Here are the highlights of my year as President of this great organization.
It has been an honor and privilege to hold this office and I only hope that in the end history judges my performance as up to the task. The NPPA suffers from much of the same ill wind that challenges newspapers and much of the journalism world in creating financial woes beyond anyone’s comprehension. The NPPA continues to have a mission to serve members and the wider field of visual journalism that is vital within the role of journalism in the United States and the democratic world.
Best of Photojournalism. For a year that started‐out dealing with various problems with the 2011 contest the announcement in December of the reorganization was particularly satisfying. The challenges put upon the contest committee in late 2010 and early 2011 around a new judging paradigm were not a fair burden to put on any set of volunteers anywhere. But they were deemed necessary for the overall health of the NPPA and despite several hiccoughs and stumbles the BOP completed the year by presenting a set of winners in which we can all be proud as examples indeed of the best in photojournalism.
The committee deserves a great deal of credit for taking the lessons from those challenges and moving forward with a plan to make the BOP the single most comprehensive program for recognizing visual journalism accomplishments in the world. With the plan in place for the future we will integrate the BOP into the NPPA’s new web site structure and continue to grow and improve.
Advocacy. Working with Mickey and Alicia on the various issues tackled by the Advocacy Committee was without a doubt the single largest consumer of my time over the year. This is not a bad thing. Mickey’s efforts on behalf of the NPPA in taking up fights over issues of access have raised the profile of the association exponentially over the course of the year. There is no doubt that we have seen a return on that investment in the form of new and renewed memberships as well. It is my sincere belief that we need to continue, and expand, those efforts in the coming year. The time has come for the NPPA to cease standing on the sidelines of these efforts and take the lead wherever possible.
Business Blitz. Tony Overman’s idea to take the old “Navigating the Downturn” program from two years ago and expand it into an ACA funded workshop that would travel the country over the course of 2011 was inspired. Tony simply willed it into existence and with the help of Craig Mitchelldyer, a Portland, Oregon‐based independent photographer, made it a success. Tony and Craig assembled panels, worked with the office and sponsors to locate dates and venues and staged the NPPA Business Blitz in five cities. While attendance never quite hit our ideal, generally in the 40‐60 attendees range, the impact of the program on those attendees and the general positive reaction of the effort in the wider photojournalism community make it another worthwhile investment. From the opening event held at USA Today in McLean, VA, through stops in St. Louis; Denver; Oakland and St. Petersburg the NPPA made it clear that we will address the business issues important to visual journalists in this changing media landscape. Business Practices Committee Chair Matt Slaby is working now on a 2012 edition of the Blitz. It is my belief that while the events are not moneymakers for us, because we are able to fund them using ACA funds, we need to continue the program. They fulfill a vital role in our overall mission, one for which the ACA funding is perfectly suited.
Witness. Standing amidst the gallery of images from 9/11 curated for a show as part of Witness to Tragedy and Recovery I shook the hand of keynote speaker Aaron Brown and heard him say words that resonate with me still. “I love the NPPA,” he said. And it was not because we had facilitated his airfare and hotel in NYC for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Brown went on to explain that many years ago, long before he was CNN’s anchor for their coverage of that fateful day, he worked at a TV station in Seattle, Washington that was, as he put it, an NPPA shop. They won the NPPA’s Station of the Year award frequently and it was a point of pride for them. Brown went on to say that he sees the value of visuals, especially stills, in recording news and bringing readers and viewers into the story as vital to journalism. Brown is now a professor of journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. His keynote was gripping and was the highlight of an evening that featured the opening of the photo exhibit and a panel discussion on the impact of traumatic images on the public and those who record them. Region 2 Chair (and now Board member) Todd Maisel spent the better part of the decade working on a way for the visual journalism community to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and partnered with the NYPPA and Pace University we worked through various logistical challenges to create a program for which Todd can take a great deal of pride.
