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From the Editor's Desk
2004, Q4 (July 05, 2007)
by Michael Harvey, Managing Editor, Carolina Communiqué

'Michael Harvey'
'Michael Harvey'
Maybe it's because there's been less daylight over the past several weeks. Or maybe it's because I'm increasingly aware of getting older. Or maybe it's because two valued members of our chapter recently passed away. No matter the reason, time seems short.

When I was chapter president, I called Austin Farrell one afternoon. I was assembling a list of past presidents and there was a gap from his term as our first president until the mid 1970s. He didn't have the information I sought. But it didn't matter, as I found him an engaging and witty conversationalist. I was in a hurry that day, so I had to cut our conversation short. I intended to call him again and give him a proper interview. I sensed he had interesting stories to share.

I never met Keith Helmink, but everyone I've spoken with who knew him recalls a bright, motivated guy who enjoyed technical writing and technology. I meant to call Keith to ask him to contribute to the newsletter and find out more about him.

I never got around to either call.

Recently I heard someone remark that every day above ground is a great day. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the stress-inducing minutiae of the moment that you lose sight of that simple fact. In my paying job as a manager of technical writers, it's so easy to get twisted around the dumb corporate thing de jour that I forget how wonderful it is to interact with a team of smart, curious, and funny individuals who intellectually disassemble new technology and put it back together with words, diagrams, and hyperlinks.

It's equally wonderful to interact with fellow members of the Carolina chapter. That the new, Society-led "transformation" might adversely affect the chapter, as Anjela explains in her president's message, boggles my mind. The most tangible value we get from STC comes through our chapter. We pay our dues and we get direct services.

For example, the Carolina chapter subsidizes five local SIGs, such as the Management SIG. See Alexia Idoura's article about what that SIG has done and what it plans to do in the coming year. Find out more about our SIGs at http://www.stc-carolina.org/sigs/index.shtml.

The chapter periodically holds a local conference. See Terry Smith's article about Tri-Doc for the planned slate of speakers. Tri-Doc provides an opportunity to learn and network with the leaders in our profession without having to spend more than the registration fee and gas money.

Every year, our chapter holds online communication, publications, and technical art competitions. They work hard to train judges for that competition but have fun as they do it, as Ann-Marie Grissino describes in her article. Our local award winners often go on to win awards at the national level; our judges are that good.

STC Carolina has senior members like Bill Albing, a two-term past president, who always looks ahead. Bill dives headfirst into new technologies, thinks about their implications for his peers, and shares his thoughts freely so that we all can become more marketable and current. His contribution this issue is the first installment of his new regular column "Key Content."

Many who earn an M.S. in Technical Communication from N.C. State University choose to get involved with STC Carolina after getting their first technical writing position. Heather Brautman, a current student in the NCSU program, contributes an article about proving your worth.

And now, our chapter provides its members access to the benefits of credit union membership through the RTP Federal Credit Union.

Andrea Ames's article about the benefits of transformation says "traditionally, STC members have thought of chapters as their communities. Over time, and with the flourishing of virtual communities as a result of technology, special interest groups (SIGs, formerly known as professional interest committees or PICs) have become supremely viableand for many members, preferredvenues for finding depth of practice and community." Well, what about those members, like me, for whom the chapter is the most viable venue for "finding depth of practice and community?" Let's acknowledge these other communities, but let's not create a system that potentially penalizes communities, like STC Carolina, that have been flourishing for years.

I went to the recent membership meeting where Michelle Corbin and Meredith Blackwelder spoke about how our chapter is responding to the transformation initiative, and what our options were for re-chartering. I learned that even though our chapter stretches all the way to the coast, most of our members are concentrated in the Triangle. It's easy for most of our members to meet regularly and learn from one another. Other chapters don't enjoy this concentration of membership. We will explore a number of ways to our more dispersed members involved in chapter activities. Michelle's and Meredith's presentation and the resulting discussion reinforced my conviction that our chapter is blessed with motivated and smart professionals.

So we clearly can see how our dues are put to work locally, but how does Society invest the money we fork over every year? Let's take a look at STC International's 2003 Annual Report.

Dues $2,418,595
Conference 676,786
Publications and Advertising 136,593
Investments (42,761)
Royalties and Mailing List 39,295
Other 58,160
Total Income $3,286,668
Conference $502,818
Headquarters Operations 1,408,373
Publications 587,615
Chapter Rebates 571,793
General Operating Expenses 263,811
Committees 180,468
Scholarships, Awards, and Grants 38,737
Total Expenses $3,553,615
Change in Net Assets ($266,947)
Net Worth
Net Worth at Beginning of Fiscal Year $1,936,350
Change in Net Assets ($266,947)
Net Worth at End of Year $1,669,403''

Do the arithmetic. Over 70% of Society's income comes from your dues. It's the biggest line on the income side of the ledger. The biggest line on the expense side is "headquarters operations." What's that? Only 17% of Society's income went back to the chapters. That's pitiful. And I'm hearing that an even smaller percentage will go back to chapters in 2005. So with this and with transformation allowing members to opt out of chapter membership altogether, STC Carolina's budget could take a substantial hit.

Am I whining? No! I'm calling you to action. Read how our chapter is responding to the transformation initiative at http://www.stc-carolina.org/transformations/index.shtml. Respond. Get involved. Get active in our community. Write STC leaders at the national level and ask why chapters are getting smaller dues rebates. Tell them you find depth of practice and community through STC Carolina!

Contribute to this newsletterby responding to this editorial or by submitting an article on a topic you choose. You can reach me at mtharvey at yahoo dot com, and share your ideas.

Get around to it. Time is short.End of article.

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