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Number 1 Shimbun

From the President's desk

 

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The holiday and travel season is fast approaching, along with opportunities to enjoy FCCJ’s reciprocal ties with press clubs abroad. We’ve got a total of 13 in Asia, the U.S. and Canada. Please have a look at the list on our new FCCJ website: www.fccj.or.jp/membership/reciprocal-clubs.html

I recently visited the National Press Club (www.press.org) in Washington, D.C. and the Overseas Press Club of America (www.opcofamerica.org) in New York City to strengthen our ties and meet with old and new friends.

At the National Press Club I had the great pleasure of reconnecting with Myron Belkind, FCCJ president from 2003-2004. After 43-years at Associated Press, Myron is now teaching at George Washington University’s School of Media & Public Affairs, and overseeing the NPC as vice president. He’s slated to become president next year. (The announcement will be in December.)

The NPC is located in the heart of D.C. not far from the White House, and occupies an array of elegant rooms, restaurants and office space spread across two floors. My jaw dropped when I saw their fully staffed Broadcast Operations Center. The fitness center with in-house trainer was another eye opener.

Myron revealed the NPC has had four consecutive years with profits of more than $1 million and hopes to be near that level this year. They’ve eliminated their long-term debt and built reserves of nearly $3 million.

This achievement comes from a five-year strategic plan from 2009-2013 led by executive director Bill McCarren and successive boards of governors. Before this, the Club had substantial debt, no reserves, and a business model producing operating losses.

How did they go from loss to profit? Disciplined belt-tightening, a change of course, new goals and new revenue streams. Interestingly, we share several challenges and goals going forward. They’re now focusing on attracting young members, as their membership is shrinking and aging. They’re also considering corporate memberships, and exploring strategic partnerships.

The National Press Club’s financial turnaround is inspiring indeed, and a great example for the FCCJ to work from. It’s time we created our own five-year strategic plan.

At the Overseas Press Club of America I connected with executive director Sonya Fry and veteran journalist and author Bill Holstein. Bill was formerly posted to Hong Kong and Beijing and has visited Japan often over the years.

The OPC publishes an informative monthly newsletter and the Dateline magazine, published once a year for their annual awards dinner in April. The special edition features winners of the 22 Overseas Press Club Awards. The annual awards are for international coverage published or broadcast in the U.S. or by a U.S.-based company, or accessible to an American audience. The 2013 awards entry deadline is Jan. 30, 2014. The awards dinner is April 24, 2014.

Like many press clubs, the OPC’s membership and facilities have been shrinking but the Club continues to be a powerful voice for press freedom and human rights. In Dateline, OPC President Michael Serrill writes: “Covering the world has never been more dangerous. And while we at the OPC complain that the band of reporters traveling beyond our shores is constantly shrinking, the number of people targeted by the authorities is rapidly expanding.”

It’s more important than ever to protect press freedom and honor those who brave the reporting dangers. I’d like to propose the FCCJ establish one if not several awards similar to the Overseas Press Club. Please let me know if you are interested in helping organize this.

Finally, Sonya Fry told me about the International Association of Press Clubs established in 2002 and based in Dubai, UAE at the Dubai Press Club. Please have a look at their website: www.iapressclubs.org. I’ll be contacting them about the FCCJ joining their important networking organization.

Lucy Birmingham

 

Published in: November

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