Archive for the ‘Alabama’ category

Meet a member: Verna Gates

January 17, 2017
Verna Gates

Verna Gates

The Alabama team is hard at work finalizing plans for this September’s NFPW conference in Birmingham. Verna Gates is a bundle of energy and is known for being a hard worker. She also has a talent in putting great professional tours together. She is using that talent to plan the NFPW pre and post tour in Alabama. She’s a character and participants should have a great time exploring Alabama. Meet this outstanding member and then register for the conference tours. 

Verna Gates

City and State: Birmingham, Alabama

Affiliate and any leadership positions: Alabama Media Professionals, COA 2009, Alabama, and  runner up National COA

Years a member of NFPW: 19

Tell us a little about you.

I was born with too much energy. My interests range from journalism to storytelling to ethnobotany (cultural study of plants).

My career started when I called a new cable news service every day until they let me answer the phones for two days. I left four years later. That’s how I landed on the start-up crew of CNN. My career has been a fabulous adventure. I was a stringer for TIME Magazine, Reuters, The Guardian, and still work for an NPR station as a commentator and special correspondent. When Reuters closed its Southeast bureau, I lucked out when I popped into the Alabama Department of Tourism to visit a friend. I found myself inviting my journalist friends on press trips to my beloved home state. It is a blast! And it is a lot more fun taking people to eat haute cuisine, drink fine wine and spin around in Space Camp than it is to cover tornadoes and felony trials.

The science part of my brain founded a non-profit in 2006, Fresh Air Family, that teaches outdoor environmental biology to kids and families. We cover the state, but are based at the second largest urban park in the nation with 1045 acres. In 2016, my tiny staff of three, plus as-needed naturalists, served 1,164 kids in our award-winning Gross Out Camp (it’s science but please don’t tell the kids) and 1,328 kids in our school field trip program, and 8,000 people on weekend field trips. In our camp program, nearly 60 percent of the kids come on scholarships. We work hard to change the world!

I am also a storyteller, having won the Biggest Liar in Alabama contest, twice. It is a tall-tale competition, but in the South, we call it what it is, lying. It is something I do just for fun. With my ethnobotany, I also speak quite frequently on plants and botany.

As I said, too much energy!


Verna Gates in Bermuda.

Any career advice you would give?

Always, always give it your best. When you always do your best, people notice. And they call you. TIME, Reuters, The Guardian and NPR – all called me.  So did Alabama Tourism. And keep re-inventing yourself. I must be on the 10th upgrade by now!

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would love to be able to sing well.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I choose to live in the heart of American culture — the Deep South. Where we don’t hold back on the butter in the batter, we still hold doors open, and the kids say “yes, ma’am.” Alabama is also number 5 in biodiversity in the nation and for a nature nerd, it is nirvana!

What book are you reading?

I have a review copy of Hairy, Scary and Mostly Merry Fairies — a nature book for kids.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I played first bass in the all-state orchestra in North Carolina when I was a sophomore in high school. And I have won the lottery three times. I have the $16 to prove it!

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

I get great leads, great info and have made lifelong friends. As a single person, my affiliate has been so supportive. When I had major surgery, they organized a dinner caravan that was a life-saver.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc. and Verna Gates on Facebook.


Meet a Member: Jane Newton Henry

September 17, 2015

At the NFPW conference this year in Alaska, Jane Newton Henry was taking notes and gathering ideas as she prepares to be the co-chairman of the 2017 NFPW conference in Alabama. This long-time member is a devoted member of the Alabama affiliate and is looking forward to showing off her home state in 2017. Jane and her co-chair, Elaine Hobson Miller, are hard at work to highlight the area’s hospitality and charm. Jane is a dedicated and devoted member of NFPW. Meet this hard working, unique and unbelievable NFPW member I am pleased to call a friend.

Jane Newton Hnery

Jane Newton Henry

Name: Jane Newton Henry

City and State: Leeds, Alabama

Affiliate and any leadership positions:

I have held a variety of leadership positions in Alabama Media Professionals (AMP), including serving as president from 1982 to 1986. I was named AMP’s Communicator of Achievement in 1993. I currently serve as co-chairman for the 2017 NFPW Conference in Birmingham, Ala.

Years a member of NFPW: 34

Tell us a little about you.

I worked in corporate public relations at Alabama Power Co. in Birmingham for 24 years as a writer and editor and later as manager of internal communications and video production. After I retired 10 years ago, I worked as an adjunct instructor at the University of Alabama and at Samford University. I now work as a freelance writer. I am a regular contributor to the magazine “Discover (the Essence of St. Clair County)”. I collaborated with Pat Hall, the Leeds, Ala., city historian, to write ”Leeds,” an Arcadia Press book about the history of Leeds. The book was published in 2012.

In addition to freelancing, I write the blog “MS with a Southern accent” to help educate the public about multiple sclerosis, a medical condition of which we know neither the cause nor cure. After being diagnosed with MS in 1998, I have volunteered with the Alabama chapter of the National MS Society; I raise money to provide services to others with MS and fund research to find a cure. My other interests include belonging to a book club, and volunteering in my community.

Any career advice you would give?

Learn how to write well and fast. Choose a career path that you love. Work hard, but balance work with your home life. Give back to your community.

Jane Newton Henry, left, with Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas at the NFPW conference in Alaska.

Jane Newton Henry, left, with Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas at the NFPW conference in Alaska.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would like to be able to make pottery on a pottery wheel.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

The Pacific Northwest.

What book are you reading?

“A God in Ruins” by Kate Atkinson

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

My undergraduate degree is in music (piano).

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

I appreciate the friends I have made and the support I receive from others in the state affiliate and national organizations. The professional-development opportunities have been helpful in honing my skills and keeping up with changes in the industry. And I have enjoyed the travel associated with NFPW conferences.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

My blog:

My website:

My Facebook page: