National Press Club

Werner promises Club will help journalists adapt, preserve press freedom

January 29, 2012 | By Mark Schoeff Jr. | markschoeff@gmail.com

Theresa Werner is sworn into office as the 105th President of the National Press Club by NBC4 anchor Barbara Harrison at the NPC Presidential Inaugural Gala, January 28, 2012.

Theresa Werner is sworn into office as the 105th President of the National Press Club by NBC4 anchor Barbara Harrison at the NPC Presidential Inaugural Gala, January 28, 2012.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Theresa Werner, inaugurated Jan. 28 as the Club’s 105th president, said at a gala dinner the National Press Club will help journalists adapt to rapid changes in the profession while defending press freedom around the world.

“I will continue moving the Club forward into the digital era while honoring and preserving what has made this Club the epicenter of American journalism for more than a century,” Werner said in the Club ballroom. “New technology and new skills matter – but our values matter more. The National Press Club stands for great journalism and freedom of the press – and it stands up for its members.”

Werner won a three-way race for president in a landslide on Dec. 9. A former broadcast journalist at NBC4 in Washington and later an employee of The Associated Press Radio and TV, Werner is the second Club president to take office while freelancing.

She has experienced the vicissitudes of the profession, which, as she noted, now demands that print reporters appear on camera and TV reporters shoot and edit their own material.

“Being first and being fastest and getting the exclusive is pushing our profession to the brink,” she said. “It’s a daunting environment for us all, but I say to you tonight: The National Press Club is here to help.”

Werner first made her mark at the Club in professional development. Shortly after becoming a member in 2004, she was tapped to revitalize the Club’s efforts in the area. She established training programs and the Club’s mentoring initiative.

During her campaign, she said she will work to ensure that professional development transcends one committee and permeates a range of Club activities.

In her speech, Werner also emphasized freedom of the press. She related a conversation last year between a once-jailed Pakistani journalist and her predecessor, former Club President Mark Hamrick. The journalist said that having the Club speak out on his behalf, if he’s imprisoned again, could be the difference between life and death.

“Yes, friends, that’s how important the National Press Club is,” Werner said. “And that’s how important you are. You, the members, are the heart and soul of the Club.”

Werner showed off her passion at the event. The accomplished swing dancer and clogger took the oath of office on a stack of dancing shoes. At a post-dinner boogie-woogie party in the Holeman Lounge, she showed off her deft moves. She was tossed in the air several times, landing gracefully, and seamlessly moving from partner to partner.

She vowed to “bring clogging and Lindy Hop to the Fourth Estate” in her tongue-in-cheek oath of office before an audience of about 225.

Werner’s vivacious personality, strong work ethic and dogged persistence were highlighted by friends and former colleagues who paid tribute to her in after-dinner remarks.

“Theresa is always full of surprises,” said Wendy Rieger, NBC4 anchor. “You should never underestimate her.”