MISSION: At its most basic level, The Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis is a social, professional and charitable organization, with members ranging from columnists and cartoonists, to authors and editors.
“One of its purposes is to advance the understanding of mass communicators, and also to promote awareness of important issues that are facing the press,” says executive director Glenda Partlow. “The members are not just members of the press, but people who influence the news, make the news, cover the news or are just interested in communications.”
HISTORY: The original creation of the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis can be credited to catfish. In the mid-1950s, over lunch plates of Bismarck Hotel catfish, Martin Quigley of FleishmanHillard and Al ‘Red Dog’ Dopking of the Associated Press—alongside St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff members Ernest Kirschten, John Keasler, Bill Mauldin and Dickson Terry—decided to create The Catfish Club, a media organization named in homage to their frequent lunchtime meal. The Catfish Club officially began in 1956, with Quigley as its first president; by the 1960s, it became known as The Press Club.
As the face of journalism changed, so did the club. Members-only meals have long since been abandoned; on the other hand, the group's charitable aspect has been given room to grow. Activities are still recurrent, with both social and educational events frequenting the calendar.
And while the present-day name may be more self-explanatory, The Press Club pays tribute to its fish-filled roots. “We have an annual meeting in December, and the club honors somebody with The Catfish Award,” Partlow explains . “This is a member who not only has done great things that we’d consider accomplishments for St. Louis, but great things for the club.”
COMMUNITY IMPACT: The charitable aspect of The Press Club surfaces through a variety of media-related scholarships and programs, offering an estimated $20,000 in support last year. Internship opportunities also are available, including through the Press Club-sponsored media achieves at the St. Louis Public Library.
But the impact of the organization reaches farther. Through its Enterprise Journalism grants, The Press Club also acts as a financial backer to media professionals with a story to tell. The program funds travel and other research-related expenses for approved print, online, radio or television journalistic endeavors.
PRESS CLUB 2014 MEDIA PERSON OF THE YEAR GALA, DATE T.B.D., EDWARD JONES HEADQUARTERS
At this scholarship dinner, the Press Club will award St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Rick Hummel as the Media Person of the Year, as well as honor longtime broadcaster and former Cardinal Bob Uecker and journalist Bob Duffy.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED: To find out more, call 636-230-1973 or visit stlpressclub.org.
ON THE BOARD: BILL SMITH
The Enterprise Journalism grants brought Bill Smith into The Press Club, after the former president, Richard Weiss, asked him to join as a board- and committee-member for the then-new program. Some five years later, Smith, who is a handful of months into his two-year term as board president, says the entire Press Club should be proud of the work they have financed.
Smith explains that members have become increasingly concerned that “good journalism was being lost because of cut-backs… and [Weiss] saw this as one way to fill that gap. The idea was to look at stories that were underreported in the community; stories that maybe took some investigation.” Grants range from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 to support the research behind such stories. “The Press Club doesn’t own its own printing press, so we have to rely on partnering with other media to get these stories out," Smith adds.
When he's not overseeing his Press Club board colleagues (equipped with his trademark gavel), Smith works as an investigator with the Better Business Bureau. Prior to the BBB, he was a newsman, covering topics ranging from hard news to features for outlets such as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Beacon.