President's letter 2010: Power of networking

Megan Kamerick

At the recent Edge of Change conference at the Poynter Institute I was struck by a comment by Pam Johnson, one of the earliest members of JAWS and one of the editors of the “Edge of Change” book. She said years ago, JAWS members helped her get a job in Arizona. Johnson went on to hold executive and managing editor positions at The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette.

The most powerful thing we have as women, she said, is networking.

As we work to grow JAWS into the future, I’ve been thinking a lot about what our message is to potential members and donors. What does networking mean? Women getting jobs, getting better jobs, becoming leaders, striking out as independents, finding support, finding courage, mentoring one another and sharing knowledge. That’s a quick list of what networking means in JAWS.

The JAWS board did a bit of networking of its own during an intensive spring meeting in Albuquerque in April. Among our tasks was site selection for 2011 Camp, but also 2012. It’s a bit unusual to book two years out, but our indefatigable site selection maven, Lisa Chung, advised us to push forward while the meetings market was suffering to secure a good deal.

In 2011 we will be in Asheville, N.C., at the Crowne Plaza Tennis & Golf Resort from Sept. 23-25. This is a classic Blue Ridge Mountain resort, but is just minutes from downtown Asheville and only 15 miles from the Asheville Regional Airport.

As for 2012, after the lively discussion on the JAWS listserv following the passage of the Arizona immigration law, the board felt there was a serious possibility that attendance at Camp would be down if we met in Arizona. That would hurt the organization financially and impact the quality of the meeting and JAWS simply cannot afford to take that risk.

So we have signed a contract with the Hyatt Tamaya Resort near Albuquerque for Sept. 21-23, 2012. This is a beautiful property on Santa Ana Pueblo about 25 minutes from the Albuquerque airport and 45 minutes south of Santa Fe. The 5,000-foot elevation offers temperatures in the 70s and 80s in September, but without the health issues of a much higher altitude.

Huge thanks go out to Lisa, as well as Julie Bird, Jo-Ann Huff Albers, Dawn Fallik, Julia Klein and Marianne Triplett for all of their site visits and careful reporting for the complex matrix the board uses to make these decisions. They traveled on their own nickel, often through inclement weather, to find the perfect settings for all of us.

We started our board meeting with an inspiring talk on fundraising from Lynn Trojahn, vice president of advancement with microlender ACCION, who urged us to think of ourselves not as a nonprofit, but as a social profit doing good in the world.

JAWS has been riding a giddy wave in the last several years thanks to two successful challenge grant campaigns via the Challenge Fund for Journalism. Alas, we cannot rest on our laurels if we want to be around and relevant in the future. You are an ambitious group of women, eager to see us do many things. But we still have just one half-time staff person (a shoutout to the amazing and fabulous Becky Day, our tireless executive director) and an extremely busy board.

So we now have a permanent fundraising committee headed by vice president Amy Resnick. She is putting together a list of possible donors and other sources, such as foundations. She is also working with former president Dawn Garcia on creating an advisory board. She welcomes any members who would like to help.

At the spring meeting, we also reviewed the results of the online member survey. You can read Second Vice President Kat Rowlands’ summary in this issue and we are posting a summary of the results online on our evolving website – check out Gina Setser’s piece on our Web revamp. It’s long overdue, but the matching funds we raised last year have allowed us to hire a consultant to help us get this done.

Camp co-chairs Janet Vitt and Sharon Walsh are putting together a fantastic program for this year’s Camp. Please join us at Tapatio Springs near San Antonio Oct. 22-24 for another amazing JAWS Camp!

Finally, I am sad to say farewell to Katy June-Friesen as our tireless newsletter editor. She has done a fantastic job and also introduced us to Sherron Phillips, who does our layout. But Katy also has exciting news of her own – check out her blurb in SharkBytes. Congratulations, Katy! Our new editor will be Sarah Gustavus, a radio reporter with KUNM in Albuquerque, the top public radio station in New Mexico. She is also a new member. So welcome, Sarah, and thanks for jumping in right away to help JAWS!

Megan Kamerick