The Pen and Pencil Club, the country’s oldest surviving private press association, welcomed me onto its board of governors as one of its youngest members last February. This month, I am proud to say I was voted on to remain there.
Here is some background on the famous private club and my own goals for being part of its board again.
The P&P as it is called is an institution with at least three clear constituencies:
- Late-night crowd — Being a private club, its hours extend past the 2am curfew for other late-night establishments, so the P&P is famous for its associate members, mostly the restaurant and bar staff who want a night cap after work and other quirky crowd-goers at that hour.
- Old guard regulars — A clutch of retired and former reporters and other club friends are the kinds you find on quiet weekday or early weekend nights. The bar still allows smoking when there aren’t events happening and so caters to that crowd.
- New active membership — In the last 4-5 years, there has been a growing group of active journalists, both with legacy, online and freelance careers, who represent the heart of what the 122-year-old club is meant to be: a place for competitive reporters to share and meet and socialize.
It’s with the the help of this last group that we’ve seen a real flourishing at the P&P, both in membership, events and awareness among reporters. Interest in board membership reached a modest peak — 13 people vied for 9 board seats this month, the most in at least a generation.
Because of its long history and members-only experience, it’s the same place that has drunken pro athletes and famous chefs pass through (video here). There’s a lot of culture in this off-the-record, members-only club.
Here are some goals I’d like to be a part of as a board member, working with our strong executive committee:
- Grow and establish membership — Membership is just $40 a year and is still very traditional: paper sign-ups, recorded in a paper ledger. I think we can grow this and modernize the recording process. I also think there are member benefits that can be better made clear: better enforcing members-only events, finding drink and food discounts for those carrying their cards and more.
- Grow the Philadelphia News Awards — In my first year as board member, I was a big proponent of the club’s first ever News Awards, which rewarded Philadelphia journalists with online voting backed by board nominations. In December, along with a roast of outgoing club President Chris Brennan, we hosted a packed house of reporters to give the awards out. I want to help establish this as the region’s most coveted media honor.
- Establish more traditions — Like roasting outgoing club president Brennan and being a frequent spot for legacy media orgs holiday parties and retirement parties and the like, I think there are other ways that the P&P can remain an institution.
- Making events more regular — The P&P’s popular Off the Record sessions for reporters and other events series often come in clumps. I’d like to make these more consistent, better attended and better publicized via a more comprehensive journalism community calendar.
- Streamline marketing and share history — We have a solid website from a committed volunteer webmaster (who doesn’t even live in Philly anymore but still maintains his really great support), so I want to work with him to use the website as a better tool to collect emails for our newsletter, keep social media sharing our events and work and better communicate the club’s rich history.
- Mature the board voting process — Voting for board members requires it to happen in person, which does show commitment but that’s why this year’s election, the most competitive in recent memory, grabbed just 30 votes of several hundred active members. I’d like to see the annual cold February Monday night have more an election night ritual, including board member candidates soliciting a clear, concise stance for being on the board.
I’ve begun to keep other ideas on a document here.