About

Alaska Press Club • P.O. Box 143426 • Anchorage, AK 99514

Email – alaskapressclubinfo@gmail.com

The Alaska Press Club is an independent professional organization that provides continuing education, recognition and information to journalists across the state. The nonprofit, volunteer-led club hosts an annual journalism contest and organizes two major events each year: a three-day journalism conference and an awards celebration, held the final day of the conference.

An Early History of the Alaska Press Club

Original bylaws show the Alaska Press Club was incorporated in 1951 as a group made up mostly of Anchorage members in a variety of mass communications enterprises, including newspapers, radio or advertising.

An overview of meeting minutes from the mid- to late ’50s shows a loose-knit group that met mostly in the evenings at the Westward Hotel, now the Westward Hilton. The club had its own designated meeting room, with a bar, and according to old meeting minutes, business centered on such matters as how to greet visiting dignitaries, approving new members (with a quorum of eight to 12) and plans for upcoming banquets.

In the spring of 1960, there apparently arose a rift between chapters of the club in Anchorage and Fairbanks (then called the Farthest North Press Club). A meeting was proposed with delegates from the two chapters to take place
at Paxson’s Lodge (neutral ground), and such meeting took place April 3,1960. Three hours and 30 minutes later, the group drafted a new constitution for a statewide organization.

The record notes: “It is believed that the feeling which the Fairbanks people may have had, that Anchorage was about to ‘swallow them up,’ was entirely dissipated after the constitution had been carefully read and explained, and changes requested by Fairbanks had been accepted.”

Meeting minutes of five years later show, however, that the two groups apparently never really mended fences and remained separate entities.

The Farthest North Chapter eventually became affiliated with SPJ. The Press Club appears to be instrumental in creating the Alaska Blue Book and the annual recognition of Alaska “49ers,” which in later years evolved into an annual civic awards event.

By the mid-1960s, the club held weekly lunch meetings, inviting speakers that usually made headlines in the next day’s papers. These were quasi-press conferences with newsmakers—only the questioning wasn’t very rigorous, and you had to be a club member to attend.

Membership has included a couple of former state attorney generals (Edgar Boyko, John Havelock), many public relations and public information folks, as well as print and broadcast journalists.

Today, the organization is open to journalists only and has developed into a group of several hundred members from across the state. The main focus of the club these days is planning and organizing an annual statewide journalism contest and conference, long referred to as “J-Week,” to recognize journalistic excellence and offer continuing education to journalists at all levels.

— Compiled with the help of Larry Campbell