The conservation media world lost two giants at the end of this summer. OWAA members Spence Turner, 76, died Aug. 26, and Michael Frome, 96, died Sept. 4. Many who mourned them called them inspirations, but more importantly, mentors.
In the character sketch Taylor Wyllie wrote about Colleen Miniuk-Sperry on page 13, Miniuk-Sperry credits the late Jim Smith with not just introducing her to OWAA, but opening a world that made her realize she could make a living and do what she wanted — photograph the outdoors. After meeting outdoor photographers at conference, Miniuk-Sperry went home and dropped almost all her commercial clients to focus on the landscape work she loves most.
Mentors like Turner, Frome and Smith changed people’s careers and also their lives. With them gone, who will step up to mentor the next generation?
On the previous page, OWAA’s president, Brett Prettyman, offers ways to step-up as a mentor. Prettyman’s own involvement in OWAA is the result of a mentor, Tom Wharton, encouraging him to join.
Prettyman suggests agreeing to shepherd a green ribbon member through the annual conference and find interested students at local schools and colleges. But it’s even easier than that. When a young (either in terms of age or career) writer asks you a question, take the time to respond and leave the door open for more communication. Encourage questions and offer advice.
More often than in years past, people are entering careers in outdoor communication without the benefit of the built-in mentors one used to find in staff jobs at newspapers and magazines. Helping them helps the profession by maintaining high professional standards. It also benefits you — you might find yourself editing their copy one day.
And you should find your own mentor. Even if you have an established career, find someone you trust to tell you when an idea is terrible, or encourage you to take a risk. Not sure whom to ask? Look no further than our directory. OWAA is full of people who have successfully navigated the world of outdoor communication for years, and hopefully, they are willing to answer a few questions. ♦