Deadline Club Insider: Straight from the Desk of the Club’s President

December 30, 2013 – Friends, New Year’s presents a natural invitation to look back on the year, my last as The Deadline Club’s president, and I am pleased to report that The Club is healthier, wealthier and wiser than it has been in recent memory. As I tap out my second year-end letter to members, we have greater financial reserves, an incoming board representing more media companies, and a very deep bench of future Deadline Club leaders.

In my final Deadline Club Insider, you’ll find information about:

  • The revival of the New York Journalism Hall of Fame
  • The Club’s growing financial strength
  • Advocacy positions we’ve taken during the year
  • Why we deserve SPJ’s large Chapter of the Year award
  • An introduction to the new governing board, which takes office on New Year’s Day

New Beginnings

Everything that was old can be new again, and that includes Deadline Club traditions. This fall we revived the New York Journalism Hall of Fame, one of our key rituals, which had been dormant for 13 years. As second acts go, this was an unrivalled success. More than 150 members and friends packed the banquet room at Sardi’s Restaurant to celebrate the careers of eight iconic New York journalists: Cindy Adams, Jimmy Breslin, Graydon Carter, Bob Herbert, Carol Loomis, Linda Mason, Bill Moyers and Norman Pearlstine.

The Club established the Hall of Fame in 1975 as part of its golden anniversary celebration. From the beginning, it was conceived as a lifetime achievement award recognizing reporters, writers, correspondents, editors, publishers and media executives whose work had made a significant contribution to American journalism. Walter Cronkite was numbered among the original class, with later honorees including William Safire, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Mike Wallace and Gloria Steinem. Two previous Hall of Famers were in the audience for our recent celebration: Barbara Walters was a guest of Cindy Adams, while Pete Hamill sat at the Daily News table.

A tremendous amount of research went into reviving this tradition. Among other things, we needed to redesign the medals, the molds to the previous medals having been lost in the intervening years. The new design reflects not only our connection with New York, but also the organization’s support for the freedom of speech and of the press. (Learn more about the Hall of Fame.) In previous years, the Hall of Fame wasn’t held on a regular schedule. Prior to 2000, the most recent events were in 1999 and 1995. However, the board has decided to make this an annual tradition each November. I will be serving as the Hall of Fame committee chair, and the board will consider nominations for the new class of honorees each spring.

Prospering Amidst Adversity

It’s no secret that our profession is being squeezed by market forces and media companies have fewer resources to devote to professional organizations. It gives me all the more pleasure to report that our club is financially stronger than ever.

This was the first year that the combined revenues and expenses from the awards contest and dinner were managed by The Club’s treasurer, a change the board voted on last year. (Read a detailed description of this policy in my 2012 year-end letter to members). The new approach has vastly improved the consistency and clarity of The Club’s budget. Previously, we suffered sporadic cash crunches during the lean period of the year before the money from ticket sales for the Annual Awards Dinner started rolling in. Those days are gone. What’s more, now that we have a better handle on the expenses, we might find ways to improve the profit margin in years to come, generating even more funds for our programming and scholarships.

Since we digitized the awards contest last year, the awards program has grown by leaps and bounds. Revenues from entry fees, awards dinner tickets and sponsorships have risen to nearly $100,000 this year, generating a profit just shy of $15,000. Until we revived our Hall of Fame, our annual awards were the primary source of income supporting all of our initiatives. This year, the Hall of Fame generated a profit of $6,000, on revenues of $23,000, a tremendous sum for this event’s first year back.

In the future, with major fundraisers in the spring and fall, it should be much easier to balance our revenues and expenses throughout the year.

Of course, December is the season of giving, and The Club continues its long charitable tradition. Our primary charity passes through The Deadline Club Foundation, which provides scholarships to journalism students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The board voted to donate $5,000 to our foundation after the Annual Awards Dinner and another $3,000 after the Hall of Fame. We’re also donating the proceeds from the holiday party’s silent auction, roughly $200. Combined with The Foundation’s other fundraising, this should keep the Deadline Club scholarships flowing. Until a few years ago, we gave $2,000 to $3,000 each year in scholarships, but the awards program wasn’t as prosperous then. How times change. Last year we awarded $7,500 in scholarships, with the figure rising to $10,000 this year. The board also voted earlier this year to donate $500 to the SPJ Regional Fund.

Stepping back a moment to take a look at the big picture, The Club is on a much stronger financial footing than it was just a short while ago, although a bit of thrift is still in order. I am famous for reminding board members that when I joined six years ago the Club only had $10,000 in the bank. Fortunately, our wherewithal had improved by the time I took office, and we had around $20,000 in savings. We’ve increased that figure by about $15,000 over the last two years. So while we have been giving money away, we’ve also been socking it away for a rainy day. But just like a family that is saving for a down payment on a house, we haven’t quite reached “the number.” The best way to run a non-profit like ours is to have enough money in the bank to pay our bills a year in advance so that the revenues flowing in from ticket sales and sponsorships replenishes the kitty for the following year. We’re still in the position of having to pay our way as we go, with the contest entry fees and dinner tickets covering the expenses for the same year’s awards program. I’ve set a long-term savings goal for the board to raise our reserves up to $80,000 to $100,000. Once we create this financial cushion, we’ll have more resources to produce our high-quality events, award scholarships and become an even greater force for good in the New York journalism community.

