Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stephanie Jaeger interviews Connie Huff, Alaska Professional Communicators

As part of our ongoing series of interviews with Alaska’s literary organizations, we bring you this interview with Connie Huff of Alaska Professional Communicators, with thanks to volunteer interviewer Stephanie Jaeger. 

Can you tell us about the history of APC?

Alaska Professional Communicators was originally called Alaska Press Women. Alaska Press Women was founded in Fairbanks in 1961 just two years after Alaska became a state. Pioneer Alaskan journalist Kay Kennedy believed a professional network would benefit women writers and journalists who were geographically scattered and often isolated from other professional women in the “last frontier” state.

While living in Seattle and working for the Alaska Visitors Bureau, she joined the Washington state affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women. The National Federation of Press Women is an organization of professional journalists and communicators. For more than 70 years, they have promoted the highest ethical standards while looking toward the future in professional development, networking and protecting our First Amendment rights. When she returned to Alaska, she promoted an Alaskan affiliate. The National Federation of Press Women required ten members to establish an affiliate charter. The charter was finally secured when 18 women qualified to become charter members. Creating a newsletter and establishing a communications contest were early orders of business.

March 27, 1964, the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America (9.2 on the Richter scale) jolted Alaska. Alaska Press Women members covered the devastation. Member Betzi Woodman, the Alaskan Reuters international correspondent, phoned the first eyewitness account to the lower 48.

In 2006, the Alaska Press Women voted to change its name to Alaska Professional Communicators to better demonstrate the diversity of its membership. Men and communicators outside of the press are welcomed.

Tell us about your membership—who, how many, and what benefits do they receive by joining APC?

Alaska Professional Communicators, a diverse group of some 70 members, has brought journalists, broadcasters, public relations specialists, photographers and other communicators together from throughout the state. We provide networking, friendship and professional education opportunities for the state’s professional communicators. Networking among members has resulted in friendships lasting 30 plus years. Professional networking and personal friendship have held our organization together for almost five decades. Each member is special to the whole. Most of the membership lives in Anchorage and activities are centered there.

On January 27, 2011, a Social Media Seminar will be held. All of our events and meetings are open to the public. Monthly luncheon meetings with speakers of interest are held the first Thursday of the month September through June.

Our objectives are to help members strive for excellence through dynamic seminars, exceptional networking opportunities and national publications with the hottest tips in the industry; recognize members’ achievements and their service through the nationally acclaimed Professional Communications Contest and the Communicator of Achievement Award at both the state and national level; support youth activities and education with emphasis on ethics and editorial rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment. The National Federation of Press Women holds the only nationwide high school writing contest. NFPW does not discriminate and welcomes minorities and male members.

To be eligible for active membership you must be currently engaged in communications service for remuneration, or the equivalent. Any full-time college or university student who intends to enter the communications field upon graduation may be eligible for student membership.

What awards and scholarships does APC offer? How are people nominated for these awards? How many receive these rewards and how are they chosen?

Betzi Woodman became an Alaska Press Women leader with extraordinary vision and energy. She mentored younger members, encouraging them to develop their leadership and organizational skills. When she expected them to run for office or to organize a workshop, they found they could do much more than they thought they could.

The Betzi Woodman Spark Plug Award is given to a member who inspired us throughout the year, displaying good organizational skills and motivating others to act on behalf of Alaska Professional Communicators. The 2010 recipient was Joan Harris, who has written and illustrated two books on Alaska’s birds and their rescue and treatment.

The Gold Nugget Award was created in the 1960s to recognize outstanding professional achievement. In 1993, it was renamed the Kay Kennedy Gold Nugget Award. The 2010 recipient was Sheila Balistreri for her professional and business accomplishments as a news broadcaster at KTUU Channel 2.

State Communicator of Achievement Awards are then entered for the prestigious national award. Four Alaskans have won the national award and six have placed in the finals. Competition is stiff for this award. Usually about 30 states submit nominees.

Two scholarships a year are awarded to Alaskan college students in a communications field. For details see http://www.akprocomm.org/scholarships.php

What else would you like our readers to know about APC?

Annual dues of $101 include the Alaska Professional Communicators and National Federation of Press Women dues and are some of the lowest of any professional organization. Members receive discounts for luncheon speaker meetings, seminars and communications contest.

In 2000 we hosted the National Communications Conference in Girdwood. We plan to host the 2015 National Federation of Press Women Conference in Anchorage.

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