By Bob Nesoff
NATJA Founding President
Sometimes it takes a kick in the “You know what” to get things off the dime and moving. That’s how NATJA came into being.
For a number of years many legit travel writers complained about some “elite” travel writer’s organization that cherry-picked members who had contacts within the organization. That left the greater majority of journalists out in the cold. What was needed was an organization for accredited travel journalists that would be open on a fair and reasonable basis for membership.
But life got in the way and while talks continued on an informal basis, nothing concrete was done. Until, that is, a press trip to Mannheim, PA. Another writer approached me and asked what had ever been done to establish the group we had been talking about for so long. She locked her gaze on me and said: “Stop talking about it and get it done.”
That was a wake-up call. Back home Sandy and I called Dan Schlossberg and we put together a list of potential members, all of whom had copious outlets, written and published articles and even some books. Now we had to get together.
All of those were from the New Jersey/New York Metro area so we had to find a location convenient to everyone. I had a PR contact for a motel chain and he offered us a comp meeting room at a client location in Lyndhurst, NJ.
About a dozen travel journalists attended the meeting. I convinced my lawyer that he should be involved, but that was short-lived. We formulated a constitution that gave every legitimate travel journalist interested in joining a fair and reasonable opportunity to do so. The attorney looked over the constitution and said it looked good to him.
We elected officers. I was named president and Dan Schlossberg became vice president. Sandy Nesoff was elected treasurer. Someone, lost to history, became secretary. A number of names were bandied about for the new group and the members there felt that the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) best fit the bill. It was open to writers, photographers, radio and podcasters, and television journalists specializing in travel.
When word of the formation of NATJA went out, potential members came from, literally, around the country. Growth was decent, although modest. I served three terms as National President and then Dan Schlossberg stepped in to take the reins.
The organization finally took off when Helen Hernandez put her magic touch to the group. Helen, Ben, Yani and the staff took NATJA to the level of professionalism and membership that we envisioned in that motel meeting room. The work they have put into NATJA is immediately evident by the successful annual meetings, the professional workshops, the journalism contests and awards and so much more.
If the founders deserve any credit for envisioning what NATJA could be, Helen deserves the credit for making that dream come true.
I look forward to seeing y’all in 2022.