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Happy birthday OWAA

On April 9, 1927, a small group of writers attending the Izaak Walton League of America convention in Chicago decided to form a professional organization for outdoor writers.

Their goals were to connect with colleagues and exchange ideas, experience and information, expand outdoor coverage in the national media, focus public attention on conservation issues and provide continuing education in the form of craft improvement.

The Outdoor Writers Association of America has changed dramatically in the 90 years since those 19 writers first formed it, as has the world.

Today, while we keep “writers” in our name, our ranks include people from all corners of outdoor communication. The media in which we work have changed — gone are film cameras and typewriters as video, blogs and podcasts define a new era of communication. Yet those founding principles have remained relevant and at the core of our mission. Nowhere is that more obvious than at our annual conference.

Our annual gathering, this year in Duluth, Minnesota, brings together our members from across North America. It’s a rare chance to talk to editors, writers, producers or public relations specialists who work in your same specialty.

We’ll also offer craft improvement sessions on using technology for working in the backcountry and the best way to make initial contact with an editor at your dream publication.

We’ll discuss conservation issues like development near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and managing wolves.

And we hope that our members who work for the media will find outdoor stories to share with their audiences.

We’re always looking ahead and our 90th anniversary is no exception, but we are also taking time to reflect on the past.

Starting on page 10, five past presidents write about their time leading the organization. We’ll also have a special reception for past presidents at the Duluth conference, a perfect time for people to gain more historical perspective about OWAA and also the outdoor communication industry.

There is always talk about growth and efforts to bring new communicators who represent an ever diversifying industry into our fold, but as we enter our 90th year, we at headquarters are also focused on our long-term and current members and how we can continue to make your membership in OWAA worthwhile.

Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, who has served as our interim executive director this winter, has started sharing member work on Facebook. If you haven’t already, email her at cms@owaa.org about your latest book, or share a link to an article, podcast or video you’ve recently published. Or send me a photograph you’ve recently captured for Feature Photo Friday on our Facebook page.

You’ve likely noticed that the magazine you’re reading has a different look. Outdoors Unlimited underwent a full redesign this winter, thanks to the talented Allison Bye and a generous donation from our second vice president Paul Queneau, which helped fund the effort. I hope the fresh look of OU helps showcase the incredible work and wealth of knowledge our members share in its pages.

The timing makes it a perfect birthday gift for the organization. Happy birthday, OWAA. Here’s to the next 90. ♦

— Kelsey Dayton is the editor of Outdoors Unlimited. Reach her at editor@owaa.org

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