Newly appointed board member Melissa Lyttle invited an open discussion online, and it’s taken-off in just the way I love. It’s generally productive, civil and lively.

But short of taking a leave of absence from my job and family there is no way I can sit and respond to every post as it goes up.

You’ll have to take a look at the Luceo Images facebook page to see the origins:

As I’ll often tell anyone who will listen, the NPPA suffers from a couple of primary ills. We’re old and we’re big. We may not be as big as we once were, but that hasn’t kept us from being old. The NPPA was founded over 60-years ago … for those who need a history lesson … in an effort to build community (back then they called it fraternalism since all the members were men), improve the perception of news photographers (the term photojournalism had not gained widespread acceptance at that point) and fight for the rights for cameras in the courts.

Any organization with 60-years of history may well find it difficult to change directions. A decade ago, just before and just after I joined the board, the NPPA was mired in a debate over the new stringer agreement being foisted by the Associated Press. A lot of the AP’s stringers were resisting the Work-For-Hire aspects of the contract and many were begging the NPPA to speak-out on the issue.

The leadership of the NPPA used language in the association’s bylaws that forbade the NPPA from taking sides in any labor matters, primarily meant to keep the NPPA from butting into union business. In the end, as is well established, too many of the AP’s stringers signed and the battle was lost (and some would argue the war). I was among those who made it a priority to change that language in our bylaws, help establish the NPPA’s advocacy committee and supported the NPPA’s creation of a Business Practices committee. Maybe it was too little too late, but this is what I’m talking about, historic forces slowed our ability to respond. It is my hope that changes we’ve made in the NPPA over the last few years will make a difference in addressing future challenges.

Historically the NPPA did many of the community building things being sought in those comments. Only as the newspaper industry has fragmented and the NPPA’s financial status dwindled has that become less the case.

Regional gatherings, photo nights, were a regular thing. Regional clips winners were published each quarter with both comments from judges and commentary from the winning photographer. Larger educational events were well attended and gave ample opportunity for socialization and professional networking.

Now, most of us rely on the web for these things, and the NPPA’s web presence has lagged behind. It’s undeniable, it’s frustrating. For years the NPPA web site was little more than a listing of phone numbers and mailing addresses. Like the newspaper publisher who believed right up to the turn of the 21st century that the web was just a fad for kids and pornographers, the NPPA’s leaders and staff failed to keep-up. And now we are behind the 8-ball. Catch-up fast or be left behind.

All I can say now is that the leaders of the NPPA, the staff and the volunteers, are aware of this challenge. We know where the services need to be, where the virtual community must be built and it’s just a matter of finding the resources and hoping this can all be done in a timely manner.

But in the meantime, where are our members going? Facebook. Blogs. Sportsshooter. But no one of those places offers the comprehensive needs of the community. My goal is for the NPPA to be that one-stop community for visual journalists.

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