National Press Club (New Zealand)

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The New Zealand National Press Club, founded in 1974,[citation needed] is a press club based in Wellington. It has hosted many speakers including Kurt Waldheim, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Chaim Herzog, and Ed Asner. Robert Reich has featured on their podium, as did James Reston. The Dalai Lama has appeared twice. So has Jeffrey Archer.

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The club is well financed and often brings in its own speakers, mostly from the British sphere. These have included journalists Malcolm Muggeridge, Bernard Levin, and Clare Hollingworth.

Among its Lifetime Achievement Award holders are Peter Arnett and Connie Lawn, the US syndicated radio journalist who has had a long association with the country. New Zealand born war correspondent and ITV news journalist Sir Geoffrey Cox is also on the plaque.

Alistair Cooke was a speaker, and so was Sir Peter Ustinov and Glenda Jackson.

The club does not always have things its own way, and when it invited the US Ambassador of the day onto its podium, the former Senator Carol Moseley Braun insisted that the organization validate its right to describe itself as a National Press Club.

This the club did via its ties in the US, ensuring that it met such requirements that its president and vice president were practising journalists, that it never paid anyone to speak, and that anything spoken was on the record. Her Excellency duly spoke to the club.

A feature of the club is its large component of members who it describes as those of learning and curiosity, many of them being drawn from fields beyond the media. The club claims that its broad church sustains its primary purpose which is to stay a club in order to pursue its central value which is free speech.

It enjoys strong support from Members of Parliament, and it is they who act as protocol hosts for the club’s frequent proceedings held at Parliament under Bellamy's hospitality convention.

A life member is the Rt Hon. Jonathan Hunt ONZ, the former longtime Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament. Another is Connie Lawn the White House correspondent.

The current president of the New Zealand Press Club is Wellington based journalist, Peter Isaac. The long serving vice president is Peter Bush CNZM QSM, war correspondent and photo journalist.

In recent times the club has diversified its activities beyond the conventional base of hosting newsmakers and instead now takes a directly interventionist stance in spheres involving the media. This has seen the club using its influence to caution elements of academia and its funder the government about the policy of encouraging young people to take extended and expensive courses in training to become journalists at a time when the club views the industry as devolving onto a free model in which recognition and exposure will replace remuneration.

Another direction is building up its international associations most recently with the Washington National Press Club, and the International Press Club of Chicago. It has had long associations with the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong and the London Press Club. It recently formalised an association with the National Press Club of Australia.

The New Zealand club has broken with tradition in seeking to use these associations to mobilise action toward a common cause, as the club sees it. An example of this occurred when the club sought to achieve collective action in its campaign for the freedom of incarcerated Anglo-Canadian newspaper investor Conrad Black on the grounds that Black had created jobs for journalists and had a reputation for looking after the best interests of his journalists.

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