News Archive

NPPA Budget Moves: Membership Expectations/Todd Stricker

by Todd Stricker

Pretty much all of us hate it when it comes time to tackle our budgets, but at some point we do it. We make projections based on history and future expectations but we don't always get it right. That is the position we find ourselves in at NPPA at the moment. We didn't get it right and we haven't for the last few years, due partly to the economy and partly to overly optimistic projections. But the bottom line is that we got it wrong. We find ourselves short on cash and we have made some changes to address the issue.

We have eliminated two staff positions in the national office in the last six months and have found other areas to cut. One of those is the way we produce the Best of Photojournalism book. In the past the BOP book has gone through changes ranging from paper quality to whether it has a hard or soft cover. This year we are incorporating it into a greatly expanded issue of News Photographer magazine in January 2004. It will be the largest issue ever for the magazine, but not what we've come to expect in the book. It was a difficult decision but one I feel we had to make.

We have started the process of turning our financial situation around. The first step is recognizing the problem. The second is creating a plan. And the third step is pulling together to make it happen. To make this financial turnaround a success, we need your support.

Your membership in NPPA is really what this is all about. In the last few months there has been more praise and recognition of the changes in this magazine than at any other time while I've been on the Board. Based on those responses and on other conversations, I believe the magazine and our educational programs are the membership benefits that you cherish the most. To assure that we can continue to deliver them, we have made these changes, and we hope that you will understand. We need you to tell us what the most important benefits are to you in your membership. Please contact your Regional Directors and Associate Directors, and tell us what your membership expectations are.

Todd Stricker can be reached at [email protected]


NPPA Budget Moves: Make Cuts Across Entire Budget/Michael Sherer

by Michael Sherer

There is a classic moment in the film "Network" where TV anchor Howard Beale opens a window and yells, "I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!" This is my Howard Beale moment. I am mad as hell about our budget crisis. I believe that we got ourselves into this mess through a series of faulty assumptions and miserable financial management. I believe that we got into this disaster by moving away from our long-standing tradition of volunteer support for our major activities and educational events. This move began when the Board adopted the fy2002-2003 budget that included an increase of $176,800 for additional national office staff members.

I was the chair of the Finance Committee that built this budget. I had reservations that I shared with the Board via eMail in advance of our annual meeting. Not to worry, the Executive Director eMailed the Board on April 25, 2002. These additional staff members would generate $195,000 in "incremental revenue" from sponsorships, memberships, product sales, and cost savings for our educational events. This new professional team, we were told, would pay for itself. Obviously, this has not happened.

This sort of blue-sky budget building has made a major contribution to my anger. Add to this the fact that the Executive Director eMailed the Board that, "Organizations go bankrupt when they run out of cash and you can see by this report that the NPPA is a long way from that. The total cash balances for the Association stood at $862,573 on March 31, 2002 and have held steady since then."

Compare that statement with the fact that our latest auditor's report shows that in fy2002-2003, our cash reserves dropped from $963,791 to $619,638; a net cash loss of $344,153. And the news only gets worse. In early November, the Executive Committee was told that if we wanted to keep the NPPA from running out of cash by mid-December, we had to make major spending cuts. A final decision, we were told, had to be made immediately in order to cancel the book printing contract for The Best of Photojournalism 2003.

Fortunately, we managed to get a short time extension. This gave the book editor a chance to renegotiate our contract with the printer. A solid plan, which included major cost savings and a payment schedule that would not begin until January 2004 was offered to the EC. This plan was shared with the Board. A majority of the Board liked the plan and encouraged the EC to move ahead.

Unfortunately, when the final vote came with a budgetary gun held to our heads, three EC members felt that we needed to take the financial bullet by killing the BOP book. I disagreed.

Make no mistake; I am not a financial whiz. But I also think I am not an idiot. I have a Ph.D. in journalism. I have been an active member of the NPPA for 20 years. I believe that I have the mental capacity and sense of institutional history to help guide us through this mess.

I believe that we must make serious across-the-board spending cuts in our entire budget rather than relying on the financial cherry-picking process that was used to eliminate the BOP book. I believe that if we return to our tradition of a heavily volunteer-based association, we will work our way out of this financial crisis. I will continue to argue this because I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!  


National TV Contest Has New Categories

 For the first time, the NPPA's 2003 Best Of TV Photojournalism contest will present a Station of the Year award to three different stations in three separate divisions: Large Market (1-34), Medium Market (35-69), and Small Market (70-212). You can check your market size at <>.

