President’s Column

Why the Idaho Press Club contest matters

By Betsy Russell

Each year, the Idaho Press Club sponsors our state’s premier journalism contest, our annual Excellence in Journalism competition, in which entries from all media compete in various categories to be named, in this case, the “Best of 2007.”

There are several reasons why this contest really does matter. One is that contest entry fees are the Press Club’s largest funding source for our year-round operations, from our part-time executive director to our newsletter to our website. Contest entry fees and our modest $25 per year membership fees are our club’s sources of funding.

But there’s a much bigger and more important reason. Our mission as a Press Club is to promote excellence in journalism, freedom of expression and freedom of information. The contest goes to the first one on that list – recognizing, promoting and encouraging excellence in journalism in Idaho.

That function also is furthered by our fall conferences, hosted by one of our chapters each year, at which we provide professional development opportunities aimed at increasing all of our skills as we practice journalism in Idaho. Other Press Club activities, including chapter events throughout the year, contribute toward that same goal. In the spring, when we celebrate our best at our annual awards banquet, we recognize our successes.

Sure, it’s great to win an award. Winning an award in the Idaho Press Club’s contest wins you bragging rights, a handsome plaque or certificate, the recognition of your peers, and an enhancement for your resume that just might help you get your next job. But I think even those entries that don’t win awards in our contest are a sign of excellence in journalism in Idaho. Here’s how: Journalists work hard all year, then select their best work and submit it to the competition. Even if it doesn’t win – sometimes competition can be particularly tough – it’s still that journalist’s best work. And the fact that we’re all doing good work, reflecting on it, and selecting our best for entry into the contest shows that as Idaho journalists, we’re mindful of the quality of our work, and we’re continually working hard to do our best.

In May, we’ll gather in Boise for our annual awards banquet and celebrate. Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find full registration information. Whether you are winning an award or not, please join us. The program will be entertaining, the food delicious, and the company convivial. We’ve scrapped the silent auction and instead everyone will be in the running in a raffle that will benefit our First Amendment Fund. Please join us for a fun and celebratory evening.

I’d like to extend a big thank-you to all those who are working hard on this year’s contest and banquet, including our amazing executive director, Martha Borchers; this year’s contest chairman, Sadie Babits of NPR News 91; this year’s banquet chairman, John Miller of the Associated Press; all the members of the contest and banquet committees; the professional journalists from across the country who helped judge our contest; and everyone who enters, competes, and helps celebrate.

Betsy Russell is the president of the Idaho Press Club. She is a Boise-based reporter for The Spokesman-Review newspaper.