National Press Club

A Periodic Update From “The World’s Leading Professional Organization for Journalists™.”

Jeffrey Ballou | November 6, 2017

Greetings fellow members. Allow me to offer another playbook update from your club of champions!

Much continues to happen in our busy private club. With rare exception, most of it is good, I am happy to report. For those who missed the last general membership meeting. I’d like to begin with a bit of sad news I shared there, and why it was delayed in delivery.

Karen Deem, a beloved 17-year member of the National Press Club staff, passed away in last month.

Karen, who fell ill serving the club during the photo team’s members exhibit reception, was hospitalized and tragically transitioned on Oct. 4. A fellow Pennsylvanian— the pride of Lock Haven and Lycoming College what we in my home Commonwealth know as wrestling country — Karen possessed a disarming wit, a treasure trove of literary prowess, a warm smile, quiet demeanor and wonderful laugh. Often referred to as the sister, aunt, member den mother some of us never had, Karen was an integral part of the club staff for 17 years, during which she constantly helped our beloved club move forward.

One of her last initiatives was to become part of a great membership triangle formed alongside Membership Director Suzanne Struglinski and Membership Secretary Michele Salcedo. Together they forged a formidable sisterhood, revamping and improving how we do business with members.

What I believe many of us will miss most, is Karen’s seemingly unending well of kindness. My first day in office she was at the the front desk, I brought her chocolates from Eastern Market and I said, hello Karen! She smiled and shot back, “Hello 110!” — her way of welcoming me into the honorable society of club presidents. She cared very, very deeply about our club and, when the time is right for her family, we will honor her here. There’s a saying I learned some time ago, that one should live respected, and die regretted. Karen Deem, you achieved that. We continue to offer our prayers and condolences to the Deem family, especially Karen’s father and her brother, David, whom many of us know for his diligent work at the Press Club.

When the family allows, we will memorialize her here, as many of us considered her family. I just ask that David be given comfort but respectful space to grieve.

Some of you asked why I waited until the general membership meeting to make the official announcement on behalf of the club’s elected leadership. Simply put, I had to wait for a green light from the Deem family, so relatives and friends may be alerted first.
I know that some of you had trouble understanding why you didn’t hear this news closer to when it happened, but in our newsrooms, we respect the need to let relatives and family be alerted first. As your president, I do my best to represent our 3,005 members. But I am also the temporary chief steward of a private club with 110 employees who work hard every day to make our club a home for us. Respect for that family had to come first.

Now coming into the locker room for a playbook checkup, It is now the eleventh month of the 110th NPC presidential administration. There are more days behind us than in front of us, as evidenced by the fact that members are now seeking your support for new officers and governors to lead our club.

Together we have worked hard to become a club of champions. We have had some touchdowns, some good drives, some challenges—even fumbles in our aim towards the goal, but there have been more good plays than bad.

Together overall however, we have been very productive as a club. Very.

Insofar as our physical plant is concerned, I hope you have become cozy with the new chairs, bar bag hooks, better bar selections, bar outlets and more high top tables in the members Reliable Source restaurant and bar. That’s an extension of a promise borne of discussions had between house and bar team chair Paul Merrion, the club staff and I before being elected. Now Paul Merrion, board vice chair Derek Wallbank and Bill McCarren are working closely to execute the vision. Teamwork. Promises made. Promises kept.

Regarding our finances, we are in rock solid shape—especially in our investments.

Thanks to a team ably led by co-chairs Lisa Matthews and Betsy Fischer-Martin, we have hosted over three-dozen headliners who have generated a range of solid coverage. Speakers have included:
Pfizer CEO Ian Read;
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford;
Ballerina Misty Copeland;
Ken Burns and the team on his Vietnam War series;
House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

Now President Trump’s civilian leadership team are beginning to appear at the club, led by with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and VA Secretary David Shulkin. Other big names are on the calendar, including NBC’s Chris Matthews with his book on Bobby Kennedy; Donna Brazile with her wave-making tell-all on the 2016 election that’s making waves and Walter Issacson with his new book on Leonardo DaVinci.

The various teams have been busy.

