Friday, November 6, 2009

Back, excited, and raring for some changes

Got back at 2 a.m. Monday morning, after four hours of flying (from Austin to Houston to Boston) and getting lost in construction in downtown Boston. We made it!

Austin was amazing. Incredible. Halloween was like Mardi Gras, with the streets crowded in costumed Austinites of all ages. We saw Lance's bike shop, had amazing Tex Mex, authentic BBQ, and a southern brunch that was to die for. We saw the University of Texas (and stared in awe at the football stadium - their shrine to the sport), the state capitol, and the bridge where bats fly out in swarms at dusk.

Austin's weird. It's cool, artsy, western, and funky. People there said it was its own little world, apart from Texas.

But on to the important stuff - THE CONVENTION.

We attended our first session, groggy eyed from our 3:45 a.m. wakeup call. Chicken Salad II: where the speaker spoke the lingo of college kids, a guy from Florida Atalantic University. He stressed leaving clip art behind, shorter, catchier headlines, and putting FACES on the front page. Because we're doing this for the students and members of the community, right? Well, we gotta put them on the front page.

Steve Outing, one of the keynote speakers, addressed the future of journalism. He had worked for big name papers but decided to branch out into the unknown Internet territory in the late 90s, later teaching at the Poynter Institute and UC Boulder.

He stressed niche journalism, entrepeneurship, learning the lingo of computer scientists and business people, freelancing, and community journalism websites, like San Diego's Voice of San Diego.

Other sessions stressed making the newspaper's website a hub of the community. That collaboration with other media outlets was necessary to keep the news alive. Rather than telling a long "story" now, journalists should see themselves as part of the greater community, informing citizens with "streams" and making their research and information readily available. Linking online, more visuals, info boxes, making information on the site a necessity for the local community.

Most of the other sessions dealt with design, headlines, leads, and story ideas for college newspapers. Another dealt with interviews (something never formally taught in UNH classes - things the journalist just picks up on their own here, for better or worse), "Battling the Tranquility Syndrome" on campus and covering news school officials may see as "bad," and covering political issues in the town and surrounding community.

Need more info? One of our writers summarizes the convention perfectly in one of his latest blog posts:

TNH does Austin: Thoughts on NCMC09

We returned brimming with new ideas and have tried to incorporate them into today's issue - note the faces of the nontraditional students and new emphasis on profiles. Hopefully we'll become better at catering to our specific audience and get the community more involved on our website, be it through the "bulletin board" widget college publisher talked about, or something else.

It's all about finding the time and manpower to make those links possible. Hopefully by amping up the writer's presence in the newsroom, we won't find ourselves so limited.

Here's to the future: no matter what, there is hope. People are gonna need their information, in some form or another.