It is a great honor for me to lead the Foreign Press Association in this 76th year of its existence. It is also a great pleasure for me - as a foreign correspondent from a tiny and newly independent Slovenia - to be part of a large family of foreign journalists who are working in New York and the tri-state area.
Seventy-five years of the FPA - the oldest association of its kind in the United States - is a history in itself. But it is also a part of a broader history, of great events which members of the FPA have witnessed and documented.
(right) Mitja Mersol with
AT&T v-p R.L. Tobias,
at an UN FPA luncheion
The 11 foreign correspondents - eight British, two French and one Italian - who gathered together and organized themselves into the FPA, were based here when the US entered the First World War. Since then the FPA has been growing at a rate which reflects the growth of American importance in the world. The more the US emerged from its policy of isolationism, the more interested the world press corps became.
The membership of the FPA increased from the original 11 in 1918 to 300 or so in the 1950s and reached a peak of 501 in 1987. Currently we have about 400 members supplying 250 print and broadcasting media outlets in 55 different countries.
We are, somehow, “twofold ambassadors.” We bring our worlds to the US, and at the same time we export our views on the US and its citizens to readers and audiences in our own countries.
Researchers have suggested that Mr or Ms Average Foreign Correspondent in the US is 42.5 years old, married with one child, and has been a journalist for more than 20 years. This seems to undermine the common belief that, because of all the hardship and stress, journalists that old are hard to find. If the researchers are to be believed, and our lives really do go beyond the age of 43, then we are lucky and privileged indeed. However, no new research is needed to establish our luck and privilege to be working and living in New York. Although, to really believe that, perhaps a little imagination is necessary.
On researching the history of the FPA, our colleague and former president, Roy Murphy from New Zealand, uncovered much more substantial material than had been anticipated. Therefore we are planning to compile and publish a book featuring this history within the next few months as part of our 75th Anniversary celebrations. You will see in the pages of this Brief History some of the people we have honored, and who have honored us, over the past 75 years.
The historical research revealed that the FPA has awarded scholarships to students of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in the past, a happy coincidence with our decision to give a similar award this year. We also discovered that foreign students studying there have a great need for financial support. Therefore we have decided to set up a fund so that a scholarship award can be made to a deserving student (and, hopefully, a future colleague) at Columbia University every year.
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