Tulsa Press Club Embraces History, Future

Managing Editor

LOYAL SUPPORT: Steve Turnbo, right, past president of the Tulsa Press Club, stands with 14-year Press Club staff member Trudy Heck and General Manager Shaun Lee. The Press Club, which began in 1906, currently sits in the Atlas Life Building in downtown Tulsa.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

I can’t help but feel like I’ve walked into a different period of time when I pass through the doors of the Tulsa Press Club in downtown Tulsa. Admittedly, that same feeling may come over a person who is walking the halls of many of downtown’s historic buildings–the Mayo Hotel, the Philcade Building, the Philtower, to name a few.

While a person also feels somewhat historic simply walking into the Atlas Life Building, where the Press Club is located, the club only entered that location in 1990, before that, moving in and out of various downtown locations, including the Mayo Hotel, the Adams Hotel, the Court of Three Sisters Tavern and the basement of the Enterprise Building since the club began in 1906.

I couldn’t say whether it’s the Press Club’s aesthetics, the well-known individuals often seen there for lunch or an afternoon drink, or simply the knowledge of the Press Club’s longevity; maybe it’s all of those things rolled into one that makes me stand a little taller and allow myself to feel just a tiny bit special that I get to frequent this Tulsa institution.

And with press clubs around the country falling to the wayside, it’s all the more reason to get to know Tulsa’s very own press club.

Current Press Club President Nicole Burgin, who spent 19 years in broadcast journalism, felt that same appreciation when she returned to Tulsa seven years ago, after one year of living in Oklahoma City. “Being in Oklahoma City, which does not have a press club, raised my awareness of the importance of a press club,” she continues.

After returning to Tulsa, she began to think about ways to increase her community involvement: “The Press Club was a good fit for me because of its mission to protect the freedoms of journalism and to build good journalists.”

Steve Turnbo, the Press Club’s 1979 president, remains involved with the Press Club for a number of reasons, but his initial reason for joining came from his boss at his first job out of college as the sports information director for the University of Tulsa.

Turnbo’s boss was Glenn Dobbs, the school’s then-athletic director. “Glenn said to get involved with the Press Club and get to know the journalists in the community,” remembers Turnbo, who went on to open Advertising Inc. before merging with Chuck Schnake to form Schnake Turnbo in 1982.

In addition to rubbing shoulders with members of the media, Turnbo saw the benefit of getting to know the club’s other members, many of whom were those working in the legal and public relations fields.

“Journalists help to form public opinion; the work of the legal community brings issues into public opinion; and public relations tries to impact public opinion,” he says.

While, today, the club welcomes anyone interested in becoming a member, the majority of Press Club members have jobs that are directly or indirectly media related.

The Press Club furthers its mission of improving journalism by nurturing future journalists through scholarships offered through its nonprofit foundation and keeping up with the ever-changing media industry, says Burgin.

“The board wants (the Press Club) to remain relevant – fitting in with the demands of what journalists experience and understanding technology and how it fits into journalism,” she says.

Case in point is its regular professional development opportunities. The idea came a few years ago as Burgin and other board members began to notice the shrinking number of professional development opportunities offered by media outlets.

The board took that as an opportunity to create sessions devoted to current media topics, such as a crisis communications discussion recently held that was tied to the television show Scandal. Previously, the club hosted a writer from The New Yorker, and after the Moore tornado, individuals who covered the event spoke about their experiences. “When big events like that happen, after the fact, to talk about the sights and sounds and their experiences, that’s a way to benefit a number of people,” Burgin says.

The Press Club also holds a number of yearly events to encourage camaraderie among community members and journalists and to recognize the work of local and regional journalists and local individuals who have positively impacted the community – all of its events with journalism at its core.

“If I retired, I would stay involved with the club because I like how it operates,” Turnbo says.

“I believe in its mission.”

Even 108 years after its start, the founders would surely be proud.

Updated 08-18-2014

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