We held a long overdue gathering for the board of directors and regular members on January 18. It was a real pleasure to get together and discuss the state of the FCCJ in person.

Several past presidents and many board members from previous administrations attended, and all contributed insights from their years of experience. I'd like to give a brief overview of the questions raised and answers given.

First, many members asked about the financial state of the club. They are aware that membership suffered during the pandemic and therefore membership dues – our primary source of revenue – has declined. Treasurer Mehdi Bassiri gave a detailed account of our current cash position and our monthly financial performance. We do have significant financial pressures, but he offered reassurances that there is no need to panic. The critical issue for our future will be rebuilding membership and establishing additional sources of revenue.

Fortunately, Dave McCombs, a new board member and co-chair of our membership marketing committee, has brought many fresh ideas to efforts to attract new people to the club. He is working with co-chair Keiko Packard and our organization's staff to step up this campaign. He is also exploring a new Press Freedom Fellowship that would allow corporate and individual donors to make contributions that would fund memberships for additional journalists. If you would like to support Dave in this critical effort, please reach out to him directly at

Dan Sloan, a former president who joined in person, made an impassioned plea that we have a broad discussion of our membership composition. In particular, he asked about revising our membership definitions to be more inclusive, including for example with academics who would be able to contribute to our culture and lack a comparable club of their own. We promised to discuss this matter further. Georges Baumgartner, one of our longest standing members and another former president, advised that we make rebuilding the membership our top priority.

We continue to engage with our landlord, Mitsubishi, about rent and maintenance fees that have weighed on the club's finances. Khaldon Azhari, another former president, offered forceful advice about our negotiations. Isabel Reynolds, our first vice president who is leading the negotiations, is in regular touch with Mitsubishi and has had a strong track record of successful discussions. 

We talked at length about our food and beverage operations, where we have several significant differences with our vendors. This is a difficult situation. Both of the companies we partner with have argued that they are struggling financially and they want more support from the club. This will be difficult given our own standing, but Drini Kakuchi and the F&B committee are working to address these issues.

Perhaps most important, the regular members urged the board to convene a gathering with the full membership of the club to provide everyone with an opportunity to hear about these issues directly and ask any questions they may have. We have tentatively scheduled this meeting for the full membership on the evening of February 20. We ask everyone who is able to attend in person or over Zoom.

I want to apologize personally to Haruko Watanabe, who was good enough to join via Zoom and then tried to ask questions in vain. We unfortunately did not have a structure set up to recognize her requests.

And special thanks must go to Anthony Rowley, a board member and former president who suggested the January gathering and has advocated we hold such events more frequently. He made a compelling case for everyone who is a member to lend a hand in supporting the club in these trying times. If everyone took it upon themselves to recruit one new member, it would make a significant difference to our future.

We hope to see you on February 20.