That’s Eli Kintisch on the left, receiving the first annual Space Journalism Prize from founder Sam Dinkin at the International Space Development Conference in Washington last May.

Sam had this radical idea that all the space journalists should band together to keep each other up to date on developments in the field, exchange ideas on how to cover the big stories, and generally harness the power of the press to help boost the new commercial space industry. Read all about it in Sam’s essay for The Space Review.

Sam put his money where his mouth was by fronting the first $1,000 Space Journalism Prize out of his own pocket. Poor Eli thought maybe he was the victim of an elaborate practical joke; he could hardly believe someone he didn’t know would give him a fist full of cash just because his X Prize coverage for the St. Louis Post Dispatch was among the best reporting on commercial spaceflight last year. I enjoyed his reaction, and then I took this photo.

Sam also collected contact info for many of the top space journalists, and then sent the list to me and a couple of others to organize. It’s the beginning of what could become a powerful force in the new industry; the press has a lot of influence on public opinion, and hence the cash flow and legislation that will drive the industry.

For instance, when (not if) the first fatality happens in commercial space, overly sensational coverage could doom the industry even as it gets off the ground. On the other hand, thoughtful reporting will put it in proper perspective as the normal, if tragic, growing pains of a new industry. The Space Journalism Association could help shape the direction of such coverage starting now, before a crisis hits.

When I was trying to get a science fiction writing career off the ground a few years ago, I used to dream about the old days, back in the ’30s and ’40s, when Asaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and the other giants of the field first started meeting regularly. If only I could have been around then, I thought. My dream has come true; I get to be one of the few shaping an organization that young bloods coming up in 10 or 20 years will clamor to join. It’s a heady feeling.