Virginia Professional Communicators has a 55-year history
Virginia Professional Communicators started its life nearly 55 years ago as Virginia Press Women, an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women.
We originally organized to provide support and networking opportunities to women who worked at newspapers as writers primarily on the “women’s pages,” which were generally the only jobs open to them. Gradually women fought their way into the newsroom and became reporters and editors in every area of daily and weekly papers.
Many newspapers in Virginia paid the dues, conference fees and/or contest entry fees for their female reporters and editors for VPW, and membership swelled during the ‘70s and ‘80s to nearly 250, making our affiliate one of the largest in the country.
The Virginia Press Association was generally considered a management organization, while VPW and The Society of Professional Journalists were the journalists’ organizations. Only management could decide which stories to enter into the VPA communications contests, for example, but individual journalists who wrote or edited stories could enter the VPW Communications Contest, which was a big drawing card for our organization. And, while VPW was largely female, it was not exclusively so. We have always had a handful of male members throughout the years. Others refused to join because of our name.
While VPW was primarily an organization of journalists during the early years, it was also open to the occasional PR person, who was usually a media relations person in a university news bureau, non-profit organization or government bureau. But this began changing in the ‘90s and accelerated into the new century. Many more PR professionals with a variety of job descriptions began joining VPW from all types of businesses and organizations.
This coincided with the time that newspapers and magazines cut back on their support as press circulations dropped with the advent of the Internet and more competition with online advertising. In some cases, we have no representation at all from dailies that were, at one point, some of the sources of our largest number of members.
Today, our membership is much more weighted toward PR professionals (44%) and freelancers (21%) than journalists working at newspapers or magazines, either printed or online (18%). Authors represent 5% of our members and 12% have listed themselves in the “other” category or did not identify themselves. Recognizing our current diverse membership, we decided to change our name to Virginia Professional Communicators in 2014 and launch a rebranding and member recruitment program.
We invite you to join us to benefit from the experiences of this diverse group of communications professionals. Whether you want to expand your knowledge, obtain validation through awards, change careers to a related field or simply build friendships, you won’t find a better or more welcoming organization.