Jim Straight Named NPPA's New Executive Director

DURHAM, NC – Jim Straight has been named the new executive director of the National Press Photographers Association, NPPA president Tony Overman announced today.

"With all of the changes facing the photojournalism industry and the NPPA, we saw this executive director opening as an opportunity for NPPA to move our organization into a new phase," Overman said. "Knowing what was at stake, we spent the time and effort to find just the right person to lead us forward with specific goals in mind. I am thrilled to announce that we have hired Jim, who we believe is just the right person to lead us and help us grow in the right direction over the next several years.

"Jim is a smart and talented executive, a great leader, and an all around good guy. I’m sure that all our members who have the opportunity to get to know Jim will come to like him as much as all the members of the hiring committee do," Overman said today.

Straight has been director of The Hormone Foundation, the public education affiliate of the Endocrine Society, in Chevy Chase, MD, an organization dedicated to serving as a resource for the public by promoting the prevention, treatment, and cure of hormone-related conditions. As their director, he was responsible for managing the foundation's educational programs, developing funding, and supervising volunteer leadership responsibilities, as well as having board development and public relations and marketing responsibilities. He was also responsible for developing the foundation's annual budget.

"To be the best, NPPA has to be adaptable," Straight said today. "NPPA is doing some exciting things and has some great benefits to offer to the members and to the photographic industry, but not everyone is aware of what NPPA has to offer." Straight said he wants to examine how NPPA is marketed, not only externally to the photographic industry and general public but internally as well, to the membership itself.

Before The Hormone Foundation, Straight was the senior director of Medical and Community Programs and Development for The National Kidney Foundation of the National Capital Area in Washington, DC, where he managed their program staff along with their development team. He was responsible for overseeing their professional, community, and patient education programs, as well as their corporate relations plan, sponsorships, grants, and donation programs.

"It's important to look at NPPA as a whole, and have a vision for it, and a strategic plan. Creating a strategic plan is one of the most important things an organization can do," Straight said. "I also want to do a membership survey, for me, because I want to know who they are, and what they're doing, and what they're looking for from us and what's missing." Straight says he wants to sit down with the leadership and the volunteers and to challenge them. "I want to ask, 'What can we be doing differently?'"

Straight is a native Washingtonian and lived for more than three decades in the DC area. He now lives with his wife and their two small children in Cary, NC, where he's been working as a consultant for The Hormone Foundation since the beginning of this year. "It was a great job and I love DC, but the siren call of North Carolina's nicer way of life got me. We moved to Cary in December of 2006 looking for a better way of life, and to raise the kids, and we love it."

After graduating from the University of Delaware in 1995 with a B.A. in psychology, Straight was a child and adolescent mental health associate at the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents in Rockville, MD, where he counseled seriously emotionally disturbed young adults for five years. He then joined the programs department of the Kidney Foundation, where his job was to raise money for large-scale programs and implement new programs.

"The search committee put in 10 months on this search," Joe Elbert, assistant managing editor for photography at The Washington Post, said today. Elbert was chairman of the committee assigned to find executive director candidates. "We brought the list of 50 top national candidates down to a dozen finalists for telephone interviews, and ultimately we met with six super finalists at the NPPA office in Durham. We all agreed that NPPA and the photojournalism industry are at a tipping point. NPPA has 10,000 journalists as members, and we felt it was time to bring in an executive director who will act as a guide to the leadership, staff, and volunteers of NPPA. We kept asking ourselves, 'How can we make sure we hire a director who will add value to the individual membership?’"

The other members of the search committee were Overman; NPPA's immediate past president Alicia Wagner Calzada; John Long, an NPPA past president who recently retired from The Hartford Courant; and NPPA past president Manny Sotelo of KUSA-TV 9News in Denver.

Elbert said that he's hired a lot of photographers and editors during his newspaper career, but he thinks the search for NPPA's new executive director was "one of the most important hiring processes that I've ever been a part of."

Overman added, "I really have to thank the staff and the Board for their patience during this transition time. I think we will all come to agree that it was worth the wait."

The search for a new executive director began last May when Greg Garneau announced his retirement, effective August 31. Garneau was NPPA's executive director for five years. He decided to spend time doing extensive travel with his wife, Carole, and visiting their oldest son Will in Africa, where he's serving in the Peace Corps, and their other son Jeff, who is finishing college.