NewsVideo Workshop. The sudden departure of Sharon Levy Freed as chair of the NVW presented a series of challenges. I was engaged quite actively for several weeks in contacting the faculty as well as working with Mindy on ensuring the program would continue. Julie Jones, one of the NVW faculty and a professor at the University of Oklahoma where the program has been for decades, stepped‐up and with Adam Vance and Stan Heist will lead the NVW going forward. Due to issues around the leadership change and logistics with the university it was decided that the NVW would take the year off and return in the spring of 2013. Julie and her team will work during this time re‐invigorating the program and planning a move from the continuing education facility at OU over to the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Given the challenges facing all educational programs these days the potential loss of income from not having the NVW at all in 2012 is probably offset by the potential financial losses the program may have faced.
Web Site I kept informed on progress of the web committee through the RFP process and the consideration of bids. I did help bring one bidder into the process late, and they were serious contenders. I am very encouraged by our choice for vendor and very excited to get this party started!
Partnerships. Developing partnerships with other journalism organizations is something that will serve the NPPA well going forward. The Society of News Design (SND) asked if the NPPA would be interested in partnering with them for their national convention in September in St. Louis. While it was determined that the NPPA was not in a position to fully partner we did offer to hold a Business Blitz stop in St. Louis during their convention. Just a month before that event I traveled to the annual meeting of the Council of National Journalism Organizations (CNJO), held in conjunction with the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) convention in St. Louis. I believe the CJNO offers a good structure from which to work on building more partnerships. I would like to see the NPPA work with organizations such as the AEJMC, SPJ, RTDNA, SND and ONA (to name just a few) on a variety of fronts. Coordination of advocacy response is one place where an e‐mail list between representatives of all those organizations may be of use. During the meeting we heard a report from the Executive Director of the SPJ about the cooperation between SPJ and RTDNA on a national convention. Ideally I would like to see the NPPA find a way to work with more of those organizations as a way to bring back our national convention type program each year. In May I traveled to New York City to attend the annual awards luncheon of the International Photographic Council (IPC) at the United Nations. IPC dues are only $100 for the NPPA to be a member and the organization offers the potential to raise the visibility of the NPPA on an international level. Like the CNJO I see membership in the ICP as a place to build potential partnerships. Each year the IPC gives a Photography Leadership Award to one member of each of its member organization. In May of 2012 the NPPA will send someone to the U.N. for an award. During previous years of NPPA membership in the IPC we have sent David Handschuh, Scott Strazzante and John Stanmeyer there to receive awards.
Appointments. Over the course of my term I have appointed the following individuals to positions in the association: Jim Bye, Region 4 Chair; Lisa Krantz, Diversity Committee Chair; Ross Taylor, Mentoring Program Chair; Mark E. Johnson, Education Committee Chair; Bettina Hansen, Student Committee Chair; Matt Slaby, Business Practices Committee Chair; Melissa Lyttle, Presidential Board Appointee; Julie Jones, NewsVideo Workshop Chair; Cathaleen Curtiss, Monthly News Clip Contest Chair.
I have to admit to being somewhat pleased with myself for this roster of appointments. In my experience no NPPA President has had so many vacancies to fill in a one‐year term and while some took longer to fill than I would have liked, these individuals represent a diverse group of highly qualified volunteers who will serve the NPPA well for the duration of their time in office.
In conclusion. Let me express my sincere gratitude to everyone in the association for your support and sacrifice during this year of my presidency. It seems to be one of the most daunting tasks to find the time to adequately thank everyone who volunteers their time for the NPPA. For a substantial portion of my adult life, and the entirety of my professional one, the NPPA has figured prominently. I am unable to adequately explain to those who do not share my passion for this profession of visual journalism why it is that the NPPA matters so much, but I am thankful to be associated with so many to whom I do not need to explain.
2011 was a challenging year, I look forward to a 2012 where we make continued progress on the many missions the NPPA pursues.
Sean D. Elliot, President, National Press Photographers Association