The Women’s Press Club of NYS and the field of Journalism lost a pioneer, mentor and role model on December 14, 2016. Elizabeth Gaucas Flood Morrow, co-founder of the Women’s Press Club of New York State, died Wednesday at the age of 83. We mourn her passing and will miss her tenacity, penchant for the truth, advocacy for women in journalism and passion for life.
She began her career in 1954 as a Part-time Reporter under the direction of Don Holbrook at Cuyler News, an independent wire service that provides trade papers with in-depth reporting on legislative issues affecting such industries as insurance, energy, horse racing, fashion, and finance. She recently recalled that she made $14 a week at that time. In 1956 she became the owner of the News Service. In 1963 Betty Flood became the first woman to cover the Legislature for television as a reporter for WRGB. She found it unacceptable that women were not permitted to be members of the Legislative Correspondents Association (LCA). She didn’t rest until, in 1971, she became one of their first female members. In her words, “I didn’t let that stop me. I covered the news from the State Capital without being a member… until they finally let me in.” Betty would regale Women’s Press Club members with stories of what it was like before women were considered for major positions in the media, and, with a glint in her eye, would warn us not to forget the “not-so-distant past.”
In 1966, Betty co-founded the Women's Press Club of New York State, an organization that is dedicated to providing support, professional development, programming, mentoring and networking opportunities for New Yorkers in the field of journalism, and served as the WPC’s first president. She used to say that the WPC was founded “in an effort to move women from the bridal pages to the front pages of print journalism,” and to promote the development of women in broadcasting, which she characterized as “moving from cooking shows and Saturday morning children’s programming to hard news.”
Providing scholarships for women interested in the field was a life-long interest of Betty’s. As a result of the efforts of the founding members and Betty’s strong interest and support, the first scholarship was awarded in 1967 to a student studying at the Syracuse University School of Journalism. In 2012, the Women’s Press Club renamed its annual scholarship and it became the Betty Flood Morrow Women's Press Club of NYS Scholarship. The scholarship, which is awarded annually to a New Yorker who is enrolled as a full-time student majoring in journalism/communications in a college or university located in New York State. The WPC has awarded more than 60 scholarships to deserving students with exemplary records of study and a commitment to a career in the communications field.
When she was told of the name change, Flood Morrow said she was “pleased and humbled by the decision.” She continued, “It has always been my goal to support and mentor young people who are interested in the field of journalism and communications. This scholarship has, since its inception, provided that support for students who are now working in the field. It is a living legacy of this organization which is so close to my heart, and I hope it continues long into the future.”
Betty made sure there were opportunities for internships for women entering the field as well. For more than 3 decades she ran an internship program that provided students extensive experience in writing and reporting news from the state Capitol. Her goal was to provide real experiences so her interns “learned the ropes from the ground up.”
Betty Flood Morrow was one of several journalists inducted into the prestigious Women’s Press Club Hall of Honor in 1997, the year it was created. The Hall of Honor was established that year to pay tribute to Newswomen of Distinction who have charted the course for others and helped to shape our field. It is the highest award given by the WPCNYS. Many notable women have been inducted into the Hall of Honor over the years since the award’s inception, including our most recent inductees Barbara Walters (2011), Jill Abramson (2012) Judy Sanders (2014), Liz Bishop (2015) and Benita Zahn (2016).
Betty could be found at press conferences or in her office at Cuyler News until she became ill only a few weeks ago. In her long and honorable career, Flood Morrow also served as an analyst for TV and radio stations in the Capital Region. She was featured in a 2008 piece entitled As Newspapers Cut Costs, a Thinning of the Guard Among Albany’s Press Corps by Jeremy W. Peters and, in her day, wrote numerous freelance pieces for such magazines as New York Magazine, Women's Wear Daily and W, among others.
Betty was honored at the Women’s Press Club’s Annual Awards and Scholarship Dinner this year. She reminisced during her remarks and once again called upon members and guests to continue to support the Club’s efforts to mentor young women entering the field. We will continue to do that through the scholarship that bears her name and in her honor and memory.
Betty will be sorely missed, but her memory and the legacy she leaves will live on in all of us who she inspired, mentored and supported for so many years.
About the Women’s Press Club of New York State, Inc.
The Women’s Press Club of New York State, Inc. is a nonprofit organization formed in 1966 by a small group of women journalists committed to supporting women in journalism and communications. Today, the organization’s members include women and men who work for radio and television stations, digital media, newspapers, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies, as well as freelance writers, entrepreneurs and students. The WPCNYS provides support, professional development, programming, mentoring and networking opportunities for New Yorkers in the field.