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President's Corner

The Next Two Years

As your new president I am honored to serve the New Jersey Press Photographer's Association and its members. I would like to congratulate or new Vice President, Kevin Wexler, Secretary/Treasurer, Reena Rose Sibayan, as well as thank our Webmaster Cie Stroud, Clip Contest Chair Tyson Trish and Contest Chair Jennifer Brown for their continued hard work.

Over the next two years I plan to increase the membership of the organization, provide members with information and support and make the NJPPA a more active community. Here are some of the things we will be working on:

Increase Membership - We have seen a steady decline in membership over the last several years even though there seems to be just as many, if not more, news photographers out on the street. When I first joined this organization in 1984 as an intern at The Trenton Times it was something of a requirement if you wanted to work as a photojournalist in New Jersey. I remember staff photographer Tom Herde pestering me until I finally filled out an application and sent in my check. In those first months of working I didn't realize how important membership was but quickly caught on because of how active and involved the NJPPA members were at the time. There was a camaraderie that went beyond the contests and dinner that made you feel you were a part of something. I would like to get some of that back by giving current members more of a reason to join than just being able to participate in the contests and dinner.

I have heard from several members that right now there is not much point in joining beyond that. I also plan on doing whatever I can to get more members enrolled from the central and southern areas of our state. Despite our current enrollment we are NOT the North Jersey Press Photographers Association and stand to benefit greatly by having more of our membership from outside of that area.

Provide Information and Support - Current events in the last six years have dramatically affected our ability to do many aspects of our jobs as news photographers. The days when we had almost unfettered access and freedom at spot news and large events are seemingly gone. Every day there are more restrictions on us and more officials who take no pause in putting their own interpretation on the laws when it comes to our rights in gathering the news.

In the coming months I plan on creating a page on the njppa.org web site that is a central location for members to find information on all the laws and rights we have as photojournalists including information specific to county courthouses. Much of the latter information will be coming from our membership in all areas of the state so please feel free to contact me with specific information on your county's procedures. As NJPPA President I am also hoping to establish relationships with state and local police superintendents and chiefs. My goal is to help develop an understanding with law enforcement officers that will allow us all to do our jobs effectively without impedance on either part.

Become a more active community - In the coming months you will see some additions to the web and contests that I hope will make our community stronger and more active. First is the immediate launch of the NJPPA blog at http://njppa.blogspot.com/ This is a forum open to all for reading, and members for posting, any and all information on photojournalism here in New Jersey. Members are encouraged to post thoughts, ideas and hopefully start discussions on what's going on with them and others in our profession. Along with the njppa.org web site it will also be a clearing house for information and messages from the NJPPA and it's officers.

Beginning in March we will be adding a multimedia category to the clip contest. It will be judged quarterly and is open to still photographs presented on the web in multimedia form (no full motion video just yet). Look for details in the Clip Contest section of njppa.org on how to enter in the coming weeks. In addition to these we also plan on organizing informal meetings and get-togethers for all members and guests as a way to stay connected on a more personal level. Most will be in the evenings and may have a theme or guest speaker. Contact Jennifer Brown (jbrown@starledger.com) if you have an idea or would like to host an evening.

Lastly, we all know any organization's strength comes from its members. All of the officers ran unopposed in this past election and if we had not run the NJPPA would have been disbanded. This is not a guilt trip, it's the truth. I want to see our community grow in its interests and diversity as well as be a group our members feel interested in and proud to belong to. I am calling on all our current members to please do whatever you can to help out.

The NJPPA By Laws call for a Board of Trustees. These are five members who would normally have been elected along with the other officers, and whose responsibilities included formulating policies and interpreting the by laws. I can't remember the last time I voted for a trustee member, so in an attempt to comply with the by laws I am implementing the following. I would like to divide the state into five regions with one person in each region replacing the traditional role of trustee. These new trustees will not be responsible for interpreting the by laws and such, but will act as officers who help increase and maintain membership in that region. They will help members statewide form and maintain a more cohesive group and will be invited to participate in all meetings of the NJPPA officers. Please contact me (tkurdzuk@starledger.com) if you are interested or know of anyone who may be interested in becoming a new trustee.

I am very concerned by members telling me they currently feel disenfranchised and that there is no point in being an NJPPA member beyond the contests. We have some great ideas and lots of room for improvement. The officers of the NJPPA want to hear from you with your ideas and suggestions as well. Either by sending us an email directly or using the new blog space, I am sending out an open invitation to all members to let us know what you would like to see the NJPPA do and become, so here's your chance.

I am looking forward to the next two years as an opportunity to make the NJPPA all I know it can be. In so many ways New Jersey plays the role of stepchild to New York and Philadelphia. I would hate to see the news photographers in this state become included in that group and have nowhere else to turn for a professional organization. With your help we can prevent that and at the same time help ourselves by working together.

Tony Kurdzuk
President, NJPPA
Staff Photographer,The Star-LedgerNewark, NJ

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