President’s Column: Idaho Press Club is still a screaming deal…

By Betsy Russell

Twenty-five years ago, in 1988, the annual dues to join the Idaho Press Club was $25.

The cost this year, until July 1?  Also $25. Though it’s decades later and costs have gone way up. So now, after long resisting it, the Idaho Press Club board has decided to raise annual dues by $5 on July 1, to $30. It’s a modest increase that’s still a screaming deal; most press associations charge much higher dues, often more than double that amount.

The Press Club is funded solely by membership dues and contest entry fees. Yet we do so much. We fight for open records and meetings, watchdogging open government issues in the state Legislature each year. We run an annual journalism contest that recognizes the best in Idaho journalism each year, an important source of recognition that just might be the burnishing your resume needs when you look for your next job. We sponsor an annual professional development conference in the fall, and a gala awards banquet in the spring; both are heavily subsidized by the club to keep attendance fees low. We bestow scholarships both to Idaho journalism students and to mid-career professionals seeking training. We keep you up to date with our website and newsletter.

The Idaho Press Club has been very frugal over the years, and has built up substantial reserves. But since the downturn hit, we have begun to spend more each year than we take in, relying on our reserves to make up the difference. If nothing changed, we could only keep doing that for a few more years – and then we’d be broke.

This small increase in annual dues won’t make up that whole difference. The board is weighing how best to get our annual revenues and expenses more in line. It will take time, and there could be other changes in the future. But the Press Club will continue to be an excellent deal for any Idaho journalist, journalism teacher or public relations professional. And it’s a heck of a deal for students at only $10, which for now, is not changing.

Please, renew your membership, support us, and stay with us. We’re here for you.

House rule still in the works

In our last issue, I proudly proclaimed our success in getting new rules adopted in the House and Senate to make it easier for the public, and the Legislature, to handle public records requests, by designating a single custodian of the records – a single point of contact – for each house, rather than relying on 105 individual legislators to respond to such requests on their own.

Since then, we got a surprise: The House never took its final vote to adopt the rule, though the Senate did. Some last-minute questions arose about the role of the Legislative Services Office and the responsibilities of a records custodian, but House Speaker Scott Bedke assures us the rule is still in the works and it will be worked out. The new Senate rule is in effect; we should see the fruit of both rule changes in next year’s legislative session.

We miss Allen!

It’s kind of hard to picture the Idaho Press Club without our longtime board member, sometimes attorney and lobbyist, font of media law knowledge, good friend and overall great guy Allen Derr. His passing at age 85 has saddened us all; please check out his full obituary on page 4.

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