An opinion piece by Michael P. King, WNPA Secretary and Contest Coordinator
UPDATE 1/15/2013: View volunteer opportunities here!
As a member of the Wisconsin News Photographers Association or the Wisconsin photojournalism community, you need to know that all is not well with our organization. You need to know that – without intervention – the organization may not survive much longer.
We were founded in 1948. We were to be an advocacy organization that would champion newspaper and television photographers as equals in newsrooms. We were to champion their work as vital to understanding local and world events, as much as a writer’s words. Sixty years later, as business models appear to crumble, as journalists-once-staffers enter an ultra-competitive freelance market, and as we are assaulted or arrested for photographing or filming in public, new challenges are on our horizon. Yet, we believe that what we do is still important, and our need for advocacy is just as great.
WNPA has done its very best to address these challenges recently. A renewed advocacy campaign has taken Wisconsin public officials to task when they have infringed on our First Amendment rights. Our annual conventions have brought-in timely guest speakers to help educate and inspire us for the future. And through our annual contest, WNPA has continued to stand by its mission to educate students and professionals alike by judging and applauding the best work in the state of Wisconsin.
But for several years now it has been a real struggle to continue all of this great programming without raising fees on members. Now we are left with little to work with. It takes funds to do what WNPA does. The 2012 Convention cost the organization more than $5,000 and did not break-even. More importantly, it takes human capital to do what WNPA does. A few key volunteers, who have given several years of hard work to the organization, stepped away for much-deserved respite.
In many ways, the economy has not been kind to us. Our membership has certainly declined as members leave the profession. Those of us who remain have more assignments at work, and more demands on our time when we come home. Outside organizations like the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, and companies like Canon and Nikon, have shown unwavering support for us at critical times. In some years, particularly, their help was a godsend.
In 2012, WNPA had a student and professional POY contest, as well as a world-class convention that really rocked. When I look into my crystal ball, I unfortunately cannot see the same happening in 2013. These programs are significant undertakings. Our financial and volunteer resources are far too slim. I fear the excitement from last year doesn’t seem to have carried forward.
As the contest coordinator, I can promise you that I can find a way to deliver a POY contest that would financially break-even for the organization – if there is interest. But as a volunteer who also serves as the organization’s secretary and webmaster, and the National Press Photographers Association’s secretary, I cannot take on more than that.
I hesitated writing this, as it is a vulnerable admission of WNPA’s struggles and – yes – some failures. But we cannot pretend that everything is fine anymore and we cannot continue on our current course.
What WNPA needs – right now – is a dedicated group of volunteers who will give a little bit of their personal time to help bring the organization back to its full glory. We need people who can plan a fiscally responsible convention. We need people who can look at our financial situation and come up with a revenue plan. We need people with new ideas for year-round events and programming. We need people who can help breathe additional life into our website. We need people who can help us recruit members from around the state, and excite what I know deep down is a passionate membership. We need plans for all of these areas of concern. Then, we need people to execute.
Or we can dissolve.
That’s really what it all comes down to: WNPA needs you now more than ever.