President’s Column: IPC has plenty in the works for you, its members

Betsy RussellBy Betsy Russell

There’s a lot going on at the Idaho Press Club right now, from our upcoming fall conference (see page 1) to First Amendment victories to website upgrades, to all the planning for upcoming scholarship awards, the annual awards contest, and our gala spring awards banquet, which this year will be held May 3, 2014 at the Boise Centre.

Meantime, many of your Press Club board members have been busy judging journalism contests from other states, in preparation for swaps in which those state press clubs will help with the judging of our contest. All the wheels are turning!

Our First Amendment Committee Chairman Todd Dvorak reports several recent victories we can celebrate, both involving court cases regarding Corrections Corp. of America and the Idaho Correctional Center, the troubled privately run Idaho state prison that CCA operates south of Boise. A federal judge ruled in our favor against an extensive sealing of records in one of the cases. In the other, we were just about ready to jump into the fight when the judge ruled in favor of openness, as we’d hoped he would. The Associated Press and news organizations around the state joined the Press Club in these court filings. Todd says these victories may not be as high-profile as our big win in the execution access case last year, but we’re keeping the courts open, and that’s good for all of us.

After the unfortunate hacking incident that caused a frustrating shutdown of our Press Club website for some time, it’s back up and running with major security upgrades. Also in the works are improvements to the site. As part of that, we’d like to invite everyone to consider sending in some photos of members of the press at work in Idaho. They’ll rotate on our site as part of a new graphic element that we think will be well-suited to our site and add a sense of who we are and what we do. You can email photos to; please make sure they’re cleared for use on our site. Thanks to Joan Cartan-Hansen and Martha Borchers for their work on the website committee, and to our webmaster, Wyatt Werner.

Board member John Hecht has joined the scholarship committee to fill the slot left open by the passing of our longtime and much-valued board member Allen Derr; remember that the scholarship application deadline each year is Feb. 15, both for the Don Watkins Memorial Scholarship for college journalism students, and for the Don Watkins Mid-Career Scholarship for press club members who are seeking training through attending a conference or working on a project that will enhance the working press in Idaho. There’s full info on the website at Thanks also to Todd and to Melissa McGrath for their work on our scholarship committee.

Banquet committee chair Deanna Darr has fun things in the works for this year’s awards banquet; we’re all looking forward to it. And of course, before awards can be handed out, we’ll have our second year of running our annual awards contest completely online; thanks to contest chair Joan Cartan-Hansen for getting us over the technical bumps of the first year and helping smooth them out as we approach the second.

Speaking of online, you all should have received an email survey by now about how you’d feel about this newsletter, the Communicator, moving to online-only. It’s a step we’re reluctant to take, because people like the paper newsletter that shows up at their homes or offices three times a year, but it’s very costly, and it’s likely a change we’ll need to make for bottom-line reasons. If you haven’t already, please answer the survey; or you can send thoughts, comments or suggestions to us at Thanks to board member Sadie Babits for developing the survey.

In October, IDOG – Idahoans for Openness in Government – will be holding four seminars on Idaho’s open meeting and public records laws in the Magic Valley and eastern Idaho, all led by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and in partnership with the Idaho Press Club. This follows three such sessions held in the Treasure Valley last winter. The evening workshops will be Oct. 14 in Sun Valley; Oct. 15 in Twin Falls, Oct 16 in Blackfoot and Oct. 17 in Rexburg. They are co-sponsored by the Idaho Mountain Express, the Times-News, the Blackfoot Morning News, the Idaho State Journal, the Post Register, and the Rexburg Standard Journal; all the sessions are free and refreshments will be served. The sessions are for journalists, local and state government officials and staff, and interested citizens. There’s more info at the IDOG website, If you’re in any of these areas, please consider attending; or if you are in the Treasure Valley and missed the chance to catch one last winter, consider making the trip. After all, who wouldn’t want to pay a visit to Sun Valley?

The Idaho Press Club appreciates all your support. We’ve got lots in the works, thanks to our dedicated volunteer board members and our amazing executive director, Martha Borchers.

Please keep your membership current, think about your contest entries between now and January, and see you at the fall conference!

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