November 14, 2009 / 2009 Fall JEA/NSPA / Walsworth Live

Journalism is alive

Written by Tim Shedor

The best part about a national convention isn’t the dirty and sweaty mob of the dance floor, the host city’s greatest tourist attractions or the raucous roommates that steal sleep with late-night discussion and group-worship of Conan O’Brien’s comedic genius.

No, the greatest part of coming to the largest assembly of young journalists is the camaraderie within 6,000 kids that are exactly like you.

We’re able to swap story ideas, staff building methods, prior review struggles, crazy deadline stories and everything in-between. It’s a wonderfully comforting, and terribly frightening, feeling to know that I’m not alone in the world, that there are other editors and staffers that deal with the same obstacles I do.

Amiable and gregarious, journalists are chatterboxes, likely to start quick conversations sprung on an escalator or in a local lunch stop based on those headaches.

There’s “that kid,” the one who doesn’t make his deadlines, doesn’t listen to his editors, and doesn’t care about his page design. There’s “My principal,” because every publication deals with some level of resistance from the school’s front office. And of course, there’s the ever reliable “(preceded by a gruff) Yearbook kids” for every newspaper writer who’s antagonized by sharing the journalism room’s resources with another staff. But after benefiting from Walsworth’s blogging space this week, I’m a little more sympathetic to my school’s staff.

And then the best part comes: you learn to merge their solutions and your solutions. Most of us are quick to disagree with each other – the journalist’s Achilles Heel is cynicism and discussion – but there’s still opportunity for something to bring home from a heated argument. Everything at this conference has the potential to teach and to learn.

Last night my staff and I went to a swap shop in the catacombs of the convention. Swap shops are a staple of journalism convention – they assign staffers of eight different publications to a table and allow them to trade their work and discuss everything from their home state’s weather to opinion mugs. My table was highlighted by the Granite Bay “Gazette” (a very professional-looking broadsheet paper I’d only heard whispers of), “The Rock” (a rival paper from Colorado), and “The Standard” (a paper from the American School in London, the only school who comes to this convention from overseas). We swapped stories and lessons after we ran out of newspapers until the moderators gave us the boot at 10 p.m.

Davenport, San Antonio, Des Moines there’s a billion and a half different answers to every “Where are you from?” It’s a thrill to know that journalism isn’t dead as the world continues to mourn the degeneration of the newspaper. It’s alive, and it’s living and breathing at this convention.

Tim Shedor