In My Opinion
by Caroline Porter

Let the presses roll

Last week I attended a conference of the National Federation of Press Women, of which the Illinois Women's Press Association is an affiliate. There were women from all over the country, including Alaska - news reporters, editors, publishers, columnists, radio broadcasters, marketing and public relations managers for huge companies and non-profit organizations, women who manage web-sites, authors and speakers.

Some attendees were recognized for belonging to the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) for as long as 45 years. No one has ever mentioned it, but it's not hard to guess why an organization for only woman journalists was founded nearly 50 years ago. Having been the director of our State communications contest for two years, I can tell you there is tremendous talent in Illinois - manifested by women of all ages and situations.

I began to win state and national awards for my writing in 1994, when I joined the state organization, and the reward and encouragement for me, living in the rural areas of the midwest, have been invaluable. Not much of my work has been submitted to the Illinois Press Association and I received a third place award for a feature story, but because of my gender, I don't believe my political columns get the same kind of objective judging. My brother, who is a writer and editor in Chicago and who has a PhD in Political Science, tells me my columns for the Zephyr are just as good, if not better, than many he reads in the Chicago papers. In case you don't think he's objective - he's probably my toughest critic. I can assure you, if he didn't believe it, he wouldn't say it. So there.

The reason for attending my first national conference is that in May I was given the Illinois Women's Press Association ''2002 Communicator of Achievement'' award. There were eighteen other nominees for the national award, which was presented at this conference. I didn't win, but was honored at a special banquet and program last Thursday night. You can imagine the high powered and successful women (and one man) included in that group. High powered, successful, and I should add, friendly and supportive.

Every moment of two and a half days was filled with speeches, workshops and a lot of good food. Twice each morning and afternoon we were presented with a choice of three workshops to attend. One of my favorites was presented by a small, unassuming, quiet woman named Frances Berg, who lives in Hettinger, North Dakota, population 1,700. She has become an internationally known expert in the field of nutrition. In 25 years she has written and published seven books, an internationally known journal and promotes her work through teaching, speaking, workshops and selling her books in the back of the room.

She sold her Healthy Weight Journal for a million dollars and garners $500 to $1000 for speeches out of state. With her quiet voice she challenges the huge diet industry, the drug industry, the National Institute of Health and America's medical community, all of whom she thinks are in cahoots. She disputes the standards set by the medical profession for ''healthy'' weight, saying that if we feel good and are active and healthy, the weight is not important. Like so many of us, she is alarmed at the diets of teen-aged girls, who become ill and die because of not eating and taking dangerous pills. She displayed photos of Marilyn Monroe, pin-up gal of the 1950's, whom she said wore sizes 12-14 and a photo of today's typical model, sized about 4. It sure made me feel good to hear about Marilyn.

Mrs. Berg is steely-eyed when she talks about prejudice against women who are large and assumed to be overweight. I immediately thought of former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who, because she is a large woman, is constantly ridiculed by comedians on national television and other dolts. Even with Parkinson's Disease, she's more healthy and active than most of us.

The point is - here's a woman from a tiny town who has made a niche for herself in the important field of health and nutrition by studying, researching, networking and promoting herself. She can be contacted at or Healthy Weight Network, 402 South 14th St., Hettinger, ND 58639.

Not only was it was a conference to remember, but it helped me decide about what I want to do for the next 30 years of my life. It's never too late, you know.

Caroline Porter is a freelance writer from Galesburg who can be reached at

Uploaded to The Zephyr website September 25, 2002

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