A year in review

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I think it is important for members to know the inner workings of an organization, so, along those lines I’m using my President’s Report to the Board of Directors as my last President’s Column.
I hope members will forgive me for the formality of the column and, conversely, hope the board will forgive the familiarity of same.
We sold the condo. I say “we” because it was a team effort that started with OWAA Past President John Beath and carried over through my term. John set the stage for this sale and credit for it should be split between him and OWAA Executive Director Robin Giner. They did the lion’s share of the work. History will show the condo sold during my term, but Beath and Giner deserve the credit for getting it sold.
If you would like the details of the sale, contact OWAA staff. Just let me say this, Beath and Giner orchestrated the sale so OWAA makes money. They are to be congratulated for making that happen.
After we repay money “loaned” to us from the Endowment Trustees to purchase the condo (we have about $74,000 we need to repay the trustees), the remainder of the money from the sale will go into a fund designed for OWAA to use in the future for purchasing a new headquarters building that is totally ours. That may not happen for a while, and that’s OK. We aren’t losing anything while we rent office space in Missoula. I urge the board and officers not to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire (hopefully, we’ll wait a while before we purchase another building) until we see what our real needs are in the next couple of years.
But any way you look at it, not having the condo around our necks is a welcome relief.
Perhaps my biggest disappointment is our membership numbers.
Despite strong efforts by many on our board, by our individual members and our staff, our numbers continue to drop.
While we aren’t alone (the same is happening to our sister organizations throughout the country), it’s tough to watch the numbers fall.
Part of the problem is our age. Our membership is not getting any younger — though it needs to — meaning we need new blood and we need it now.
The economy many thought was on an upward trend, still isn’t playing nice and definitely is hurting groups like OWAA. Our members are being hit hard around every corner as they try to sell their work to magazines, newspapers and websites.
The ad support for all of magazines and newspapers isn’t what it used it used to be and it may never be again.
Add to that the changes in the way we communicate and it is easy to see why folks aren’t lining up to join or renew their memberships in media groups.
But the news isn’t all bad. We are seeing some increases in specific areas of our membership, and, if our new blogger membership category becomes a reality (which it should), we should be able to add many new members (and pick up many renewals from former members).
I urge all of you reading this to work hard to help OWAA – and other media groups — add members to our rolls.
Our first Goldenrod Workshop, held last August in Missoula on the campus of the University of Montana, was a grand success. Former OWAA President Joel Vance’s vision became reality and with his and many, many others’ hard work, it took flight.
However, the economy still isn’t helping and despite our best efforts, round two will not happen this year.
The year was 1978 and I was a new reporter at a small weekly newspaper in southeast Missouri when the aforementioned Vance called me (and sent a letter via U.S. Postal Service – aka post office) urging me to join OWAA. I still have that letter somewhere.
He was working for the Missouri Department of Conservation and had seen an outdoor column I was writing for the newspaper and thought I should join. I hesitated for a couple of years but finally bit the bullet, paid the fees and mailed in the application and was accepted. I had moved to a daily newspaper by then.
I’m not sure I ever thanked him for prompting me to join OWAA. If I failed to do that, well, “Thanks, Joel.”
My membership in OWAA has opened a thousand doors for me and allowed me to see and experience events this Southeast Missouri Swamp Rat never knew existed.
A lot of you helped along the way. So, as president, I get to take up some space here and say thanks:
Mike Walker and Pete Johnson: They asked me to serve on an outdoor writer’s marine “council” for one of their clients when they were in business together back in the ’70s. The introductions from that group helped me open many of the doors I spoke about earlier.
Mark Thomas: Mark now heads up marketing for National Shooting Sports Foundation, but back when he was shooting video for Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo., he answered my cry for help — as in, “help me find a new job” — and personally took my resume to a magazine and urged them to hire me … which they did.
Bill Vanderford: A former Formula II race car driver in Europe, award-winning travel and outdoor writer, “Lake Sidney Lanier’s oldest guide service operator,” longtime OWAA and SEOPA member and genuine all-around good guy, he has been a mentor to me since the day I met him nearly 40 years ago. I doubt there is anyone, anywhere, better to kick around the world with – this I know from experience.
Thayne Smith: Pushed me in all the right directions early in my career. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for his help.
I’ve only listed five persons, but my thank you list is longer than my leg and I know I’m out of room here. So, thanks to all of you who have helped me get to where I am today. You will always be part of my family. ♦
— Tony Dolle, OWAA President dolle@tds.net

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