The coup is complete.
Newspaper guys rule OWAA. Four of the last five presidents served, or are serving, long careers in the newspaper industry. And the reign will continue with the current vice president also coming from the print journalism world.
The idea for three of those to run for president hatched during the 2007 conference in Roanoke, Virginia.
Emboldened by each other’s enthusiasm, the three — feel free to call them Larry, Curly and Moe — made a pact not only to take turns leading OWAA, but to support each other while doing it.
When I became president in Billings, Montana, in July, it completed our plan to take over OWAA.
We decided it made sense to ride the success of the annual conference in his hometown and threw Mark Taylor to the lions first.
Taylor, also known as Curly for obvious reasons, officially took the helm in 2012.
Bill Graham was not a part of the “Three Stooges” pact, but he managed to sneak in as president of OWAA in 2013 and strengthened the grip of newspaper blood on the presidency.
Next up was Mark Freeman, henceforth known as Larry. Freeman was key to the agreement, at least for me. I figured if he could serve as the OWAA president and the organization survived, then surely I could handle the job. I only say this because Freeman loves to say the same thing.
I’m proud five OWAA presidents between 2012 and 2017 came from newspaper backgrounds, but even I’m a little suspicious about the dominance.
Perhaps you are thinking we all have time because we are unemployed as newspapers keep slashing jobs like Taylor’s casts hit the water. The truth is, four of us have since left the profession, but remain qualified for OWAA membership with other forms of outdoor communication careers. Only Freeman maintains his job as a daily scribe.
So what gives? Why are members from the other disciplines of OWAA avoiding accepting the gavel?
It took me a while to agree to run for the executive board. I kept dodging the opportunity, saying I was too busy and wouldn’t be able to serve OWAA as I should. I offered up the same excuse when I was asked to throw my name into the hat for the board of directors.
I was wrong. Life just gets more crazy as the years pass, and procrastinating involvement at the highest levels of the organization means missing a chance to give back to other OWAA members.
If you are asked to run for the board or for second vice president it means a committee identified you as somebody who can help move OWAA forward in a meaningful way.
This request should not be viewed as a burden. It is an honor to represent the organization as a board member or as part of the executive committee. I’m proud to join the ranks of so many amazing outdoor communicators who have served OWAA since 1927. That’s 90 years of people just like you and me who volunteered to take on some extra duties to keep Outdoor Writers Association of America strong and vital.
I was intimidated and a little star struck in my first board meeting. I spent most of the time just listening and getting a sense of how things worked, but it wasn’t long before I realized I had a voice and that it mattered to the other board members and the organization. That is powerful stuff and comes with a strong sense of responsibility.
Over the course of my board term I came to develop a deeper understanding of how OWAA works and what it takes to keep the organization afloat financially and in terms of member services.
It is absolutely vital for OWAA members, those serving in official capacities and those who just joined the organization, to engage in the operations and understand the issues to keep us healthy.
I have occasionally found myself over my head when asked to perform certain tasks for OWAA. At first I was reluctant, perhaps stubborn is a better word, to ask others for help. I eventually came to understand I was not alone and I had the entire membership of our organization who could lend a thought to the task.
I’m entering my presidency of this storied organization knowing I am not doing it alone. I’d like to think every one of you is there should I need you.
A lot of people have managed to sail this course before, and I believe it is due largely to those who stand in line behind us ready to take the helm. ♦
— OWAA President Brett Prettyman, firstname.lastname@example.org