1. First, it’s important that you understand our strategy has always been to help keep our members safe and to avoid $1.3 million in hotel contract cancellation penalties. (That’s how much we would have lost if we had prematurely canceled our contract with the Marriott and Omni hotels.) Timing, legal counsel and other requirements, along with tough negotiations on the part of NABJ and Marriott, were all essential parts of getting to a final successful resolution for our members and attendees.    I understand you may have been frustrated by updates that appeared to be vague, but the language was deliberate so as not to trigger an unnecessary catastrophic negative impact on our organization. To do so would have damaged our negotiations and put us in legal peril. You elected me to do what was in the best interest of NABJ. I am happy to say we have negotiated a deal that prevents NABJ from financial ruin. Thank you for trusting me.    VIRTUAL CONVENTION, REFUNDS AND RESERVATION CANCELLATIONS   *Virtual Convention: The new dates for our virtual convention are August 5-9, 2020. We will have 85 plus sessions including meal events and online networking events. There are costs associated with a virtual conference so there will be registration fees offered at the best rates possible for our members and attendees. You will get more information next week on specifics of the conference including workshops and other programming offerings.   *Registration Refunds (3 options) -You will be able to get full conference registration refunds by emailing the national office at membership@nabj.org. -You can apply it to next year’s conference  -You can donate it to fund student registrations    *Hotel Registration Cancellations Although NABJ is not involved in the hotel cancellation/hotel refund process, we know hotels have skeletal staffing because of COVID-19 so your experience could be a bit frustrating. That’s why we are talking to the hotel so that we can advise you on the most efficient way to get it done. You will be able to get a full refund and we will provide details next week.   BACKGROUND FACTS THAT WE CAN FINALLY SHARE   1. We began preliminary discussions of a possible virtual conference the last week in February. In the first week of March, we began reviewing virtual models including one from a respected member in the academic arena.
  2. For weeks, we have been talking with a few partners/sponsors about the possibility of a virtual conference and those talks have been helpful in shaping the virtual options.
  3. While the virtual option exploration was underway, we were also looking for alternate dates for an in-person convention but none were available because of the size of our conference. Also, it was likely that even a much later convention date this year would also have to be rescheduled. It was apparent that the feasibility of an in-person convention had dramatically diminished
  • Legal counsel validated what we already knew. The only ways out of our contract to avoid the $1.3 million in damages were: • A forced cancellation brought on by government or other restrictions triggering force majeure circumstances

•Negotiations with Marriott to release NABJ from this year’s contract A government forced cancellation could have required us waiting possibly up to mid-June before informing members and partners of the status of the convention. Obviously that would not work for members, partners or staff on a number of levels.  Here’s the bottom line: We are proceeding with a virtual convention. This is uncharted territory for NABJ. We are enlisting the help of professionals and companies that routinely do virtual conferences, but we’re also looking for members who have experience in the virtual convention space. We welcome your input. We’re in this together and will build an even stronger NABJ. Thank you for your patience and your support!

Dorothy Tucker, NABJ President