VPW President Sande Snead gives the 2008 Distinguished Service Award to Pam Stallsmith (left) and Cynthia PriceApril 5, 2014, was a historic day for Virginia Press Women (VPW), and for some, a very sad day as well for it marked the end of an era. When President Bonnie Atwood adjourned the spring 2014 conference with a bang of the organization’s 56-year-old gavel, it was VPW’s Swan song.
Founded in Richmond in 1958 as an organization for newspaper editors and writers, VPW members amended the organization’s constitution a year later to extend membership to "any writer actively engaged in journalistic services for remuneration."
Charter members included the late Norma Lugar, Agnes Cooke and Lib Wiley. In 1973, membership was opened to men who support the mission of VPW. Venerable VCU Professor and the late George Crutchfield was its first male member. Crutchfield, his wife, Francine, and his daughter, Lisa Crutchfield (Rhudy & Co. team member) were all VPW members at one time.
A new name and brand
On April 5, VPW revised its bylaws again – this time to change the name of an organization many of our members have been associated with for decades.
Virginia Press Women now is called, Virginia Professional Communicators.
While there are still members who are journalists, many long-time members, like me, who were writers and editors for newspapers and magazines, have now moved into public relations, marketing and even advertising careers.
We had a spirited debate on the name change. There was one dissenting vote and when the inscription on the 56-year-old Virginia Press Women gavel was read, there were tears.
Virginia Press Women - 1958
This gavel was made from the wood of a tree that stood within the bounds of the original colony of Jamestown, Virginia, first permanent English settlement in America.
Recognizing that changing the name is not a panacea for increasing our membership, the name change to Virginia Professional Communicators will be accompanied with a re-branding campaign called, RELAUNCH 2014.
Having met so many trailblazing and inspiring women who came before me through my association in Virginia Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women, I’m not sure exactly how I feel now that we have changed our iconic name. But one thing is clear, it will be awfully difficult to get more wood from a tree that stood within the boundary of the original Jamestown colony to make a new gavel.
Sande Snead served as president of Virginia Press Women from 2006-2008, then served as secretary of the Virginia Press Women Foundation Board 2009-2011.