Tuesday, March 13, 2012

If Your Members Organize Their Own Committee, Are You Failing Them?

Sadly, I did not go to SXSW (mom, that's not "S-W-S-W" but South by Southwest). But I may as well have been there based on how many times I've seen it mentioned online over the past week. Sigh...maybe next year.

At any rate, one of the thousands of SXSW things that flowed through either my Twitter stream or Facebook news feed caught my association eye--the announcement of a new Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation,  a "committee aiming to establish standards for (content) aggregation." Cool, I thought--I always like seeing associations get media coverage and the article was in the New York Times. But wait...the article goes on to state that the council is a self-organized effort, not the purview of an association:
"[The organizer of the council, Ad Age Editor at Large Simon Dumenco] compares his effort to the editorial rules promulgated by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME), which have come to shape how magazines distinguish editorial from advertising. It’s an imperfect system with a fair number of outliers, but over time the magazine group devised guidelines that had significant influence and at least set standards that people could argue about"
He "compares the effort to" something an association would do--develop guidelines for an industry--yet the effort is not tied to an association. The committee is made up of a group of editors-in-chief, all of whom are presumably members of ASME--in fact, one (James Bennet) is a member of ASME's board of directors.

Is it just me or does this seem like either a missed opportunity or a failure on behalf of ASME? Granted, it's not like the effort is necessarily a great one--while this council is purporting to establish standards for bloggers, no actual bloggers (who are not also magazine editors) are involved, and some are criticizing  the entire venture as unnecessary and worthless. Yet, to me, this self-organized "trade group" effort smacks of the larger issue of the relevance and sustainability of the association model.

What does does it say about associations when members organize their own committees or councils independent of the association? Or is this nothing new and nothing to worry about?

1 comment:

Scott Oser said...

Associations can't fully serve the needs of every single member. They simply don't have the resources. That said, something like this, that was important enough to a large enough number of members that they did it own their own means the association missed something.

Another thing this brought up to me is how open the association is to hearing members ideas. I didn't read the entire article but I am curious to know if these members went to association staff and told them they felt this was needed and the staff ignored them. If that is the case then the staff really have let their members down.

If the organizers of this new effort didn't approach the staff was it because they wanted to do it on their own? Or was it because they didn't trust that they would be heard?

Thanks for posting this Maggie. There is really a lot here for associations to think about.