Taking a Stand

The year 2013 began with a bang, when New York State shoehorned language into a new gun control law severely limiting access to the state’s gun ownership records. In our opinion, this was a gross overreaction to the decision by one suburban newspaper to publish gun permit records. After an impassioned discussion in our January board meeting, we published a statement defending public gun records in the Advocacy section of our website. (Read the statement.) This inspired The Club to produce an ethics panel in April called “Privacy Versus the Right to Know.”

In May, we were once again outraged to learn of the federal government’s secret acquisition of The Associated Press reporters’ phone records. The Club published a letter objecting to this flagrant violation of the First Amendment by then SPJ President Sonny Albarado on our website. A few days later, I condemned this action from the podium at our Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria to enthusiastic applause from an audience of more than 200 New York journalists.

This fall, The Club co-signed a letter to the New York State governor and legislature calling on them to expand camera coverage of the state’s courtroom proceedings. Mickey H. Osterreicher, the general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association, wrote this letter and it was supported by dozens of media organizations. Negotiations are progressing, and we’re hopeful of having some good news on this front soon.

In the New Year, we plan to build on The Club’s previous advocacy. One of my first actions upon taking office in 2012 was to lead a delegation of board members who met with New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to discuss the arrests of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street protests. The board plans to ask the incoming commissioner for a similar meeting to discuss police-press relations under the new administration. Going forward, I feel confident that The Club will continue to vigorously defend the rights of New York journalists whenever it perceives a threat.

Recognition from SPJ

The Society of Professional Journalists, our parent organization, honored us with the large Chapter of the Year award at the society’s annual convention in August, the first time The Club has received this award in many years. (Read the SPJ statement.) SPJ praised The Club’s commitment to student scholarships and the money we raised for Hurricane Sandy relief with the silent auction at our holiday party.

Our organization shines because of the hard-working volunteers on our board. The Club’s annual journalism competition continues to grow under Vice President of the Awards Contest Michael Arena. We received a record 500 entries this year, up from 440 the prior year, which was already a large increase from the 300 or so in previous years. The Club’s website keeps improving under the careful stewardship of Vice President of Communications Heather Struck. Our membership roster is expanding with some extraordinary media professionals recruited by Vice President of Membership Polly Whittel. The calendar is growing as our imaginative Vice President of Events Jessica Seigel adds events like this spring’s ethics panel and this fall’s social media workshop. Our scholarship applications have quadrupled under the Scholarships committee chair, Claire Regan, who also helped design our new Hall of Fame medals. None of this work could have been accomplished without our tireless treasurer and secretary. Treasurer Colin DeVries not only balances the books, he also chairs the Student Relations committee that helped boost both the quantity and quality of our scholarship applications. Simply put, Secretary Melissa Heule makes the trains run on time. She keeps the board connected, helps run our events and never hesitates to pitch in on special projects, such as organizing the silent auction at our holiday party. Kudos to all!

A New Door Opens

The Club’s holiday party returned to Salmagundi, our home base in a historic Greenwich Village brownstone, which is nearing the end of a major reconstruction project that will make it an even more valuable asset for our members who enjoy full visiting privileges at Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue. Some 75 members and guests congregated in the atmospheric lounge, wood-paneled bar and billiard room on Thursday, Dec. 12. They were entertained by ace piano player Ron Gold, while munching on a variety of appetizers, including some delicious smoked-salmon sandwiches contributed by Green Mansions Catering at Manhattan Penthouse. In a tasty turn of events, Magnolia Bakery kicked in a donation of cupcakes, their delicious confectioneries made famous by “Sex and the City,” to round out the holiday cheer. A fun silent auction earned $200 to benefit The Deadline Club Foundation. Prizes were donated by Broadway Comedy ClubGotham Writers WorkshopIFC CenterInternational Center of PhotographyMuseum of Moving Image and The Paley Center for Media.

The Club returned to the tradition of holding its annual election at the holiday party. Rebecca Baker, who is wrapping up her term as chairwoman, announced the slate for the 2014 governing board, which won unanimous approval from the membership. As we ring in 2014, we’re celebrating a year of transition for The Club. Peter Szekely, of the Newspaper Guild of New York, will become the new president on New Year’s Day. In addition to the four vice presidents who will be returning in the same offices, we’ll have two new vice presidents moving up from the Executive Council. Mark Prendergast will become the Vice President of Special Projects and Claire Regan will become the Vice President of the Awards Dinner. Baker will join Steve Dunlop and John C. Long on the Advisory Council, which is always made up of three past presidents. Betsy Ashton, the board’s guiding light for so many years, will move from the Advisory Council to the Professional Council. As the soon-to-be immediate past president, I will automatically become the chairwoman of the board.

Our annual elections typically bring new faces to the board, and this year is no exception. Rubina Madan Fillion, of The Wall Street Journal, will join as the new assistant secretary, while Roland Jones, of Time Inc., will become the new assistant treasurer. Joining the Executive Council will be freelancer Betsy Kim, Heidi Moore, of The GuardianDan Roberts, of Fortune, and Alicia Stewart, of CNN. Please give our new board members a hearty welcome.

Best wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

Regards,

J . Alex Tarquinio
President
The Deadline Club

Keep abreast of Deadline Club news on our new and improved website, www.deadlineclub.org. Follow us on Twitter @deadlineclub.

 

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