By Alan Capper
In 1917 a group of eleven foreign correspondents worked with President Woodrow Wilson’s press office to coordinate news from the United States to the Allied countries. In 1918, these journalists grouped together with the provisional title of “The Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the United States”.
There were eight British, two French and one Italian. As a Brit I was pleased to note that our first President was British, Frank Dilmot of the London Daily Express. Since I also worked for The Daily Express I feel a distant kinship with the origins of our association.
This year the Foreign Press Association in New York celebrates our 90th anniversary, having grown to over four hundred members, a wide portfolio of excellent member services and a compelling program of events to be held throughout the year.
America emerged as a World power at the end of the First World War. As its strength and presence increased the number of foreign correspondents based in the United States also increased. The use of the telegraph greatly increased the opportunity of sending news instantly back to the correspondent’s countries of origin. Those early members could not have imagined the tremendous advances in technology that would allow newsgathering and news distribution to become universal across an increasingly wide media spectrum. We have moved from the telegraph to the Internet in a remarkably short period of time.
Today, the United States is still the world’s number one superpower and New York is its epicenter in media, finance, fashion, entertainment, global business, and media. There is also the United Nations underlining the importance of the city. Former Mayor Giuliani called New York “the center of the universe”, and for those of us based here as correspondents we can easily share that viewpoint. It is a pleasure and a responsibility to be a foreign correspondent here.
The Foreign Press Association in its programs, including “First Wednesday” provides opportunities for members to visit organizations ranging from Christies to GE Real Estate, from Bloomberg to New York Water Taxi. We arrange these occasions on the basis that it provides opportunities that individuals could not easily arrange for themselves.
In addition to this 2008 is the 15th Anniversary of the FPA Scholarship Awards providing a number of grants to foreign students at schools of journalism in the United States.
In our 90th year we expect these programs to be more compelling than ever. The technology and the challenges of being a foreign correspondent today are far different from those faced by our colleagues back in 1918. Our role at the FPA will continue to be the provision of opportunity, assistance and good fellowship for all our members, and I wish all of us a memorable and exciting 90th anniversary year.