Board debates name change

The board is considering changing the name of NINA from “Northern Illinois Newspaper Association” to “Northern Illinois News Association.” Please read the following two arguments: the first in favor of changing the name, the second in favor of retaining the name. Please email Communications Coordinator Shelley Hendricks at shendricks@niu.edu if you would like to share your opinion.

Argument to change name

By Sharon Boehlefeld

More than 50 years ago, the chair of the Northern Illinois University Journalism Department, Donald Grubb, met with several regional newspaper editors to gauge interest in a professional association.

At that time, if the stories told to me by old timers at my hometown publisher in Rochelle, it was called the Northern Illinois Editorial Association. By the time I came to my first meeting, it was already the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association – familiarly known as NINA.

Back then, the big technology changes were the move from lead type to computer punch tape, from letterpress to offset printing. That shift to computer generated copy, to cut and paste in the literal sense, was tough on some people in the industry.

Today, as computerized processes have permeated the entire industry, those of us who still have a print product have long since moved on to work with other means of spreading the news. We work with digital video, audio and social media in its many forms. We are still producers of news, but we send it out in a variety of media.

Our association began as a way for editors to share knowledge and support each other. When the first name change came, I was told, it was because the editors’ understood every department in their papers – news, advertising, and the back shop – were important to success.

Since I’ve been on the board, we’ve narrowed our focus so that it has rested largely on the news again.

We have not eschewed our mission, to advance journalism and journalism education in northern Illinois.

But our media have changed.

We should acknowledge that our commitment to quality, credible and reliable news extends beyond the printed page.

By eliminating the “paper” from our name, we make obvious our support of  journalists and journalism in all forms.

We also give ourselves a chance to encourage broader membership and rejuvenate our association.

We don’t even have to give up our familiar acronym.

It’s time to become the Northern Illinois News Association.

Argument to retain name

By Roger Ruthhart

We all know that the role of our newsrooms is changing, but at the same time I think the general public understands that “newspapers” today are much more than ink on paper. We are online, mobile, on social media, niche publications and sites, and besides a variety of text reporting, we also report with graphics, maps, audio, video, slideshows and more. NINA has embraced these changes, both by accepting non-traditional members and by providing training programs that dive deep into new media.

The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association has a proud tradition dating back to 1962 and is a valued and recognized brand in the industry. We need a really good reason to tinker with that. Our current bylaws were amended in 2012 to admit “establishments and their duly accredited representatives engaged in publishing local news (changed from newspapers) in the 26 northern most counties of Illinois …”

In short, we are already able to do — and are doing — what those seeking a name change are trying to achieve. To me, much more important than the name is how we see and carry out our mission.

Many of these same arguments were made in 2012 when the bylaws were amended, but the board voted down a name change for many of these reasons. It was also noted at that time that “News Association” was far less descriptive and could be taken to be a wire service or a group that issues news releases.

Under our bylaws, it will require a two-thirds vote of board members present to change the name.

The role of newspapers will continue to evolve and change as will our role. But in the end what is important is our effort to identify and support professional and ethical presentation of the news. This is what makes newspapers, and those who contribute to them, different from a blogger in his mom’s basement or an untrained person sending out poorly written press releases. At the same time we should be happy to work with online publications, religious, ethnic and other special interest publications, government websites, and independent contractors of all kinds, whose missions share our same values. In some cases we already do.

Protecting these professional standards, and helping to train people to meet them, should be our continuing goal. That’s been the position of newspapers dating back to beforeNINA was formed. Being an organization of NEWSPAPERS tells everyone who cares that we support such professional standards.