Tuesday, March 17, 2009

From the CMA Convention

Notes from the College Media Advisers convention:

Charlie Gibson of ABC News* gave a damned fine keynote speech today at the CMA convention in New York, emphasizing, among other things, that all journalists, including broadcasters, need to know how to write. He also spoke eloquently, and at length, about the death of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Rocky Mountain News and the shaky future of the San Francisco Chronicle. (He spoke without notes but cited lots of statistics and facts about the newspaper industry's troubles, the numbers of people losing their jobs, etc.) If I find a transcript, I'll post because his words are worth reading and his call to young journalists to buy and read a newspaper once in a while was quite moving in its own way. And in answer to a question about stories he'd covered that were difficult personally, he, of course, cited Sept.11, noting how his reaction to the news as it developed differed from that of his co-host (He was at Good Morning America at the time) and described that detached get-the-story/no personal feelings shell we so often live in when something awful occurs.

I ran across a copy of the Lorain County Community College newspaper, the Collegian, where I'd been editor a few years back. Well, lots of years back. (Coincidentally, today is the anniversary of the death of our newspaper adviser.) The edition detailed a rather large fire that had shut the campus down for a week in February and overall, the coverage looked excellent. In addition to covering all aspects of the fire, the paper made a point of describing how uncooperative some authorities had been in telling the student paper what it needed to know to inform its readers. I'm not normally a fan of how-we-got-that-story stories but this one was thorough, barely disguising the editors' frustrations and pretty much sticking a well-deserved thumb in the eye of those who put up obstacles for no good reason.

Old hands and ACES supporters Merrill Perlman and Don Hecker of The New York Times, Malcolm Gibson from the University of Kansas, Bill Elsen, formerly of The Washington Post and Rich Holden of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund were there. I never caught up with the Times team or Rich but there were sightings of him and he managed to put ACES scholarship material out where the 1,200 or so students could find it.

Lots of terrific young people showed up, many from schools in the Midwest, a large number from community colleges but others from such larger schools as Iowa State, Stony Brook, etc. CMA puts on tons of workshops, covering issues of interest to yearbook, newspaper and broadcast students and their advisers. It sort of reminded me of ACES conferences, where people are intent on getting what they can, filling workshops instead of just wandering around the halls and chit-chatting. Though a number of students looked as if they'd just awakened after a busy night on the town...:)

I also met someone who turned out to be a former colleague's first husband; his existence was a complete, 100 percent surprise to me!

*Note that I am working as a freelancer with the ABC News On Campus program, but I have nothing to do with the main broadcast news operations.

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