By Naomi E. Prioleau, Faran Foy and Daniella Dorcelus
Greg Lee was elected NABJ president Friday, defeating Deirdre Childress and Charles Robinson.
Lee, who will take the reins from Kathy Y. Times, received 294 votes in Friday’s election. Childress trailed Lee with 168 votes, followed by Robinson who tallied 50 votes.
“I feel very overwhelmed, very privileged and I value everything because NABJ members recognize me,” Lee said after hearing he was elected president.
Lee, who at age 37 becomes the youngest president of the organization, said during a news conference that he was “honored” to be elected as NABJ’s 19th president.
“I’m so very honored and humbled by this awesome responsibility that I have and with my team for the next two years,” he said.
Lee, senior assistant sports editor at the Boston Globe, said his next course of business is to begin planning the 2012 convention in New Orleans and to fill NABJ’s three empty board seats.
Shortly after, Childress posted on her Facebook page that the election results were announced. “I lost the election, but UNITY lives on. I am proud to embrace people of all races.”
She later posted, “And the NABJ president will have to honor the people’s will.”
Childress told an NABJ TV reporter that she thought there were voting irregularities and she plans to call for a recount. She later told the reporter “[expletive] NABJ.”
After hearing the news, Robinson wished Lee well.
“It’s been a great process, challenging each others’ ideas, but we’re all great friends and whoever leads this organization will need the support of everyone,” he said.
Robinson said, “NABJ will survive” and “we should not settle for mediocrity; we should build exceptional journalists, people who are leaders in the newsroom, people who dare to dream.”
Earlier Friday, the candidates were making their last push, handing out literature, shaking hands and urging members to vote before polls closed at 5 p.m.
During his campaign, Lee told the membership he was a good fit because he possessed the ability to challenge NABJ to stay in constant motion through leadership development, meeting membership needs and honoring NABJ’s founding principles.
Lee acknowledged that he will have plenty of challenges ahead as president. In addition to planning the New Orleans convention, Lee will have to work with the executive director and the board to find ways to boost membership and steer NABJ on a progressive path as the industry continues to evolve.
“We have a lot of work to be done and everyone knows based on my past that I work hard for you,” Lee said during a news conference. “I’ll continue to do so, so that you can get the best services possible and make sure that I fight on your behalf with jobs in the industry — but not only jobs but opportunities to become managers and to run newsroom.”
Lee, NABJ’s 19th president and first sports journalist, will also have to deal with NABJ’s decision to withdraw from UNITY: Journalists of Color. It will be up to Lee to lead discussions about reunification with the alliance.
Turnout in this election was low compared with the 2008 election in Tampa, Fla. There were about 515 total votes Friday, according to NABJ election officials. In Tampa, 1,326 votes were cast.
NABJ has 3,500 members with an estimated 2,500 attending the Philadelphia convention.
“I have been a member since 1983,” said NABJ member Kelly Williams. “There are always people who will be disappointed when their favorite candidate doesn’t win. This organization needs strong leaders. The fact that so many seasoned journalists want to lead is something we should all be proud of.”