Editorial: WNPA’s fate is in the hands of its members

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.

4 Responses to “Editorial: WNPA’s fate is in the hands of its members”

  1. Ron Page says:

    Mike,

    I haven’t seen much response to your post so I don’t know if there are volunteers flooding your inbox or if it has been silent. Several of us in Appleton have talked. It’s clear from your post that we (photojournalists in the state) are to the point where we need to get together and figure out where WNPA is going not only this year but for the future. What about a meeting of all interested parties in Milwaukee, Madison or Appleton late this month or early February? I would think with travel/meeting we would be talking a day of time no matter where we gather.

    If WNPA wants to continue as the voice of Wisconsin’s photojournalists and honor the rich legacy of photojournalism from the state then now’s the time for as many of us as possible to figure out a solution or as you point out, we can dissolve. Like you, I would hope that can be avoided.

    Your request for volunteers in specific areas was to the point but I suspect that some that might be considering helping out need to know the reality of the time involved so they can make a judgement on how much help they can offer.

    Is there a date or two we can put out there for drawing as many of us as possible and get something moving? Even if someone can’t be in attendance there are plenty of phones with speakers.

    Ron

  2. Patrick says:

    Hi Ron~
    Please let me know when and where if possible… Thanks in advance!

  3. Dan Currier says:

    Greetings Mike,
    I would be very interested in becoming a volunteer with WNPA. The only thing, though, is I left the Portage Daily Register in April (not by my choice) and returned to Chicago so I could collect my unemployment. In June, I decided to retire so I could receive my social security and pension. So, I now have plenty of time to devote to projects. I am freelancing in photography, doing corporate photography for business and governments through Paddock Publications (owners of the Daily Herald, where I worked for 19 years). I am also doing photos for theater and art groups. I plan to return to Wisconsin for good, but that depends on how my photo business goes in Chicago. I still want to be a member of WNPA and could help out in many areas. I get up to Milwaukee a couple times a month to visit family. Please let me know how I can help if you can use me. Remember, I grew up in Milwaukee, went to UWM and worked for the old Milwaukee Sentinel. I never turned in my cheesehead.

    Dan Currier
    (847) 507-8671

  4. Tim Gleason says:

    Ron,

    If you guys in Appleton want to work on something in our area with Mike, any interest in coming down to UW Oshkosh? I can check on a room in the journalism department. This may be a useful meeting site in the future.

    Tim

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