This year the contest rules committee is also adding a new topical category that will recognize excellence in photojournalism for coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There will also be a Judges' Choice award given, at their discretion, to the story they feel most exemplifies the ideals of television photojournalism. For more details on these and other rule changes for this year's contest, please go to the contest page. 


Board Votes To Increase Dues

  After much consideration, the board of directors voted to increase NPPA annual membership dues. We raised the dues only after long and serious discussion. I want to say that right up front so there is no misunderstanding. A dues increase was on the agenda at the annual board meeting in June in Chicago and it was voted down. But after looking at our financial options it came up again. The last dues increase came in the mid-1990's. Just the cost of living increase from then until now would have put the dues at a little over $95.00. We've kept it below that, raising it to $90.00. That said, NPPA membership is still a bargain.

Over the past few months many board members have talked with you about the possible dues increase, and most people seem to understand the need for it. Part of the need is evident in the changes in News Photographer magazine, which is undergoing a series of changes designed not only to enhance it visually but also to improve the content. The NPPA Web site is also undergoing a major overhaul.

The truth of the matter is that it's costing more than ever to provide the services we do, and in today's business climate finding and keeping sponsorship dollars isn't easy. The "Best of Photojournalism" book costs $85,000, the "TV Best of Photojournalism" DVD is more than $20,000, and the magazine's annual budget is approximately $400,000. These costs don't include our educational events, the mentoring program, portfolio critiques, and other events and services that NPPA provides.

Each of these items is important to you. It's important to us to provide them to you. The board of directors consists of working people like you; we all understand what it costs in work hours to earn every dollar. Increasing dues is never an easy decision to make, and we hope that you will understand and see the value in NPPA.

The dues increase does not go into effect until January 1, 2004. Knowing this, you can still renew early and pay the current rate of $75.00. It's never easy to raise dues, but we hope you understand it's necessary to do this now so that we can continue to provide the services that you expect and deserve. 


NPPA Budget Moves: Moves Are Necessary For Future/Greg Garneau

by Greg Garneau

The NPPA is in the midst of an operating turnaround. The Executive Committee and the staff are making good progress in addressing a structural deficit that is in the range of $300,000 dollars a year. The deficit was identified during the budgeting process of 2002 but initiatives taken last year to build revenue -- such as the new member drive -- did not pan out. As a result of shortfalls in projected revenue, coupled with operating deficits at our events and at the magazine last year, plus the heavy and ongoing expenses of producing the Best Of Photojournalism Contest DVD's and yearbook ($170,536 in total), our audit report will show an actual deficit totaling $344,787.

Although the Board passed a balanced budget in Chicago last June there are certain fiscal realities that must be faced. A dues increase has been announced which will address part of the problem, but last year member dues covered only 39% of the overall expenses of the Association.

Our corporate sponsors continue to be generous with us. Strenuous efforts are being made to shore up and increase our income from corporate sources. Yet we have to be prepared for future setbacks in this area. Attendance has been down at our educational events. This is a trend witnessed by many other associations and again is a product of the current economy. Cumulative losses at NPPA events last fiscal year totaled $67,424. In the fiscal year ending May 2002 the NPPA spent $195,899 on salaries and benefits. In the fiscal year ending May 2003 the NPPA spent $323,969 on salaries and benefits. One full-time position was therefore eliminated in April 2003.

This month the Executive Committee ordered the NPPA office staff to cut its personnel budget by a further 10% (for the remaining portion of the fiscal year) effective immediately. This meant a 20% cut on an annual basis or one full-time position. This position was eliminated last week. The remaining staff (5 full-time equivalents) understands the need for these measures and supports the Executive Committee at this difficult time.

Certain operating savings (such as online elections, streamlining the audit process, a new vendor for member cards, and the dues increase) amount to $121,000 dollars for the remainder of the fiscal year or $228,000 dollars annually.

Another change promises to solve several long-standing problems and save as much as $50,000 dollars annually, if not more. This year the Best of Photojournalism 2003 hardbound book commemorating the contest for still photographers was projected to cost about $85,000 dollars to produce and mail. The annual book has been criticized for appearing late in the year (this is due to the budgeting and approval process), for carrying ads, for being too expensive, and for not being very easy to sell to the general public. The Executive Committee has decided that instead of producing the hardbound book, the yearbook will appear as a special issue of News Photographer. In the future the issue will be produced live from the judging site as winners are selected. It will go to press shortly thereafter as a high quality softbound -- shades of the "Year in Pictures" issues that Life and Look magazines published annually. The special issue will address all of the problems mentioned above and will be timely and cost significantly less, but with the same content.