Five OWAA members are running for three seats on OWAA’s board of directors. (Two previously announced candidates – Mark Freeman and Jim Junttila – have withdrawn from the 2009 election.) Ballots will be mailed to all Active, Senior Active and Life members by April 1 and must be returned before the May 1 election. Results will be posted at Outdoors Unlimited Online and in the “OWAA News” section of the Web site. Three elected candidates will begin serving three-year board terms on June 16, 2009. Candidates are listed alphabetically. They were asked to submit a short biography and answers to the same four questions, which were drafted by OWAA’s Board Nominating Committee. Questions:
- What do you see as the biggest challenge facing OWAA today?
- How would you revamp the Excellence in Craft (EIC) awards program/categories?
- What should OWAA be doing to improve both recruitment and retention of members?
- How many annual OWAA conferences have you attended, and how would you improve OWAA conferences in the future?
Year joined OWAA: 2001
Conferences attended: Four
Committees: No committees, but has judged EIC entries, participated in “Ask the Editors” column and served on conference panels.
Jason McGarvey has worked as a magazine writer and editor for more than a decade, most recently as editor of Outdoor America, the Izaak Walton League of America’s national conservation magazine. In October 2008, he joined the Virginia Outdoors Foundation as communications and outreach manager, overseeing publications, Web site and public relations. He lives with his wife, son and beagle in Midlothian, Va.
1. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing OWAA today? Over the years, I’ve asked several colleagues why they’re not members of OWAA. They generally give me the same reason: OWAA’s programming seems geared more toward entry-level freelancers rather than career professionals. Many professionals are way beyond writing effective query letters or using Photoshop to edit images. And, I think, they represent a huge pool of outdoor communicators that OWAA could, and should, be reaching out to. They not only would boost the organization’s membership and credibility, but also provide a great deal of expertise as mentors to newbies. However, for these folks to justify membership dues, we need to offer serious professional development, even for the most accomplished of writers and photographers.
2. How would you revamp the Excellence in Craft (EIC) awards program/categories? First, rather than categorizing the awards by topic, I would categorize them by type, such as “Best Feature Article,” “Best Newspaper Column” and “Best Radio Program.” This would both streamline the number of awards and broaden the potential topics at the same time. Second, I would encourage adding awards that appeal to supporting groups, such as “Best Magazine,” “Best Web Site,” “Best Television Series,” and so on. For supporting-group awards, the prize could be a plaque instead of money. I also think the judging process needs to be adjusted to ensure that the most qualified experts are judging the appropriate categories. As it is, speaking from experience as a past judge, I don’t think that’s always the case.
3. What should OWAA be doing to improve both recruitment and retention of members? If OWAA could ramp up the level of professional development it offers, I think it could attract a new, high-caliber group of members from some of the nation’s leading media outlets. A more professional membership would lead to more credibility, which would lead to more members. OWAA needs to establish itself as the “it” association for professionals seeking career development. Attracting high-quality members would also make OWAA a better source of networking and mentorship opportunities for young professionals looking to advance their careers.
4. How many annual OWAA conferences have you attended, and how would you improve OWAA conferences in the future? I’ve attended four conferences since becoming a member in 2001. I would encourage that as much of the programming as possible be geared toward career outdoor communicators. Rather than having workshops dominated by topics such as “10 Tips for Successful Freelancing” and “How to Create a Web Site,” try something like “What You’re Really Worth: Trends in Freelance Rates” or “Analyzing the Effectiveness of Your Web Site.” Also, I would encourage OWAA to shorten the conference from four days to three, focusing on quality rather than quantity of programming. ◊
Year joined OWAA: 2005
Conferences attended: 6
Committees: Board Nominating, Business Conduct Guidelines Review, Craft Improvement, Policy Review, Reference Manual, Contest, Technology (current chair).
From her home in the northern Rockies, Katie McKalip enjoys a wide range of outdoor activities that include big-game and upland bird hunting, freshwater fishing, rafting, skiing, camping and hiking. McKalip currently directs Western communications for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a sportsmen’s coalition. She also freelance edits. Formerly, she was publications manager for OWAA and is an active member of both OWAA and the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association. She believes strongly that OWAA members play a crucial role in sustaining the outdoor heritage that is central to our cultural identity.
1. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing OWAA today? To compete with the range of professional organizations vying for membership dollars and support, OWAA must raise its profile and reassert itself as the oldest, strongest and most prestigious group of professional outdoor communicators in the nation. In today’s precarious economic climate, journalists and businesses alike are seeking hard and quantifiable benefits when evaluating whether a group like OWAA is worth their time and money. OWAA must prove to them that our group is critical to their continued and future success in the outdoor communications arena.
