April 9, 2004
A POYi Open Letter
TO Friends of Photojournalism
FROM David Rees, POYi Director
POYi and NPPA have for years shared the same goal of fostering excellence in photojournalism. I regret that we parted ways three years ago. POYi's integrity and value as a competition to recognize outstanding photojournalism, editing and use was certainly enhanced through association with NPPA. My incentive to work with POYi is continually renewed in conversations with photographers who value POYi for the recognition it affords, the extra 'legs' it gives their work, for the validation of their photography and the people whose stories they're telling. POYi has not been just a contest - it has really helped to shape the profession in magazines and newspapers worldwide.
The POYi / NPPA split occurred for financial reasons. We had lost support from corporate sponsors - dramatically - and we were faced with an economic imperative to start charging entry fees to all entrants. A significant issue we believed for the loss of corporate support was that the 2000 Best of Photojournalism book failed to make any mention of corporate sponsors or of the University, as was required in our contract. Additionally, we had seen the funding problem coming a couple of years before and had talked with NPPA leadership at their annual meetings in Memphis and Denver and had received encouragement from them to modify aspects of the contract which would enable us to charge entry fees to NPPA members. However, upon presenting the revised language to NPPA, they said it was no longer an option - a "non-starter" for them, and they then raised the possiblity of providing a grant to help fund the expenses that are inevitably a part of staging a contest - judges travel & housing & meals, stipends for hiring students to log and prepare entries, etc. They invited the proposal (which was $68,000) but ended up rejecting it. NPPA had never supported POYi financially in a direct way, though they did publish the book, Best of Photojournalism, of winning POYi images. In 2001 we instituted entry fees because we had to. NPPA started its own contest.
We have continued POYi - and we will continue to do so. Now in our 61st year, we are working hard to fulfill the POYi Endowment which will provide a firm financial grounding, remove the need for entry fees, increase the educational outreach of POYi. Our plan is to publish a yearly annual. Though we are not currently able to publish a book, we do have all of the winning photographs on our website - www.poyi.org - and we also have a CD-ROM of winning images that we send to the winners.
I have had no hand in the current petition being circulated. On several occasions (the most recent just a year ago on April 17) I spoke with or wrote to NPPA leaders, asking if they would like to discuss possibilities of affiliating - but they indicated no interest in working with POYi. So, I have concentrated my efforts on improving POYi and raising money for the POYi Endowment. I am proud that POYi maintains the strength and vitality that it began with Cliff Edom's vision more than 61 years ago.
We're busy getting ready for the 61st annual POYi awards and education program - next Friday and Saturday (April 16 & 17) here in Columbia. I'm sure that the petition will engender some discussions then, too.
David Rees, Associate Professor
Co-Director Missouri Photo Workshop
Director Pictures of the Year International
Missouri School of Journalism
106 Lee Hills Hall
Columbia, MO 65211