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OWAA Board votes to revise membership criteria

MISSOULA, Mont. – By electronic vote on March 28, 2012, the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s Board of Directors approved comprehensive changes to the membership criteria. In accordance with the association bylaws, Section 18.2, these changes will be put before the full voting membership (Active, Senior-Active and Life members) of OWAA for approval or rejection on the Spring 2012 ballot, to be tallied May 4.

In reviewing the criteria and application process, it was the goal of OWAA’s board to simplify the process and reduce confusion due to the lengthy list of criteria options.

“To attract new members, we need membership criteria that are easy to understand and easy to fill out. An OWAA board committee came up with a new set of criteria to achieve this. I hope that you support this initiative and vote ‘yes’ on the ballot,” said Matt Miller, board member and member of the ad hoc committee in charge of the revisions.

The fully proposed changes to the membership criteria are reflected below. To find out more about why these changes are needed and how the proposed changes compare to other membership-based associations, read this article by Matt Miller.

Ballots will be sent to eligible members on April 1, with votes due to OWAA headquarters no later than May 1, 2012.


You qualify as an Active Member of OWAA if you meet one of the following:

  1. You have sold and published—in any media—five stories, articles, photographs, videos or illustrations on outdoor-related topics in the past year.
  2. You have published a book or worked on an income-producing film on outdoor-related topics in the past five years.
  3. You are a full-time outdoor communicator in any media. Please see below for a list of qualifying positions.
  4. You are a citizen journalist who writes for a blog or other digital media that is updated with original content at least twice a month and receives 500 AUVs (Average Unique Views) per month over a 12-month period, or generates income.

If you do not qualify for Active Member status, you qualify as an Associate Member if you produce some of the work described above.  A student enrolled at a college or university pursuing studies involving outdoors or communications qualifies as a Student Member.

OWAA’s bylaws and Board regulate the membership classes, criteria, and application process, and supplement and control what is said here.  All applications must be made on a form approved by the OWAA Board, which will require that the applicant agree to be bound by certain principles of the organization, including the OWAA Code of Ethics.

Applicants for Active or Associate Member status must be sponsored by an OWAA Active Member.  Both the applicant and the sponsor must verify that the applicant qualifies for the membership sought.  Headquarters can recruit sponsors for those desiring to apply and lacking a sponsor.  An applicant for Student Member status must submit verification from an instructor or administrator that the applicant is enrolled in a qualifying course of study.

All members must continue to meet membership criteria while in OWAA and may be subject to periodic credential reviews.

OWAA individual membership is intended to improve the personal and professional skills of our members. Individual membership should not be used to promote products, agencies, organizations or businesses.
Professionals working in the following areas qualify for OWAA membership. Other professionals may apply; consult with headquarters with questions.

  • A.  Newspaper or Magazine writer, columnist, editor, designer or staff member: Works in one of these capacities for print or online publications.
  • B.  Newspaper or Magazine freelancer: Works for print or online publications on a contract basis.
  • C.  Photographer/Videographer: Works for magazines, E-zines or other outdoor-related publications.
  • D.  Illustrator, Cartoonist or Artist: Published in any medium.
  • E.  Film Editor, Scriptwriter, Director or Producer: Works in one of these capacities on a full-length film or video.
  • F.  Broadcast Scriptwriter, Editor, Photographer, Director or Producer: Works on television or aired video production in one of these capacities. Guest appearances do not qualify.
  • G.  Book Author, Editor, Designer or Producer: Works on a published book in any of these capacities.
  • H.  Lecturer/Educator/Instructor/Nature Interpreter: Works in any of these capacities.
  • I.  Full-Time Employee of Nonprofit Conservation or Recreation Agency: Public relations, publications and public information staff, and others who disseminate outdoor or recreational information.
  • J.  Employee of Outdoor-Related Industries, Agencies, Associations or Organizations: Public relations and marketing staff.

OWAA is The Voice of the Outdoors®. The Outdoor Writers Association of America is the oldest and largest association of professional outdoor communicators in the United States. It was organized in 1927 by members of the Izaak Walton League of America and includes professional communicators dedicated to sharing the outdoor experience. OWAA’s professionals include writers, photographers, outdoors radio- and television-show hosts, book authors, videographers, lecturers and artists. The association is headquartered in Missoula, Mont. For more information, contact Robin Giner, executive director, Outdoor Writers Association of America, 615 Oak St., Ste. 201, Missoula, Mont. 59801; 406-728-7434,;

2 Responses to OWAA Board votes to revise membership criteria

  1. Edward Ricciuti March 29, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Comments shared on behalf of Edward Ricciuti:

    I really think it is a shame that the OWAA nowoffers membership to bloggers who do not derive income from their writing. They are NOT professionals. It diminshes the value of membership for those of us who have the skill to be paid for our work, especically those of us who are serious, trained journalists and report in other specialties besides outdoor writing. Any wannabe can blog.


    I am not a snob but I have begun to suspect that, in its quest for members, OWAA is weakening its standards. I have felt this way for quite some time. We have some top communicators in the organization but also lots of borderline members. Many of them would not meet the standards of other groups to which I belong, the National Association of Science Writers and Overseas Press Club of America.

    Ed Ricciuti, March 29, 2012

  2. Michael Furtman March 30, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I voted against the membership criteria change precisely because of the addition of bloggers. Blogging as an addition to your other qualifying credentials is one thing. But to allow people to join OWAA, who simply post to a blog, lowers our standards.

    I realize OWAA wants to increase membership. But larger isn’t necessarily better. Our standards have never been more inclusive than they are today. If an individual can’t meet the present standards — if they can’t find a way to actually sell their work — then they do not belong in our organization. It would be better to have a smaller, more professional organization that helps those that do qualify to prosper, than to create a category for those who work for little or no pay. In a sense, these writers, like those photographers who practically give their images away through the online “royalty free” stock agencies, are actually harming those of us that produce professional work and expect to be paid commensurately. Flooding the market with free (or cheap) images or information, even if said images or writing is excellent in quality, is detrimental to the future of paid, professional writers and photographers.

    As a thirty year member of OWAA, who has worked hard to acquire the respect of editors, publishers and art directors, and have been rewarded with sales and assignments, I would find it insulting if we add a category that allows individuals to qualify simply because someone viewed their efforts. What’s next, a category for those with a Facebook page and 500 friends? Seriously. It isn’t much different.

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