TRAVERSE CITY (WWJ) – Preliminary plans to revive the Detroit Press Club were revealed in Traverse City this week, where much of the Detroit media was gathered at an automotive conference.
“Detroit may be down, but we’re far from out,” said Bob Giles, former director of news operations at ABC’s WXYZ-TV channel 7 in Detroit and a member of the organizing group.
Added Steve Purdy, treasurer of the Individual Communicators Network, which is initiating the comeback: “Detroit is taking its licks. We think that by re-establishing the Detroit Press Club we can demonstrate there’s still plenty of life in the city.”
The club was first formed in 1958; membership peaked at 500. Its first location was at Detroit’s Leland Hotel. Soon after it purchased its own building on Howard at First Street near the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. When the federal government purchased the site the club moved to the Renaissance Center.
Like many other press clubs around the nation, though, the club closed — in Detroit’s case, in 1994.
Giles is currently editor of NewCarNews and Purdy is Detroit editor of TheAutoChannel.
Giles said the new press club “will begin as a virtual club with several meetings throught the year, hopefully to bring the media together to address common issues and hear from newsmakers. We feel that this an excellent time to talk up Detroit and the excellent work from the area’s media.”
But eventually, Giles said, organizers hope to establish a physical club location.
“We think that there is an excellent opportunity to eventually have a fixed home where all could meet, with the understanding that social media has become a way of life in how we communicate with each other and readers, viewers or listeners,” Giles said.
And part of the reinstatement would involve bringing back two venerable media awards.
Said Giles: “We also want to honor the best of Michigan journalism by reinstating the Michigan Excellence in Journalism Awards and the International Wheel Awards, both formerly sponsored by the original DPC.” The awards were last staged in 2008.
Giles said there likely will be several membership categories, as there were in the old club, including working press, public relations professionals and political and business VIPs.
“We want to be inclusive but we would have a membership committee that would have the final say on membership applications,” he added.
Dave Smith, a former Detroit Press Club president, applauded the effort.
“The old club was based on comradeship among the media – a place where you could talk shop with your pals, contacts and competitors,” Smith said. “The Internet has triggered a sea change in the media, but there’s still a lot of commonality: Get the story out and get it right.”
Giles and Purdy admitted that a Detroit Press Club renaissance presents significant challenges.
“We think the old timers will welcome the return of the Press Club, but appealing to younger folks, and those focused on the new media, will be at the top of our list,” Giles said.
The organizers have developed a tentative catalogue of potential benefits for members including:
* An opportunity for those in the Detroit and Michigan media to share thoughts, ideas and stories.
* Access to U.S. and foreign press clubs.
* Lively social and entertainment activities.
* An agenda of prominent speakers on topical subjects, including critics of the Motor City.
* A communications link for members at http://www.detroitpressclub.org (although that Web site was not yet operating as of Wednesday).
Contact Bob Giles at firstname.lastname@example.org or Steve Purdy at email@example.com.