On the SPJ Convention

SPJ’s 2007 National Convention was an enriching, encouraging, enlightening and energizing experience. From Thursday through Sunday morning, almost every daylight and most evening hours offered opportunities to learn more about the craft of journalism, share information on the activities of local student and professional chapters, realize the gravity of the issues facing the profession today, meet fellow journalists from all over the nation, attend fascinating discussions with the likes of Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Robert Novak, Daniel Schorr, John Seigenthaler Sr., U.S.A. Today’s Ken Paulson, CBS’s Bob Schieffer, Sen. John Cornyn and prominent others. There were interesting workshops on immigration, online research, federal Freedom of Information legislation, and dozens more.

The convention brought reporters, editors, media managers and “personalities” together and fostered constructive networking opportunities. I congratulate the many folks who organized the convention and the sessions, because there was a fine balance among instructional (craft), SPJ business (elections and resolution debate and balloting), fun-and-important stuff ( e.g., the Legal Defense Fund auction and welcoming cocktail party in the national music center), news content discussions (e.g. immigration) and super-session newsmakers like Woodward and Bernstein. Ken Paulson put on a powerful super session on the First Amendment and having pride doing our critically important work.

There were so many positive and relevant sessions that my biggest challenge was selecting which one session to attend out of two or three workshops going on at the same time that I liked equally as well. I hope that SPJ can post .pdfs of any handouts from all the sessions so that participants can at least get a taste of the ones they couldn’t attend.

One of my favorite parts of the convention was the speech by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, and a very pro-active advocate for upgrading federal FOI laws and a federal shield law. I also enjoyed the balanced discussion of the illegal-immigration mess the country is in. Having lived through Watergate (I had been out of college two years), it was entertaining to hear some of the inside stories from Woodward, Bernstein, Schorr, Schieffer and others during that super session. I also enjoyed the business sessions, believe it or not, because as a delegate I was able to actually participate in the management of the organization through voting of candidates, by-law changes, amendments offered to proposed resolutions and the resolutions themselves. Of all the excellent sessions and events at the convention, the Ken Paulson super session was the most important and motivating, in my opinion. He brought in John Seigenthaler, Sr. and other journalists (two who were sentenced to prison for refusing to reveal their source(s) in their work about steroids in sports). Paulson’s entertaining and serious look at our profession and the First Amendment, “From Superheroes to Subpoenas,” is something I wish every journalist and every American should experience.

I am grateful to the members of the Press Club of Long Island for enabling me to participate at the convention on the chapter’s behalf.

John C. O’Connell
Executive Vice President
Press Club of Long Island

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