November 17, 2009 / 2009 Fall JEA/NSPA / Walsworth Live

Sessions? Really? … Yes.

Written by Jenna Geers

On Friday, we finally got to the whole point of the convention: the booths. Oh yeah, and we went to some sessions too.

Kidding.

Sessions are kind of halfway between a mini-college experience and low-stakes gambling. You never quite know what you’ll get when you walk in the door, no matter what the description in the JEA/NSPA booklet says.

I walked into one that sounded like it was going to be an intense ethical discussion about journalism law, and it turned out to be more of a Q&A for kids wondering whether it was okay to quote the Bible without stating the passage and how much of a popular song could be put into a story before copyright issues got involved.

Later I walked into one a minute and a half late, and the speaker pretty much stopped the whole thing to make a sarcastic remark about “If this had been an interview…” (It wasn’t my fault, okay? I just really had to go to the bathroom, and then I saw one of the kids from a staff we’re friendly with, and she had just gotten back from lunch and gave me her Chipotle chips, which everyone knows are the best… and things just kind of progressed from there…)

There are some fantastic ones, too. I remember going to one my sophomore year (I’m a senior now, and editor in chief) entitled “It’s Not an Interview, it’s a Conversation” and I still bug my staff with that phrase and the lessons I learned from the lesson. Poor kids. And of course, going to certain presenters is just a MUST. To keep from showing favoritism and poisoning the minds of any potential session-goers, I definitely will not tell you who my favorite presenter named Crystal Kazmierski and her fellow presenter Susan Massy are. That would be so biased, so I’ll spare you that. You can thank me later, after you’ve been to some wonderful sessions that are definitely NOT entitled “Nip Tuck” or “Potluck” or “Yearbook Salsa.”

When not in sessions, I like to wander aimlessly through all the booths set up in the exhibit halls, picking up free stuff. You’ll never find so many people thrusting pens, notepads, and even pins with slogans like “Yerd” (Yearbook Nerd) or “I heart picas” at you in your entire life. It’s gotten to the point where we don’t even buy pens for the yearbook room any more—we just pool our free pens when we get back home.

Not only do they chuck free stuff at you, they also hand out candy like, well, candy. So, after picking up a delightful sugar high, the possibilities are endless. You can play Whamboozal, the crazy game that only yearbook nerds like myself could get into (and the great thing is that there’s PLENTY of yerds just like me at these shindigs), make another round of the booths, or check out one of the “Meet the Author” times right outside the bookstore.

Ah, the bookstore. A room full of more stuff just like what they have for free in the exhibit hall—pencils, pens, notebooks, paper, erasers, notepads, etc., but also of some of the best photography, design and writing textbooks available. Bobby Hawthorne’s “Radical Write” book has been on the yearbook room shelf for at least three years. Not only are there educational books, there are paperbacks by Pulitzer Prize winners, random motivational/thought provoking books, and of course all the necessary publication guidebooks; the newest edition of the AP Stylebook is the biggie, but there are all sorts of thesauruses and other guidebooks for a pretty reasonable price there. It’s easy to spend your entire lunch break in this room, just browsing the amazing writing, photography, and design—all brought into one place.

So much journalism. So little time.

Jenna Geers