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Through the years: Part Two

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This is the second piece of a series focusing on a sampling of OWAA’s history, this time from 1963 to 1971, taken from “Sixty-Five Years of OWAA: A Historical Summary of the Outdoor Writers Association of America,” edited by Don G. Cullimore and Edwin W. Hanson.
Two documentary-type publications were introduced at the 1962 OWAA meeting. One was the innovative Membership Directory, detailing who and what; the other was a 68-page report, A Study of Outdoor Writers Association of America with Recommendations for Future Programs of Services to Its Membership.
The title being somewhat ponderous, the latter became known as the Johnson Study after its listed author, Albert G. Johnson of the Professional Trade Association Counsel
of Chicago.
Purposes of the study were: To determine if there was a need for an OWAA; if so, what services should it provide; through what short- and long-range programs; should administration remain on a voluntary basis or be professionally staffed with a full-time manager; and, if the latter, how may it be financed?
The basic result: “Overwhelming sentiment for continuing OWAA … but they also want services expanded, new services created and present services improved.”
On the query as to main reasons for continuing, two phases predominated: (1) cross-contact with other writers, source of information and ideas, and craft skill improvement in writing, photography, etc.; and (2) conservation and protection of natural resources.
As to administration, the report stressed the need for a distinction between policy-setting and management:
“The functions of the Board of Directors are to determine policies. The task of carrying out these policies is then the function of management…”
In 1963, Headquarters would be moved to Columbia, Mo., a university city with adequate facilities. Don Cullimore accepted the position executive director.
The key to recognition and prestige as a professional organization was in membership quality.
A proposal at the June 1964 convention … listed specific published (broadcast, etc.) production minimums per year in the various media … It was approved by the Board of Directors and placed in immediate effect. The one remaining obstacle, then, was the grandfather clause (of the 1957 meeting). This was a diminishing problem; many of these members had dropped out. The time was approaching when the clause could be eliminated. (It was eliminated, in 1966, without a dissenting vote.)
OWAA’s original Bill of Organization on the 1927 banquet menu, long lost in the files of George Robey Sr., was presented at the 1966 conference to the organization on behalf of his also outdoor-writing sons, George Jr. and Jim.
In 1967, the conference site was Waskesiu, in Price Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada. Housing was scattered in small motels, plus a very considerable segment living in their recreational vehicles at the park’s campground. A truly “outdoor” conference, in atmosphere and events, it exceeded anything OWAA had past experienced since the 1943 sleeping-bag session in Tennessee. Outdoor workshops, with on-the-job photography, were extensive; field trips, plentiful.
Homer Circle, elected board chairman when his presidential term expired at the [1968] meeting, recalled the Five-year Program of objectives, established in 1963 with the implementation of the Johnson Study. That, said Homer, had been accomplished.
By the end of 1968 OWAA’s basic organizational framework and professional philosophy was well established. There would be progressive changes within that framework, new ideas and new programs as incoming younger and enthusiastic members mingled with the old pros.
Fiscal year 1969-70 saw the rise of major national concern about the environment, something conservation minded OWAA members had been writing and talking about for years.
Though there was an apparent healthy balance at the end of the fiscal year, there was an air of uncertainty about the association’s financial position. Increasing the expenditures as services were expanded had not been accompanied by an increase in membership dues. It became evident that unless corrective measures were taken, OWAA could find itself in a financial crisis within a short time.
A committee of representatives from supporting members … [proposed] to try to convince 12 current supporting members to increase their dues from $100 to $1,000 on a one-year basis.
Early in 1971 the industrially sponsored television film, “Say Goodbye,” created a denunciatory furor among wildlife agencies and outdoor writers for reported misrepresentation in various scenes.
It occupied most of the discussion during the members’ meeting at the Chicago National Sporting Goods Association show, and several pages of angry comment in OU.
New projects launched included a “Code of Ethics and Standards,” a radio-TV survey of outdoor coverage (similar to the 1968 survey of newspapers); and comprehensive resurvey of members, similar to the Johnson Survey of 1962, for future programming purposes.
The new code of ethics resulted from an 18-month study of ethics under Chairman Wilbur Stites. Included a statement of purpose, a segment on use of the OWAA insigne, relationships with the outdoor industry (including industry obligations), and relationships with magazines (including obligations of publications). ♦
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