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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Coming together

Had a great meeting (the first of many, I hope) with two members of the Press Club of Cleveland. For years there has been a rift between Press Club and SPJ. Our foursome chuckled a bit over breakfast at Ruthie and Moe's at the notion because, for the most part, it predates our involvement with our respective organizations.

As it happens, the two organizations used to co-host an awards event. The falling out, it appears, was over who got the money for the event. I'm sure it's far more complicated than that and I'm sure there are many who know the story better than I. Quite frankly, I don't care. And so the rift endured for years and through many organizational evolutions.

But we're in a different time now. A time of coming together. Creative people throughout Northeast Ohio are realizing that we have social and intellectual capital that can only be leveraged for the greater good by working in communion with one another.

That leads me to another of my involvements—Northeast Ohio Communication Affiliates (NOCA). What began as the Cleveland Ad Association's efforts to stem the outward flow of key accounts from Northeast Ohio to the big agencies to the east and west of us, has evolved into something perhaps more meaningful to a larger audience.

Even though we all consider ourselves "communicators," it's become quite evident that we don't know what each organization does. So we're educating each other about mission, our membership, our activities, our strengths, our weaknesses and our future needs. There is so little time and resources available to many that it behooves us to work together.

It's as simple as the printers from the printing association asking why publishers don't keep printing in town. I know of at least one publisher who made a conscious decision to print his publication in town as a direct result of that early NOCA meeting. It's an educational process.

The PR folks want to know why journalists can be so hostile or ambivalent about their pitches. Well, have you asked an editor what he or she needs? Are you pitching them essentially the same story over and over? And do journalists and editors understand what value you bring to the table? It's about communicating, folks.

SPJ is not the end-all, be-all organization. We certainly have our communication guffaws. But we are doing our best to reach out to other groups. We did that recently with a Shop Talk event co-sponsored and planned by National Writers Union. With the help of co-conspirator, Sandy Woodthorpe, we were able to bring a unique group of freelance writers together to discuss projects and going rates. And we talked a bit about what each organization does for its members. If you're interested in the results of that event, please send an e-mail to me or Sandy ( and we will forward you a copy.

The best part about these collaborations is that we're not only building community, we're building relationships. And relationships are the thread that bind our community together. There's been enough fractious energy in this town. And so we're working our way down the path of collaboration. It may be a bit unsteady, but the fun and the meaningful experiences happen along the journey.

In the spirit of collaboration, I invite you to visit Ayad Rahim's blog. Ayad, a journalist and native of Iraq, will be leaving at the end of March for Iraq to report on events one year after the fall of Sadaam Hussein, hopefully for the Wall Street Journal. He will be posting regularly on his blog as well and I hope to invite him back to speak to SPJ and friends upon his return. Godspeed, Ayad.

My word of the day: luminous. Please, use it well and use it sparingly. Its sound and its meaning are far too beautiful and poetic to be used often.

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