Do yourself a favor: come to Fort Lauderdale

I’ve been a journalist for 34 years, and the learning curve in the past five years has been just as steep as it was for the first five.

I’ve learned to tweet, blog and use social media to advance my writing and reporting.

I’ve learned how to shoot and edit video. I even spent some time in film school learning about visual grammar and how to tell a story in a minute or two.

I’ve produced my own Internet radio news program. I’ve covered raging floods with my trusty iPad. And I still take notes the old-fashioned way, with pen and notepad.

None of this is remotely a complaint. Learning how to tell old familiar stories in completely new ways has been one of the pure joys of being a reporter in recent years.

I look at the world differently now. While on assignment, I think to myself: I can live-blog this, shoot some raw video, write my story on a park bench and tweet breaking news. It’s terrific fun, and somehow I still get paid for it.

One very tangible reason I still have this job (aside from my sheer incompetence at almost everything else) is the fact that I’ve managed to stay somewhat current with all these changes thanks in no small part to SPJ.

Most newsrooms have had to cut back if not eliminate their budgets for training and continuing education. If you want to take a couple of days off now to attend a seminar or a conference, chances are they will be on your own dime and time.

That’s why I think SPJ is such a solid investment in myself. For $75 a year, I’ve been able to access a ton of training and tools that have enabled me to be a better reporter.

I think back to all those spring conferences I’ve attended in Salt Lake City, Denver, Fort Collins, Colo., Long Island, N.Y., and Tacoma, Wash. There wasn’t one where I didn’t come back to the newsroom the following Monday and start applying something I had learned.

The pace of learning accelerates even more when I think of what I learned at our national conventions in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Las Vegas and New Orleans.

That’s one reason I’m so looking forward to this year’s convention, Sept 20 to 22 at the Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale. It’ll be our second year teaming with the Radio Television Digital News Association to present the conference we call Excellence in Journalism. (Information and registration are

First, there’s the hotel itself. It is so unlike any of the earlier convention venues we’ve been to in recent years. You walk out the back door and you’re a short walk from the ocean.

The white-sand beach has sections roped off for a tortoise nesting area. I’m told on a moon-lit night you can go down to the water’s edge and see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

If I were not slated to be at a national board meeting, I would definitely take the hovercraft tour of the Everglades. And I plan a return visit to an outrageously retro Polynesian tiki bar that dates back to the 1950s. (Think “Mad Men” with flame dancers and umbrella drinks.)

But I digress. There’s also some excellent learning opportunities and great speakers.

One of our keynote speakers is Sree Sreenivasan, a Columbia University journalism professor who I heard talk earlier this year at an SPJ event in New York City. He is an expert on using social media to enhance your journalism skills. An hour with him will definitely raise your reporting game.

And not everything is high tech. Another speaker is Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer-winning New York Times reporter and best-selling author. In my book, Rick is one of the best storytellers of our generation. And trust me, even in a digital age, stories still matter. I think they matter more.

Our partnership with RTDNA has made our conventions even more useful. As all forms of media have converged in recent years, people on all sides of our profession have skills that are useful to share.

For example, one breakout session I’m hoping to catch is “Unleash Your Inner Broadcaster,” presented by the Public Radio News Directors. This is a program we would never have been able to assemble without our friends from RTDNA.

Oh, and one of my personal journalism heroes, longtime public radio host Bob Edwards, will be speaking. He’ll also receive our Fellows of the Society award, one of our highest honors. I can’t wait.

This convention also will mark the end of my year as president. This job has been a joy, and I intend to work it hard right up to the last day.

But one thing I’ll enjoy when I turn the presidency over to the very able Sonny Albarado is this: When the 2013 convention in Anaheim rolls around, I expect there will be a lot more time to soak up the learning there.

But you won’t have to wait that long. Stop reading and register today while you can still get the early bird rate (ends Aug. 28). After all, aren’t you and your career worth the investment?

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  • Dillon

    You really make it appear so easy with your presentation but I to find
    this topic to be actually one thing which I think I’d by no means understand. It seems too complicated and very vast for me. I am having a look forward in your subsequent put up, I will attempt to get the hold of it!

    Lights For Swimming Pools

  • Gum. As with most other out of doors Christmas decorations,.
    The oranges aren’t really suited to eating – it’s
    more like you are drinking fruit than eating it, way too juicy.

  • Brandon Ballenger

    I’m sure SG will learn some sense — that’s part of why they’re in college — but FAU needs some new administrators and a smarter adviser.

  • Emily Bloch

    Well — this is disappointing but not surprising. FAU tries so hard to be a “traditional” university and then they make repeat blunders like this. My favorite part is that they could’ve quietly made things go away by accepting the appeal. But then again, when has FAU ever done things the easy way?

    The scariest part is the “legal advice” Joe’s getting from a faculty adviser saying “don’t talk to a lawyer, the school might retaliate?” A media ethics professor would shudder at that statement. So would a media law professor — but I just remembered, FAU’s version of that is a former PR specialist who (is a very nice guy, but) has absolutely no journalism or formal law experience.

    Yeah, I’m buying a shirt.

  • Dori Zinn

    I don’t know how many more times my alma mater will disappoint me, but I’ve lost track. Really glad all of us at SPJ are keeping an eye on FAU. Clearly they need the babysitting.

  • Amanda Rabines

    Not tact? Well that’s ambiguous.

  • Karla Bowsher

    This is bordering on fake news. You guys need to check your facts. There are plenty of places where the government meddles with the press — Venezuela, for example. And look at all the sunshine and rainbows they’ve got going on these days.

  • Karla Bowsher

    But in all serious, FAU’s ceaseless assault on the First Amendment
    is precisely why I and my now-spouse, a two-time alum, no longer donate to FAU’s alumni association. We cannot morally or ethically support even the indirect censorship for which Student Affairs and Student Government have made FAU infamous. So we sure won’t support it financially.

  • Kathryn Quigley

    This is ridiculous! I am the advisor of The Whit, thevstudent newspaper at Rowan University, a state school in NJ. It is the JOB of the editor to “keep watch over” SGA. And since when have newspaper editors been known for their “tact” anyway? Go Joe! Keep fighting.


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