I had the honor of representing our newspaper in the ACP Media Plus conference down in Phoenix, Arizona. After a Thursday, 10am flight and one layover in Salt Lake City, Utah, we arrived at the Wyndham Hotel in the heart of downtown Phoenix. The hotel was gorgeous (the nicest place I've ever stayed) and the decoration was tasteful. That night Jason Nix (advisor), Wendy Gaskill (other student) and I ate at The Matador Restaurant where I had a delicious fajita taco salad. Wendy and I took a late-night trek to find a CVS for crucial snacks and "needs". At first we enjoyed the scenery and took lots of pictures and videos of the cool art and buildings downtown. After a mile or so, with aching feet we finally found the CVS. We were exhausted and decided to ride the tram back to the hotel, which was a new experience for me!
Friday started off with a Starbucks latte and educational sessions. I went to "Database investigative reporting on campus" by ASU's Steve Doig. I learned the history of investigative reporting, and about great investigative reporters like Gene Miller, Seymour Hersh, and the classic Woodward and Bernstein. The second session was "The Art of Access: Strategies for acquiring campus records" by author David Cullier from the University of Arizona. He discussed in-depth story ideas, consumed of concealed weapon permits, food inspection reports, text message records, and campus incident reports. He provided letter outlines for people trying to conceal reports from newspapers that are legal and public record. He also noted that there are psychological strategies to getting such records like: reciprocation, commitment, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. The third session of the day was "Five Stages of a Story/Coaching Writers." These five stages consist of Idea, Report, Organize, Draft, and Revise. The session moderator provided a new way to map your stories for more information, and also pushed reporters to ask the question 'why?' to get a more in-depth story. For lunch, Jason and I went to a sandwich shop on the outskirts of ASU's campus. We had a long college discussion, and he made me realize it's okay to get out of my comfort zone and apply to other places that aren't just in Washington State. After touring the campus and visiting The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, I saw that Phoenix and this college may be a great place to apply for. Why not?? We returned to the hotel and the last session of the day, lead by Chris George of The Arizona Republic, was "Designing Page One For Maximum Impact and Maximum Enjoyment." He said the three credentials for a good front page includes volume (photos, text), tone (photos, art, typography, design tricks), and sex appeal (subject/presentation). He also provided some great websites for design ideas: newseum.org and npd.snd.org. After a light dinner, Wendy and I went down to the pool. There we met some friends from "The Navigator News" and "The Horizon." We talked about our newsrooms and played marco polo until the pool closed.
Saturday began with a session by Mary Ann Pearson, a baptist university newspaper advisor, called "12 Steps to Building a Successful Team of Skilled Journalists." Some steps included recruitment, google docs, AP style, attending conferences, entering contests, and internships. The next session "Selling the complete package" by Paul Bittick of CPU, addressed advertisement revenue. I learned that ad sales on the website should not be geared towards students, but towards incoming college freshmen, alumni, and parents of students. Some ideas spawned in my head, like: multimedia pop-up boxes, post-it note ads, and advertisement of other universities. Jason and I went to the ASU shopping center and ate at Hurry 4 Curry, a delicious, new-age Indian style restaurant. After returning to Wyndham, Jason, Wendy, and I then attended our newspaper critique and found some great ideas to better our layout, that are easy to change and would instantly better our paper. The last and best session I attended was "How to be an editor without killing someone" by Holly A. Heyser of The State Hornet. She addressed the problems every news staff is facing, such as bad reporters, assholes with bad attitude, stories not resembling their assigned idea, production-night tension, ridiculous orders from your EIC, trash-talking, and people going behind your back on decisions. Her number one rule?: "Your actions and reactions will either defuse or magnify any situation. You can instill fear and invite defensiveness or create an environment in which people collaborate and grow." After our pizza dinner, Wendy and I relaxed that night and watched the huge "monsoon" and neon colored lightning from our hotel window.
Sunday we checked out of the hotel. We went to the editorial cartoonist keynote lecture, followed by the award ceremony. Our newspaper and multimedia package did not place, but our website won fourth place, beating out all other two-year schools. Waiting for our plane to arrive we relaxed in Starbucks and Jason and I concluded the trip by touring the city on foot.
The whole trip was a great experience and opened my eyes to all the possibilities journalism offers, along with what college may offer me in the future! I learned a lot from the sessions and the critique and I have a lot to share with our staff. If you have any questions regarding the sessions, want to watch FlipVideo footage, view my class presentations, or want to see any further photography taken on the trip, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.