Fate: The Western Conference -Opinion

By Ken Monzingo
Forum Managing Editor

Last month I wrote about the demise of this 80-year-old Contract Bridge Forum and the newspaper’s fabled lifetime of great service. Decisions to leave the Western Conference made by Districts 17 and 22, leave District 21, the sole survivor, with few options. If that holds true it will be the end of the Western Conference as well. It never had to happen, continuing on a smaller scale at reduced costs would have been better. The announced reasoning for cancelling the only perk every afforded the entire WC membership was rising costs of publishing and printing. However, second class postage (which we enjoy) has raised very little and even was lowered once in competition with UPS and FedEx. We have not had a price raise from our printer or mailer in years, and production costs of our office were offered to be lowered. WC finances have been effected by declining tournament attendance.
To kill the paper under the misnomer of “saving money” is also not true. Rather than a “savings,” it was the taking back of wise spending on the membership – spending on a monthly newspaper which financially benefitted all: advertisers, clubs, units and tournaments.

An Online Forum

The new Forum, beginning next month, is to continue as an online news vehiclewith the same or similar content plus new features and advancements not available in print form. A two district  – District 21 & District 22 – “California” Forum? Maybe a good substitution or improvement except for the fact that our average membership age is approaching 75. We are seniors, not children of the email, web-surfing, social media explosion. Remains to be seen how, or if, our generation will support digital only. But it’s well worth the try to keep us together.

Problem 2

Unfortunately, plans of a continuation of the Forum as a two district Western Conference online-only vehicle have become clouded. Instead, the two remaining California districts may also opt to go their own way which collapses the primary purpose of Western Conference – arguably the second most successful bridge association in bridge history, second only to ACBL. The founding fathers created, maintained and vehemently protected the lore and history of this great association – one founded on serving the total membership, and to supply sharing of communications to all here in the west on the highest level. The current WC board consists of four freshmen and two senior members.
A few of those original founders and followers (from Districts 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23) included Tom Stoddard, Max Hardy, Harold Shaw, Herb Smith, Chris Wilson, Larry Jolma, and Leslie Tsou. Then followed by devotees such as Bob Wingeard, John Van Ness, Syd Levey, Jim Kirkham, Roger Smith and Tom Quinlan.
Any thoughts of disbanding would be rarely, if ever, be heard.

The Beginning or the End?

If the plan to continue the Forum as a vehicle for players via online remains, it will maintain some continuity. Also it could retain some of our thousands of dollars in income from our advertisers. If not, we’ll have three separate districts with three different motives and agendas – now neighbors instead of partners. No longer the pride and envy of the league with a monthly newspaper, three amazing STACs to support it, and excellent tournament support. What now is in the hands of the three districts as individuals;   an online association hosting declining WC STAC income

This will be my last printed communique with you. I have truly enjoyed you all for the past many years as your managing editor ... hopefully we can successfully continue online.