Writer’s Roost

What do people learn at professional conventions



There are all kinds of conventions and everyone who attends one has stories to tell. We’ve all heard or read about conventions that are wild and woolly, some that are sedate and those of each kind that are filled with uplifting and informative programs.

In my three-quarters of a century of living, I’ve been to some of both kinds.

Probably the “wildest and woolliest” meetings were a couple of regional Jaycee conflabs. Originally, Jaycees were known as the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees for short) with membership restricted to young men ages 18-35. Ultimately, there was a name change to the short “nickname.”

The Jaycees’ principal goal was leadership training. And, there were ample opportunities for that, but as young men are wont to do, hardy partying was always the order of the day at Jaycee conventions and some regular local club meetings featured a short business session followed by beer guzzling with chug-a-lug contests.

Service clubs with a wider range of membership lean toward a more “social” gathering than regular professional organization conventions.

Career groups, particularly those tailored to certain businesses, tend to mix seminars and workshops with a bit of socializing.

Newspaper folks have long had a reputation of being just a bit more than social drinkers. Movies and stories about the profession — particularly from periods like the 1920s, 30s and 40s — feature hard-drinking newspaper reporters. I’ve found that our profession is among the more gifted/talented and the lowest paid. Yeah, I know, gripe, gripe, gripe seasoned with braggadoccio. It has long been easy and somewhat fashionable to label journalists as boozehounds or party animals if not downright drunks and/or alcoholics.

While that has had some significant change, it is still not a business where money matches the talent and brainpower required to be successful in print journalism.

Community newspapering is anathema to drunkenness despite the overall profession’s folklore. Of course, there are some readers that might cling to the alcohol idea as a “hat rack” on which to hang typos and sloppy writing/reporting. There are people in our profession, as there are in every walk of life that imbibe to excess.

Conventions of any type (save certain religious/ church groups) almost always feature “hospitality” suites where someone — the association, professional or trade group or entities with goods or services to sell to attendees — sponsors/hosts the suite(s). Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available.

Most newspaper conventions feature workshops or sessions where speakers impart wisdom to take home and put to use.

Most today focus on some aspect of new technology, particularly as it applies to the “information highway,” the Internet. At first, newspaper folks kind of scratched their heads and wondered if it would last. That didn’t hang on long as print publications quickly harnessed the Internet and adapted it to promote their print publication.

However, always the most educational aspect of a newspaper convention is the one-on-one visiting of editors, publishers and others in the field as they compare notes, in the hallways, over meals or in the hospitality suite. As my mentor once told me: “There aren’t any new ideas, just new twists on old ones.”

Someone’s fresh and/ or different point of view might provide the answer to your particular problem.

In addition to new ideas or how to tweak old ones successfully, newspaper conventions are much like vacations for community news types. Six- and seven day weeks with many 12-, 14- or more hour days are required to cover the various newsworthy activities of any community.

So, newspaper conventions are often filled with editors, publishers and other professional practitioners with “tweaks” and “twists” that help each other. But they are also a vacation/family reunion rolled into one, as the “family of community newspapering,” a term I coined a decade ago, convenes, recreates and visits…and visits.

WILLIS WEBB is a retired community newspaper publisher of more than 55 years experience. He can be reached by email at wwebb1937@att.net.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *