exceptional work to help add to our understanding. Yet we need more finance expertise on the committee and in the club. If you are a member with these skills, please consider joining the committee or running for the board.
It's been my honor to serve in this role. I love journalism and all it stands for, and the FCCJ has a proud place as a beacon for freedom of the press in a world increasingly hostile to the concept.