The Beginning The Resurrection The Bylaws Internships

The Beginning

The Bloomington Press Club, as it is structured today, is an outgrowth of an informal group with the same name but different goals.

The club originally was formed in the late 1970s, probably 1978, as a fun organization with “Frivolity, Not Formality” as its motto. The members — and there weren’t many — met weekly at Ye Olde Regulator (now Kilroy’s Sports Bar at 319 N. Walnut St.) for lunch and drinks. Manager Don McGrath gave members the use of the back room, and for that he was made an honorary member. There was no business agenda, and few records were kept.

A recapitulation of the club’s early history can be found in a memorandum to members, written by Pat Siddons after a meeting on April 17, 1980, at which the first steps were taken toward more formality. That memo described the club as “somewhat alive but mostly defunct.”

Dave Nathan, then a local radio personality, started the push for less frivolity and more formality by saying the club needed direction and purpose. He suggested setting up a scholarship program or an awards event, and bringing in noted media speakers for programs. Nathan said he believed setting a goal of a $500 scholarship would provide the impetus for reorganization. Mike Pipher, then with then-local television station Channel 4 and now with Indiana University, and the late Jerilyn Kennedy, then with WTTS Radio, were also active in the reorganization.

It was suggested that the club sponsor an annual roast of a public figure as a fundraiser. IU football coach Lee Corso was the subject of one early roast. There were no others for several years until the roast/toast of Herald-Times Sports Editor Bob Hammel in November 1996.

The 1980 reorganization did not take seed immediately. It moved in fits and starts with none of Nathan’s suggestions being implemented. But officers and a board were chosen.

The Resurrection

On June 16, 1981, 14 months after the first steps toward a formal reorganization were taken, Mike Pipher wrote the board members that he sensed both a need and a willingness to resurrect the club.

He suggested that officers and directors meet on July 14, 1981, at Jeremiah Sweeney’s, then at 4501 E. Third St. Attending that meeting were Pipher; Siddons, Indiana Daily Student publisher; Steve Burch of Wetterau Foods; ad man Bill York; and Jerilyn Kennedy. Cash on hand totaled $74.20, Burch reported, with accounts receivable of $325.

Committees were formed and chairmen named: nominating, York; membership, Kennedy; meetings, Burch; and bylaws, Siddons. Pipher was to be a member of each committee.

A further organizational meeting was set for Aug. 4, 1981, and Sept. 1, 1981, was tentatively set as the date for the official reorganization luncheon, “complete with real members,” as Pipher said.

The Bylaws

The Aug. 4 meeting actually was on Aug. 5. Pipher and Siddons presented the revised bylaws, which mainly affected composition of the board of directors and membership classifications. The revised bylaws were approved. Pipher and Kennedy were named president and vice president, with other officers to be selected later.

The bylaws included three classifications for membership:

  • “A” members — any Monroe County resident whose profession is in the field of news, advertising or public relations.
  • “B” members — Any Monroe County resident who does not meet the qualifications for “A” membership but is deemed by the board to be an asset to the club.
  • “C” members — Any non-Monroe County resident who would otherwise qualify for “A’ or “B” membership or is an Indiana University student.

Only “A” and “B” members would be eligible to vote.

The revised bylaws were substantially the same as those adopted April 5, 1978. One exception was that dues were specified in the earlier version: $20 a year for “A” members, $50 a year for “B” members, and $10 a year for “C” members.

The 1981 revision gave the board the authority to set annual dues but was not specific. In subsequent revisions, the membership categories were eliminated, and the annual dues were set at $20. That figure was raised to $25 in 1996.

At still another reorganizational meeting held Aug. 26, 1981, 10 persons attended: Kennedy; Nathan; Siddons; Margaret Joseph of WFIU Radio; Jim Green, Ed Moss and John Newland, all of the IU News Bureau; and Dan Kadlec and Brian Werth, both of The Herald-Times.

The slate of officers put forth by the nominating committee was approved: Pipher, president; Kennedy, vice president; Joseph, secretary; Werth, treasurer; and board members Nathan, Siddons, Moss, Newland and Bill York.

Membership grew in the early 1980s. Paid members listed in February 1984 totaled 55. At times, the roster has grown to over 90 members.

Scholarships/Internships: A focus on programming

Early on, in preparation for financing two scholarships, the club started an annual fundraiser called “Derby Night” in which participants wagered on filmed horse races. The scholarships of $150 each were first awarded in 1983 to two Indiana University journalism/communications students. That program was phased out in 1996 and replaced by an internship program financing two students at two local social service agencies for a school year.

Still in place is the annual sponsorship of two high school students at the IU High School Journalism Institute.

The internship program continues with success. Working in cooperation with United Way of Monroe County and the IU Foundation, the club identifies social service agencies with communications needs, then selects the interns to work in these agencies. Interns work 150 hours from the latter part of the fall semester through the spring semester. Each student receives $1,000 (originally $750) from the press club, which draws on monies raised from various fundraisers.

Derby Night was discontinued after a few years as membership increased and the treasury grew from dues money and money invested in certificates of deposit. At this time, the club, with assistance from Bank One, started a calendar program as a fundraiser, charging $300 a page to local merchants for advertising. The calendar was discontinued several years ago.

Also during those formative years, the club helped promote the Taste of Bloomington, with a “Taste of the Taste” at which vendors served samples for press club members. One year, Reid Duffy, the restaurant critic and humorist of Indianapolis television Channel 6, came to Bloomington to review this preamble to the Taste.

After three or four years, the restaurant owners requested that the Taste of the Taste be discontinued because it was too much of a chore for them to essentially put on their show twice.

Most recently, the club has conducted fundraisers tied to the IU School of Journalism’s Speaker Series, which brings renowned journalists and authors to Bloomington each semester for free talks to the public. The club had dinner with NPR’s Nina Totenberg and hosted a reception at Nick’s on Kirkwood with Fox Sports’ Joe Buck. Each raised significant funds for the scholarship/internship program.

The club also invites members to “round up” the monthly lunch cost with the additional dollars going to the scholarship fund.

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