June 3, 2023

The First Decade

  The beginnings of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association can be found in a series of news clinics the University of Illinois School of Journalism and the Illinois Broadcasters Association conducted in the early 1950s. The clinics had components that are part of today’s INBA conventions, including wire service meetings and professional seminars.

  After discussions at these clinics and many phone calls and letters, news personnel voted to form the INBA on January 22, 1955 at a meeting at the Leland Hotel in Springfield. The most influential person in the founding of the organization was Don Brown, a U of I professor, who was voted the first executive secretary. Bill Small of WLS-AM, Chicago, was the first president. There were 45 charter members who paid $2.50 each in dues.      

 The first newsletter, called the Bulletin, came out March 3 of 1955, announcing the upcoming inaugural convention to be held April 2 at the Hotel Abraham Lincoln in Springfield. That was the day after a Freedom of Information clinic at the same location. It isn’t coincidence, then, that the first INBA committee was the Freedom of Information Committee. The other initial committees were Membership and Honors & Awards.

   The pattern of twice-a-year conventions was established that first year on September 30/October 1, when the second convention was held at the U of I. INBA initiated several other early traditions that continue today, including cameras and microphones in court efforts, the Man of the Year (now Illinoisan of the Year) award, a directory of news departments in the state and legislative lobbying.    

 INBA’s early success attracted the attention of out-of-state broadcasters. At least seven other states formed similar news organizations based on the INBA structure.     

   When Arizona State University attracted founding father Don Brown to its faculty in 1963, what might be called the first era of INBA history came to an end. While Brown would no longer be the executive secretary, his name would forever be associated with the first INBA scholarship, which began that same year.

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