2. How would you revamp the Excellence in Craft (EIC) awards program/categories? The range of contests should be simplified and condensed, sponsors should be secured for every contest in a given year, and contests with consistently low participation should be eliminated or revised. An annual review should be implemented to keep contest offerings and rules up to date and an attractive member benefit. Increased resources should be dedicated to promoting the money available via joining OWAA and entering the EIC contests.
3. What should OWAA be doing to improve both recruitment and retention of members? Expanded staff outreach can establish – in the minds of both up-and-coming and longtime communicators – that OWAA is a viable, influential, talented and growing organization that they need to partner with in order to get ahead. OWAA must work to install itself as a viable investment for organizations and industry – a venue for cultivating and expanding their commercial presence within the outdoor community and the public. We must leave no doubt that payment of annual dues in OWAA equals a sound investment in their bottom line.
4. How many annual OWAA conferences have you attended, and how would you improve OWAA conferences in the future? I attended my first conference in Columbia, Mo., in 2003 and haven’t missed a year since. I would dedicate effort toward, one, recruiting students and journalists from the regions where conferences are located and, two, growing a cadre of supporting groups and businesses that will travel from across the country to attend OWAA conferences every year. The former provides a rich pool of potential active, long-term members. The latter ensures that conferences feature money-making sessions and fun events and guarantee attendance and interest from the outdoor community at large. A concerted effort should be made to invite longtime members to lead high-profile craft improvement sessions. In my experience, the presence of these charismatic, established communicators and the mentoring they offer strengthen both our conferences and OWAA as a whole. ◊
Year joined OWAA: 2002
Conferences attended: Five
Committees: National Affairs & Environment, Membership
Matt Miller is communications director for The Nature Conservancy of Idaho, where he is responsible for writing and editing publications, photo acquisition and digital media. He is also a freelance writer specializing hunting and conservation; his articles have appeared in Bugle, Mule Deer, Game & Fish and many other periodicals. Miller has hunted big game on three continents and across the United States.
1. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing OWAA today? The biggest challenge is defining exactly what OWAA is and what it offers to a diversity of outdoor communications professionals. When I first learned about OWAA, I knew exactly what being an outdoor writer meant – it meant becoming the next Jack O’Connor. I recognize that frame of reference no longer works for many communicators, but it’s still the frame of reference many of us use. This organization has a long tradition but we need to clearly define how it’s relevant for today’s communicators. There are great examples that show (not tell) how OWAA can benefit bloggers and e-news editors, self-published authors and television stars. We must use clear examples and not rely solely on tradition.
2. How would you revamp the Excellence in Craft (EIC) awards program/categories? Despite the long list of categories, many outdoor articles don’t fit into any of them. Some of the categories are so specific and ill-defined that they discourage new members from entering. It is telling that one of the judging criteria is how well a piece fits in the category – which has little to do with excellence. Digital media, increasing in importance every year for today’s outdoor communicator, is largely ignored. I suggest the following four categories: outdoor first-person story, outdoor essay, reportage, and how-to/where-to pieces. Awards would be given for newspaper, radio, television, magazine and digital media. Photography could have its own categories. With fewer categories, it would be easier to have judges from outside of our organization.
3. What should OWAA be doing to improve both recruitment and retention of members? Most of us know and understand the process of querying editors. With vague pitches, we won’t sell stories. If we write a successful query but don’t deliver what we promise, we can forget repeat business. Let’s apply this model to marketing OWAA membership. We can offer a compelling, individualized “query” a potential new member can’t refuse – using clear examples of how OWAA membership increased business and improved skills. Getting a member to join is just the first step. Mentors can ensure new members are connected to the organization and are taking advantage of OWAA opportunities.
4. How many annual OWAA conferences have you attended, and how would you improve OWAA conferences in the future? I’ve attended the last five conferences. One of the most valuable aspects of the conference is building strong professional relationships. We should provide more opportunities like the fantastic “Meet the Editors” session, where our members can directly market their work. The conference is rich in opportunities, but we must always be sure to organize them so members can maximize those opportunities – every conference day should have clear benefits for members. I like the current format, but we should always be creative and try new sessions. ◊
MARY J. NICKUM
Year joined OWAA: 2000
Conferences attended: Eight
Committees: Outdoor Reference Manual Committee
Mary J. Nickum is a retired librarian who is now an editor and freelance writer of articles related to fish culture. Her primary focus is on science for the public. She holds a B.A. in English education and master’s degrees in librarianship and in interdisciplinary studies with fisheries as the primary focus. She worked as a science librarian at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Water Quality Laboratory in Minnesota, as oceanography/zoology librarian at Oregon State University and as project manager of the Fish and Wildlife Reference Service. She is a former editor of The Progressive Fish-Culturist, editor-in-chief of the Intermountain Journal of Science and currently edits the World Aquaculture magazine. Nickum’s articles on aquaculture topics are published in Hatchery International, Aquaculture Magazine, Northern Aquaculture and Fish Farming News. She is currently working on three books for children.
1. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing OWAA today? I think the biggest challenge facing OWAA is staying relevant. One way for OWAA to do this is to provide an accurate picture of the outdoor experience beyond hunting and fishing. Hunting and fishing as preferred outdoor experiences are declining in the total population. OWAA must expand coverage of the outdoor experience to such nonconsumptive activities as birding, hiking, wildlife viewing and star-watching (astronomy).
2. How would you revamp the Excellence in Craft (EIC) awards program/categories? The EIC awards program needs to be a more open process. OWAA needs to answer the following questions: Who are the judges, how are they selected, what are their criteria for each category, can members have input into those criteria? A series of in-depth articles should be published in Outdoors Unlimited informing members about the EIC awards program. A companion to the EIC program could be a writing contest for members with a cash award. Writings for this contest would be unpublished works. Winners and runners-up in the contest could use this award to further accelerate publication of their work. Models of such contests in other writing organizations could be examined in setting up this program.
3. What should OWAA be doing to improve both recruitment and retention of members? To improve recruitment and retention of members, OWAA must provide value-added services for members, keep dues at a level that is fiscally feasible for freelancers, and focus on information and skill-building that increases the potential for higher quality work that pays higher monetary returns. OWAA should develop a system of incentives and rewards for members who recruit new members. Board members should use their status to recruit sustaining members from their professional circles.
4. How many annual OWAA conferences have you attended, and how would you improve OWAA conferences in the future? I have attended eight conferences. I would work to have more speakers who are newsmakers themselves, have meetings in places that are accessible and have relevance to a variety of outdoor experiences, such as national parks, national seashores and national wildlife refuges. Conferences should be educational as well as entertaining and a place for networking. Sessions should be led by specialists in the fields of members’ expressed interests. Balanced with that, presentations from editors and publishers would help writers to be aware of the latest needs and markets. ◊
Year joined OWAA: 2001
Conferences attended: Four
Committees: Outdoor Reference Manual and Excellence in Craft judging committees.
Ty Stockton was born and raised in central Wyoming, where his parents had a chunk of land that bordered the Wind River. When he turned 6 or 7, it seems his folks were trying to get rid of him, because they let him go explore the river and the wild lands around it anytime he wanted. They sent him off with a .22-caliber rifle for protection, a broken-down old quarter horse for transportation and a Siberian husky for a baby sitter. Since then, Stockton has tried to instill in his readers and listeners the same desire to get outside he’s had since those days spent by the Wind River.
1. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing OWAA today? The biggest challenge OWAA faces is also the biggest challenge hunting and fishing face. That challenge is recruitment and retention. As newspapers shut down their outdoors pages (and some close their doors entirely), we lose members. As magazines become increasingly niche-oriented, their writers, editors and photographers fall off our rolls at OWAA. At the same time, new members are as scarce as hen’s teeth.
2. How would you revamp the Excellence in Craft (EIC) awards program/categories? The EIC awards should be streamlined somewhat to ease pressure on judges and contest organizers, but I don’t believe they should be scrapped or totally redesigned. I would love to see every contest sponsored, both as one who enters work in the contest and as a judge, but I don’t see the need for two (or more) categories for essentially the same idea. I could support paring down the categories, maybe to 10. That might mean some of the more specific categories are lost (and with them the sponsorships that drove them), but I would hope we could encourage those sponsors to continue donating to the contest.
3. What should OWAA be doing to improve both recruitment and retention of members? The EIC awards are a great tool for recruitment and retention, and the steps above should help. Other tools include the new, more interactive Outdoors Unlimited format; conferences; and simple networking. The Web-based platform for OU may help us gain new, younger members. Well-run conferences with good speakers and programs will do even more to gain and keep members. And our members spreading the word about what they’ve gained from OWAA is quite possibly the most effective tool in the drawer. However, it’s also the hardest to keep sharp. It needs to be honed constantly with great conferences and good OU content.
4. How many annual OWAA conferences have you attended, and how would you improve OWAA conferences in the future? I’ve been to four conferences: Spokane, Wash.; Lake Charles, La.; Roanoke, Va.; and Bismarck, N.D. In my opinion, every one was worth the money I spent to get there. Improvement won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible with more input from the membership about what they want in terms of speakers and programs. I know that’s always been part of the system, but too many members don’t speak up when asked. We need to impress upon members the importance of asking for what they want from their conferences. ◊