We had a wonderful annual photo exhibit by the photo team; the events team hosted karaoke and outings to a winery, the Library of Congress, and the Warner Theater. The broadcast team visited the Washington Post and held its occasional legends series with Maureen Bunyan. The communicators team had a successful summit featuring global PR mogul Richard Edelman, our young members led the way on yet another successful NPC Spelling Bee, in which politicians faced off against the press, to benefit our nonprofit Journalism Institute.

Our Freedom team has been quite busy—making news when Martin Mendez Pineda, a Mexican journalist who sought asylum in the U.S. after being threatened with his reporting but returned after the same U.S. authorities who found he had “credible fear” for his safety refused to parole him from prison here. Now in hiding, Mendez was denied a visa to visit the club for a screening of a documentary about the terrifying challenges facing our colleagues south of the border.

The club has of course blasted the U.S. government for its actions — something we have had to do more times this year in the realm of freedom of the press than I care to count.

We are doing what we can to meet the unusual challenges this year has brought. Your club is partnering with the Journalism Institute to call out infringements of the First Amendment; we have joined friend-of-the-court briefs on press freedom cases and hosted summits where journalists and those they cover can meet face to face and try to bridge the divides we have.

I’ve literally traveled from coast to coast speaking to various press clubs and journalism organizations and even testified before a House Judiciary Committee forum, flying the flag for the Constitution.

The demand to see and hear from your NPC President has been unusually high this year. While we cannot be everywhere, its heartening that the symbol which is the club through its presidency is called upon to speak truth to power and be counted. Also since the last blog, were able to celebrate lifetime achievement and press freedom by bestowing our Fourth Estate Award to popular Pardon The Interruption duo Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser and our Aubuchon awards. The globally Press Freedom award was accepted on behalf of Mexico’s journalists by Emilio Gutierrez Soto who, with the able translation help of our membership secretary Michele Salcedo, had the room silent as they described the terror that journalists face in the one of most dangerous places to practice journalism, Mexico. Domestically we rightfully feted our colleagues two blocks from here at the White House Correspondents Association. Count this choice, given what we have experienced these past 10 months as a no-brainer.

We even had a chance to show our humanitarian side, hosting the Caricom member country heads of state and diplomats ravaged by recent hurricanes to hold a presser at the club at our expense with barely a couple of days notice.

We are not done yet!

There are more headliners to interview. As a matter of fact, one is quickly coming together, in partnership with the National Press Club Journalism Institute on covering sexual harassment. If you have an idea for one and perhaps can even help land one, let Betsy, Lisa or I know so we can take the suggestion under proper consideration. If the team gives your suggestion the o.k., please be ready to help bring it to fruition.

There are more physical projects to be done. The architects who will oversee the renovation of the bathrooms were here and we’re just about to BID for contractors and get the construction show on the road.

There’s more plays to be made for the long run.

We have launched a working group under the leadership of past president Donna Leinwand Leger and former Secretary Joel Whitaker to look at our food and beverage and see how we can take something good and make it even better.

We are brainstorming on how we at the club can communicate better with each other internally and to the world externally. The ever-energetic Danny Selnick is leading the charge there. If you can help with this, let me know and perhaps we can put you to work too.

There are more Taco nights to be had and ah yes, the Institute’s Book Fair is around the corner on Nov. 10 with a great food being served both in the Fourth Estate and the Reliable Source.

The events and international correspondents teams have joined forces with the Embassy of Ireland to host an Irish whiskey tasting on Nov. 16 The international correspondents and broadcast/podcast teams kick off their “Dinner with an Ambassador” podcast series on Nov. 29 In the Fourth Estate. Details to follow from them.

As the holiday season approaches I hope some of you will come together, have a meal or drinks at the club and then visit venues in the city like Blues Alley, which is owned by one of our members, Harry Schnipper.

Or do a club dinner at the Fourth Estate before heading off to the Capitol One Arena (still trying to get used to not calling it the Verizon Center) the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, the National Theater or the Warner Theater.

Perhaps take a train to Baltimore, Philadelphia, or even New York for the day, take in a game, a show, shop and visit with our reciprocal clubs there. Since the holidays often mark a season of giving, please consider a tax-deductible donation to the National Press Club Journalism Institute to enhance our efforts to promote press freedom, scholarship, journalism education and training.

Our team continues to be thankful for the ride and the trust that you have placed in us. I am particularly honored to be your president and ‘coach.’ Let us continue to sharpen our moves, make the best plays, get across the goal line and build a lasting club of champions.