National Press Club

Leinwand Sworn in as 102nd President; Club Celebrates at "Hurricane Donna"

February 2, 2009

President Donna Leinwand, right, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

President Donna Leinwand, right, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Photo/Image: Marshall Cohen

More than 300 people attended "Hurricane Donna" Saturday night to celebrate Donna Leinwand's swearing-in as the Club's 102nd president.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz administered the oath of office, which Leinwand took with her hand on a military helmet (reflecting her many reporting assignments in Iraq and other war zones).

Guests dined on sirloin steak, drank copious amounts and roared with laughter at the witty barbs of poliical satarist Mark Russell.

Ken Paulson, in his last moments at the editor of USA Today (Donna's employer), delighted the audience with his cheerleading of newspapers durng a keynote address. Paulson, who became president and chief operating officer of the Newseum and the Freedom Forum on Feb. 1, asked the question:

What if Gutenberg had invented digital communication instead of moveable type? What if today we were all a-twitter about a new product that is fact-checked, hand-delivered to your doorstep every day and won't disappear if the elecricity goes off? Would we then be in love with newspapers?

Leinwand's roasters, led by Marc Raimondi of Harris Corp., let Club members in on the terror she strikes in the hearts of press secretaries. Her "you gotta be kidding. This is NOT news" look is so potent, Raimondi said, that it travels through phone lines without a word spoken.

In her remarks, Leinwand said:

To the entire National Press Club: Thank you for being my home since I first came to Washington in 1997. President Dick Ryan, who can spot an innocent from a mile off, roped me into the co-chairmanship of the Young Members committee three months after I joined the Club. It's nothing, he said, hardly any work at all. Practically runs itself, he said. Being far too green to know better, I said sure. And here I am 10 years later...

And in those 10 years, as the journalism world has turned upside down, the National Press Club has been a constant. My hope for the Club is that it continues to be an anchor for those of us in the news business, while also helping our members chart the future.

I am focused this year on helping all of our members _ print, broadcast, public relations and public affairs _ adapt to the changing media landscape through classes on creating multi-media journalism, accessing public records, and using social media as a reporting tool. We will do our best to support our members as they navigate this unpredictable job market, launch freelance careers or try something new.

We are working right now with Georgetown University's School of Continuing Education to offer scholarships to the journalism community. I am happy to report the program will carry National Press Club branding AND some of the scholarships will be set aside specifically for National Press Club members. I will be bringing you more details of this exciting program in the weeks to come but I wanted to share this news with you tonight.

I am also deeply committed to Free Press issues. We will be working hard this year to roll back restrictions on news gathering, to draw attention to the importance of the First Amendment and to shine a light on foreign governments who abuse journalists.

But really, times like this call for something more essential, more fundamental, to the business of journalism: A good party!

I hope the Club will serve as a refuge from rough times, where members and friends can enjoy an engaging speaker, a fabulous burger, an affordable beer, and most importantly, the company of good Press Club friends.

We have a grand century behind us here at the National Press Club. As we forge into the second year of our second century, I see great new adventures in journalism, with more promise than peril. I am absolutely convinced that the need for information, professionally delivered, will grow, not shrink.