WPA History

The History of the Western Publishing Association

WPA began in 1951, as an association known as the Western Society of Business Publications or WSBP, dedicated to promoting western trade journals. The association was the brainchild of a man named Bill Bowen, who had his beginnings as a foreign correspondent during World War II. After the war he joined the California Fashion Publications and founded the California Apparel News.

An awards program was created at that time as well, to honor editorial achievement. Some of the earliest winners on record were:

  • The Meat Dealer, 1952
  • Pet & Pet Shop Management, 1952
  • Western Grower & Shipper, 1953

The awards program was briefly discontinued in the late 1950’s, in an effort to increase membership through education. Monthly meetings would sometimes draw between 75-100 attendees.

wpa-board-1988

WPA 1988 Board of Directors, (left to right), Unidentified, Unidentified, Rick Cramer, Fourway Communications; Tim Novoselski, Miramar Communications; Allan Halcrow, ACC Communications; Peter Craig, Bay Sherman & Craig; Jan Edwards-Pullin, Consultant; Nancy Field, Leisure Publications.

Don Martin, Publisher & Owner of Kasmar Publications, became Vice President of the Association in 1959 and set about resurrecting the awards program in 1962 and named it The Editorial Achievement Awards. Don was elected President of the WSBP in 1963.

The Awards program was later renamed The Awards of Merit, and the 11th Annual Awards dinner was held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The program was expanded to include first, second and third place winners. There were 14 awards presented.

Sometime in the early- to mid-1970s, the name of the Award was changed to The Eddy. Awards were given male names then and Eddy was short for Editorial. And, at about the same time, the Association opened its doors to consumer publications and changed its name to the Western Publications Association.

wpa-brownline-newsletter

Click the image to view a PDF of "The Brownline," the WPA newsletter from 1979!

The emphasis during the 1970s was to transform the local awards program into something more Oscar-like, hence the more formal affair we have today. The Awards of Merit program began at the Century Plaza Hotel, complete with 30 hostesses in evening gowns!

And, at the same time the Awards banquet was getting a face-lift, so was the Eddy. It became a slick, more sophisticated award –- and the name was changed again to the MAGGIE. Eddy didn’t fit anymore –- design and promotion excellence were also honored, and so it became, magazine…MAG…MAGGIE. Leave it to those witty editors!

During the early 1980s, the association began to place an emphasis on creating a more professional association. Seminars were streamlined to attract upper management and decision-makers.

The emphasis on education carried on as well, but was expanded to include levels of education for entry- and mid-level professionals as well as upper-management. The MAGGIE Awards was expanded as well to include both print and electronic publications, in over 100 editorial, design and promotional categories. The prestige of the MAGGIE Award grew as well, and is now considered the most prestigious publishing award in the Western United States.

In 2008, the Association changed its name to the Western Publishing Association, adding the words PRINT. DIGITAL. EVENTS. to its logo, to better represent how the publishing industry has evolved.

What began in 1951 with a handful of magazine publishers has become an association that represents 24 states in the Western United States, with a membership of over 175 companies and countless individuals.

But the core of the WPA remains the same –- education, networking, honoring editorial and design achievement, and the growth of the magazine industry in the West.

The following is a list of publishing professionals who contributed to our industry during these very early years:

  • Max Kerstein, Former Publisher/Owner of Beverage Bulletin
  • Nancy & Jules Field, Publishers/Owner, Leisure Publications
  • Don Martin, Publisher/Owner, Kasmar Publications.
  • Bill Bowen, one of the founders of the WSBP
  • The Reeves Family, Reeves Journal
  • Lou Ragno, Southern California Guide
  • Charles Sturn, Hospital Forum
  • Howard Olanski, Western Floors
  • Newt Todd, West Coast Druggist
  • Tom McCusker, Western Electronic News

Researched and written by Jane Silbering