The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is at a real crossroads, a watershed moment that could end the group’s 73 year run if it’s not handled properly.
They will meet in groups of 2o over the next two days to discuss a proposal drawn by them with the law firm Ropes & Gray. This is the result of accusations of racism and exclusion, of being a private group for far too long with no regulation.
The main points will be an outreach immediately to bring in 20 journalists with an emphasis on finding black writers but being inclusive to people of all colors and races.
Most importantly: HFPA members will no longer have to live in Southern California. They can live anywhere in the United States as long as they can prove they represent foreign publications and can show their clips.
That second point is huge. It will widen the group’s search immensely.
Two hundred publicists as well as journalists and stars and producers have chimed in over the last several weeks about the way the HFPA has treated them over the decades. Not every member of the HFPA is a bad egg. But enough of the old guard has stood in the way of change for too long.
The older members don’t like criticism. The LA Times reports about internal HFPA memos citing their coverage. I wrote stories about the HFPA for years when no one else did or would, and faced the umbrage of a few who were trying to hold on to old ways.
In the last few weeks 88 year old member Phil Berk was finally expunged from the group after mocking Black Lives Matter. I’m told exclusively another older member, Judy Solomon, has quietly retired. The HFPA needs to do more if they’re going to survive. A group vote by Zoom on Thursdays will determine their future.
NBC and Dick Clark Productions are monitoring the situation closely. Sources tell me so far “the members are excited” by the proposal, and it should pass without trouble.
The letter to the 90 members who will vote concludes: “We feel positive about these changes. We believe they will lead us on the path to a brighter future for the association.”
The proposal includes Five Foundational Pillars of Change
Accountability: Fundamental, structural changes to the organization as well as enhancing financial and ethical accountability.
Membership: Revision of membership eligibility and reaccreditation criteria, including substantial increase in size of membership, and removing impediments to diversity.
Inclusion: Increasing racial diversity in membership and at the Board level.
Good Governance: Substantial Board, management, and committee reform.Ethics &
Transparency: High ethical and accountability standards, including a new code of conduct, confidential reporting for internal and external parties, and new grievance procedures with clearly defined consequences
The Board will take more serious measures, including but not limited to the Board resigning, if the membership does not timely approve and implement the below reforms. •Immediately establish independent review committee to the Board (“Accountability Board” or “Oversight Board”) consisting of racially and ethnically diverse members who will advise the Board and oversee critical organizational reform. °Possible members of this committee to include: representatives from the industry, members of diverse journalistic organizations, and a DEI consultant. •Hold new Board elections under new Bylaws no later than September 1, 2021. •All current members will be required to meet the same standards as incoming members for reaccreditation of their membership.
•Admit at least20 new members in 2021, with a specific focus on recruiting Black members and building an environment to allow for their success, and with a goal of increasing the membership by 50% over the next 18 months. We will continue to reassess further increases to the membership with a specific focus on recruiting Black members and members from other underrepresented groups in each class.
•Revision of the membership eligibility criteria and admissions process. Eliminate the Southern California residency requirement and expand eligibility to any qualified journalist living in the U.S. who work for a foreign publication.
°Expand eligibility to journalists who are members of credible media organizations (not exclusively the MPA) and create a pipeline of racially diverse journalists. °Open membership to journalists who work in media beyond print.
°Eliminate the sponsorship requirement and authorize alternative methods for member induction, including by expanding the role of the credentials committee and include third parties on that committee from credible journalistic and other organizations focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. °Remove restrictions on the number of members admitted per year.
°Re–confirm that there are no limitations on the number of members from each territory.
°Develop objective criteria governing the admissions process and involve third parties in the decision–making process. °Publicize the modified admissions criteria on the HFPA website and at HFPA events.°Eliminate the distinction between New Members and Active Members so that New Members receive immediate rights and privileges.
•Develop a comprehensive and long–term strategy for the recruitment of racially diverse journalists, which will include partnerships with credible journalistic and other organizations focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, journalism schools, and other industry professionals whereby aspiring and early career journalists are mentored by members of the Association with the goal of becoming members.
•Immediately retain Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant. •Develop a comprehensive DEI strategy.
•Mandate regular implicit bias and sexual harassment trainings for all members, the first of which DEI trainings was conducted on April 26, 2021. •Enhance the HFPA’s philanthropic outreach, and focus its messaging on its website and social media accounts, including during the Golden Globes and in public statements, to enhance its existing focus on support of racially diverse and under–represented communities.
4. Good Governance
•Hire a professional management staff, including, but not limited to, a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer, and Chief Financial Officer, with the goal of having the Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer in place by September 1, 2021.
•Expand the size of the Board, create an Executive Committee of the Board, and increase the Board’s governance authority and responsibility. •Allow non–HFPA members to serve on the Board. •Strengthen term limits for officers and directors; lengthen Board terms and introduce staggered terms. •Emphasize the distinction between governance and management. •Reform the committee structure.
5. Ethics & Transparency
•Revise the code of conduct in the following ways:°Define prohibited behavior and add policies, procedures, and training around non–discrimination, anti–harassment, sexual misconduct, and professional conduct standards. °Include sections governing membership and conflicts. Tie violations of the code of conduct to the updated grievance procedure. Set forth clear disciplinary consequences for violating policies. Make the Code publicly available.
•Create a new confidential reporting system and grievance procedure by doing the following: Immediately implement an accessible reporting mechanism for those inside and outside the HFPA, including an anonymous, third–party hotline, easily accessible through the HFPA website. Hotline will be open and available as soon as possible for the reporting of past, present, and future conduct violations. °A third party will commenceinvestigation of all hotline claims within 14 days of receipt. °Establish a clear process for determining appropriate sanctions.
Eliminate the Board and member vote required to impose sanctions on grievances and instead rely on the findings of independentinvestigations and clear predefined sanctions, including but not limited to suspension or expulsion. °Establish strong confidentiality protections and an anti–retaliation policy.
•List HFPA members on the HFPA website, along with their biographies, publications, affiliations, and links to previous works. •Review press conference procedures, including consulting with publicists. •Review structure of press travel.•No longer accept promotional items.•Strengthen conflict of interest disclosures