It all begins with the regionals, don’t miss out

Suzanne and I were privileged to attend the first combined regional press association convention between the North & East Texas Press Association (NETPA) and the West Texas Press Association (WTPA) held in Rockwall in April. We are planning to attend the Texas Gulf Coast Press Association convention this month and the other association’s conventions this summer.
With attendance numbers slipping over the past years for many regional associations, this was the perfect solution for NETPA and WTPA. It allowed both associations to share expenses and get an affordable room rate thanks to the increased numbers, while still allowing each to hold its association’s board meeting and newspaper contest award presentations. I think it was a win-win and I think it might be a trend that more regional associations explore in coming years.
We got to spend three days with our old friends in the NETPA where both Suzanne and I have served as contest chairman, convention chairman and president. But most of all, we got to know our West Texas newspaper family members. And let’s just say – we had a lot of fun.
Yes, we did learn from the various speakers. But mostly we learned that we are all in this journey together – and that’s what makes regional press associations so special and should be a must-attend experience for all Texas Press Association members.
I know there are many of you who only concern yourself with the state and national press associations. And those associations are vital to the survival of our industry. You may think regionals are not worth the money and time it costs to send your editor or sales manager or reporter or even yourself. And I get that. Will Jarett and Ken Johnson, owners of Westward Communications where I worked for 20 years, felt that same way when I first suggested attending.
But once I started attending and we got more of our Westward publishers and our editors to attend, they soon saw that we were bringing back new sales tools like fresh special section ideas. We made connections with others in our business that actually wound up saving money in the long run by sharing the workload at things like the state track meet in Austin – one photographer shooting for a dozen papers instead of everyone paying to have 12 people go and pay for 12 hotel rooms and 12 mileage reports.  I know some Mom and Pop papers, like Suzanne and I now have, were sharing people for years. But Westward wasn’t doing that.
Within three years Westward had every publisher attending the NETPA convention and that soon grew into them attending the TPA convention and some even went on to attend the National Newspaper Association conventions. Regional press associations are the feeders into the state press association, who feeds the national press organizations.
Regional press associations raise money each year to give scholarships to deserving high school and college students who will hopefully go on to become a part of our newspaper family and could become a valuable member of your newspaper staff. 
And if you are at the convention you can be a part of that growth by bidding on live and silent auction items. NETPA and WTPA raised more than $3,800 at their joint meeting with Pat Canty playing auctioneer and yours truly serving as his Vanna White. That $3,800 will be split between the two associations and will easily fund one $1,500 scholarship for NETPA and WTPA. That really is a win-win in my book.
What I’m trying to say here is … if you and your staff members aren’t attending your regional press association convention you are missing out and the associations are missing out on your talents and sharable ideas.
And you are missing out on some very valuable lifelong friendships.
I know most of you who attend the TPA convention and I am honored to be able to call many of you good friends. But my regional press association is where I found family. We stay in touch year-round and we call one another when times are good and when times are hard. If not for the NETPA I would not have people like Phil and Lesa Major, Susan and John Reeves, and Randy Keck and Brad Blakemore, as well Lange Svehlak and Jake Mienk and many more as cherished family members who I know would be there for me and Suzanne. All I have to do is make the call.
Here’s a quick example – my son was fighting wildfires in West Texas many years ago and he ran out of money and had no ATM card at the time. I mentioned his dilemma to my old friend and NETPA board member Robert Burns in passing and the next thing I knew Josh was calling me and told me Robert has driven two hours to give him $200 cash.
At the NETPA/WTPA joint convention I presented the TPA and legislative report like all previous TPA presidents have done, but I also was honored to read the West Texas Press and North East Texas Press Memoriam Report of those who had passed away between 2019-21. The list was long. So many close friends and yes – newspaper family members. They will all be missed, but their years of participation in the regional press associations continue to tell a story.
So, I am making that call to you – please support your regional press associations with not only your membership dues, but with your attendance and participation in the contest.
You never know, you might just develop a lifelong friend and your employees might become much better assets in your organization.