National Press Club

Report to the Spring General Membership Meeting

Myron Belkind | May 9, 2014

April is the month of honoring excellence in journalism through the Pulitzer Prizes that are announced at this time of the year.

And it is the theme of excellence and dedication at the National Press Club that I want to recognize in my president's report to the General Membership Meeting today (May 9).

By excellence, I mean going above and beyond what is normally done by our committees that are the backbone and foundation of making the NPC an essential place to be, not just because it is where news happens but because of everything we offer our members that makes the National Press Club so special, so unique.

Some specifics:

We had an excellent Meet the Press Club night on April 23 with nearly 40 members, nearly all of them new and mostly from the younger generation who are the long-term sustainable members for the Club. Even more so, we had an excellent mix of communicators and journalist members.

Among them was Yasmine El-Sabawi, correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency, who earlier in the day was among the new members who sat at the head table for the Speakers breakfast with General Mark Welsh, the Air Force Chief of Staff.

She wrote to me afterwards saying: "Just wanted to touch base and say it was a pleasure to meet everyone both at General Welsh's speaking engagement and the NPC ‘Meet the Press Club' event. I'm looking forward to getting involved in a number of areas, and I'm already seeing results based on the great folks I'm meeting."

Thank you, Yasmine, for joining the National Press Club.

Another new member, Dr. Kerric Harvey, an associate professor of media and public affairs at The George Washington University, donated a just-published three-volume set of ‘The Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics" to the National Press Club Journalism Institute library. Please take advantage of this invaluable resource now in our library.

Thank you, Professor Harvey.

We had what many consider one of the most successful Kalb Reports ever, featuring Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on April 17. As it marked the conclusion of the Kalb Report's 20tj anniversary season, I presented a special plaque from the National Press Club to Marvin Kalb and the traditional NPC mugs to the two justices. Everyone was very appreciative. The next morning, I received a very warm thank-you note from executive producer Mike Freedman reaffirming the close ties between the NPC and the Kalb Report, which is hopeful of receiving funding for its 21st year of programming.

Thank you Marvin Kalb and Mike Freedman, both National Press Club Members.

Please take note of the Awards Committee, which reported there were 18 percent more entries received this year compared to last year for the annual NPC Journalism Awards, which for the first time had an option for submitting entries online. The awards will be presented on July 30.

Thank you, Awards Committee chair Will Lester.

Take note of Mike McCurry being the featured speaker at the April 10 Legends Dinner organized by the Communications and Marketing Committee. It was a full house in the Winners Room.

Thank you committee chair Tom McMahon and thank you committee volunteer Daniel Selnick for reaching out to Mike McCurry, who was pleased to tell everyone that he is a proud member of the National Press Club.

Take note of the Book & Brunch Committee, which meets monthly on Saturdays in the Fourth Estate. Normally it has about a dozen attending. Last month there were nearly 40, both from the Book & Brunch Committee and the Travel Committee who came to take part in a discussion of Russell Shorto's book, "Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City," with the author Russell Shorto himself present to lead the discussion.

Thank you, Books & Brunch chair Jack Williams.

Take note of the Travel Committee's extensive trip to Myanmar and Vietnam, with nearly all 11 participants Press Club members and guests. And as you leave the Club today, pick up the brochures on many other tantalizing trips planned by the travel committee.

Thank you, Travel Committee chair Fay Iudicello.

Our photography committee is noted for its very full series of monthly programs. This year it is outdoing itself, as it did on April 29, with a noon event featuring noted Washington advertising photographer Renee Comet and in the evening Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, speaking on "Copyright and Social Media."

Thank you, co-chairs Darlene Shields and Al Teich. And thank you, Noel St. John, for your superlative devotion to the Club as the coordinator of our outstanding photographers and for your own outstanding photography.

Take a look at the excellent luncheon speakers we have had and who are coming up including, in the next three weeks, Senator Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson.

Thank you, Jeremy Zremski.

Take a look at the outstanding Newsmaker Series, including one of my most memorable days of the past four months, when Ukraine pop artist and political activist Ruslana spoke at a Newsmaker to appeal to President Putin to stay out of Ukraine and concluded by singing the Ukraine national anthem a cappella. And, if Russian President Putin accepts our invitation to speak at the National Press Club, we will offer him the opportunity to sing the Russian national anthem!

Thank you Newsmaker Committee chair Herb Perone.

I hope you notice the unrelenting statements we are issuing on Freedom of the Press.

Thank you, John Donnelly, chair of the Freedom of the Press Committee, and your other members.

Finally, thank you, Frank Aukofer, for organizing a memorable Spring Hoot to honor the new inductees into the Silver, Golden and Platinum Owls. And thank you, John Cosgrove, for individually paying tribute to each of the Owl inductees.

One of those attending, Pender McCarter, wrote to me afterwards to say how proud he is to have become a Silver Owl and how he looks forward to continuing his volunteer professional and social activities at the Club by demonstrating his positive OWLitude.

Thank you, Pender.

Going from the Owls, I extend thanks to several new committee chairs this year who are rapidly organizing successful programs: Sean Lyngass of Young Members, Joan Coyle of Events, Molly McCluskey of International Correspondents, Amy Fickling of Professional Development and Ken Dalecki of the Fellowship Committee.

And I am grateful to those other chairs who are carrying on the excellent work they have done in the past: Lou Priebe of House and Bar, Joe Motheral of Book and Author (take a look on the electronic sign board to see the outstanding book events coming up), Tam Harbert who is actively organizing events for the Freelance Committee and reaching out to potential new freelance members, Mark Hamrick of the Broadcast Committee, Gil Klein of History & Heritage, Susan Heavey of Membership, and Donna Leinwand, who chairs the publications and wine dinner committees.

Thanks in advance to those committees planning upcoming events that raise funds for the National Journalism Institute: the 5k committee headed by Nyree Wright and Nikki Schwab and the Fourth Estate Dinner committee co-chaired by Lori Russo and Jodi Schneider

And thanks to Julie Schoo, the Institute's executive director, and treasurer Ed Lewis for organizing the Institute's third annual golf invitational tournament on April 25 at the Woodmore Country Club. It was a successful fundraiser for the non-profit Institute's scholarship program.

A week ago tonight I met at Taco Night a new member, Matthew Ballard, who was brought into the Club by long-time member and Wire editor Mark Schoeff. Matthew stopped me to say how proud he is to be a Press Club member.

"It is a privilege," he said. "It is a privilege," he repeated.

I know everyone here agrees with Matthew's sentiments.

Thank you all. It is indeed a privilege -- and I might add, an honor --- to belong to the National Press Club!