Free-and-easy tech for your regional conference

Dear SPJ regional conference director:

So, are you having fun yet?

If you’re like me, you agreed to organize your region’s conference because you wanted to book mind-blowing speakers. But you didn’t realize the job – and it is a job – would bog you down with mind-numbing tech like setting up a website and a PayPal account.

Well, now you don’t have to.

In 2009, I took charge of the Region 3 conference in sunny South Florida. I built a 12-page website in Dreamweaver and set up a PayPal account linked to my chapter’s bank account. What a giant pain in my ass that was.

But now my pain is your gain…


These days, you gotta offer online registration and payment. But setting up a PayPal account is much harder than using one. So here’s some advice: Don’t bother. Use ours.

For our 2009 regional, SPJ South Florida opened a PayPal account. We still have it. We’re offering it to any conference director who’s interested.

We’ll handle the back end and generate reports for you (so you can be assured we’re not ripping you off). Whenever you want, our treasurer will cut you a check for whatever your owed at the moment. You’ll pay the usual PayPal fees, but we won’t charge you anything extra.

Why is SPJ South Florida being so friendly? Well, besides just being nice folk, we have an ulterior motive: We want SPJ National to offer this convenience next year. If we can prove how easy it is, then maybe it happens.

Speaking just for me, I believe the national board and headquarters staff should handle as many of the boring logistics as possible – so our members have more time to do the fun, creative stuff. That’s how you boost both membership and morale.

If you’re interested, email


How cool would it be if your regional conference had a smartphone app just like the national Excellence in Journalism convention did in New Orleans?

A company called Guidebook offers a small-scale mobile app that really works. How do I know? I’ve messed around with it, and I’ve quizzed a company rep at length.

I organize a college media convention in Manhattan, but it’s too big to take advantage of the free app, which limits the number of downloads to 500. But if your conference has less than 500 attendees, this could be perfect. And it’s a breeze to use.

The Guidebook website says the free app was only available till Sept. 30, but I can get that extended for you. If a number of conference organizer desire the app, we can hit up Guidebook together in one fell swoop.

Email me if you’re interested.


Last year, some regional conferences used a free website called Eventbrite to promote themselves and register folks. It’s not a bad way to go. But it’s also not the easiest on the eyes. And it doesn’t give you much room to blog about your amazing events in advance, much less cover what’s happening.

So check out what the Asian American Journalists Association did with an equally free Tumblr site for its national convention this year. If you’ve never tried Tumblr, it’s simple to use and easy to update.

Of course, if you’re working a large regional conference that partners with an active chapter, this isn’t a problem. Check out Region 1, which is the first to have its website go live and really has its shit together – thanks to the Press Club of Long Island. But if you don’t have that kind of support, check out Tumblr or Eventbrite.


The problem with Eventbrite and Tumblr is that the list of all your sessions is confusing if you have them running on tracks – which means two or more sessions are presented at the same time.

Sched takes care of that in a very appealing way.

Basically, Sched makes a color-coordinated flowchart of your sessions. It’s easy to scan, and getting more info is just a click away. Check out what the Texas Tribune Festival looked like. Cool, huh?

Since Sched is free, even the excellent organizers in Region 1 could use it – just plug in the sessions and then link to it from your homepage.

So that’s every pair of shoes in the place. Hope it helps. Any questions, holler.

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  • MichaelCarl

    A name change will accomplish little and only further muddy the waters. Presently, the name focuses on the practitioners, a personal touch that conveys concern for the professionalism and quality of those in the profession. Changing the name will create the impression of an impersonal focus on the art, not the artist.

  • SPJ AirPlay

    I don’t want to say I liked any Kotaku pieces from this year, lest i influence the judges. (I’m not one, but still.) I’ll look for pieces from 2014 that I thought were well done.

  • Pesty

    That’s certainly understandable. You might just want to hold on to the list until after judging for the Kunkel awards has been decided then. Personally, I think it would be nice to recognize the good pieces of journalism that were done even at bad outlets, lest they get lumped in with the rest of the refuse and forgotten.

    In the last few years, gamers and consumers in this industry have built up quite the portfolio of bad examples either meticulously catalogued ( or just held in their own memory. I think it would be a good next step to make a concerted effort to remember examples of good reporting too.

  • chizwoz

    Suggesting that women don’t qualify as minorities is a bit sexist 😉

  • chizwoz

    If they were doing on a site-wide basis, you’d have to remove nearly everyone on that list.

  • Aidey

    About 50% of the worlds population doesn’t qualify as minority.

  • chizwoz

    I know. Hence the wink.

  • chizwoz

    Haha you thought you’d only get 50. You have much to learn young padawan.

  • durka durka

    yeah why is briana wu who knows nothing of the history of tomb raider talks matter? Most people dont even know that lara’s physique was a accident that had to do with a screw up during 3d modeling, psx limited rendering and too many polygons…all that while running out of time and having to push a character out. The first 3 games have nearly identical graphics so nothing could be done, after that the character was established. By the time the game went to the hd era, half the gameplay was gone but “oh its progressive because lara isnt dressed sexilly anymore and has smaller breasts”

    Half the game is gone, traps gone, medkits gone, ammo scanvanging gone, keys gone, yet another cover based shooter that interupts the gameplay every 4 minutes with a cutscene but “the character is more representitive of women now”

    You know what else is more representitive now? generic dudes with guns, what happen to the dinosaurs and the monsters from the old games?

    I swear the progressive press has no idea what makes games good, which is why they keep shilling their hipster buddies “emotional” walking simulators.

  • Jeremy Fine

    Michael, “we don’t care what you think” has been the common refrain from SPJ since day one, whether it was your button-pushing “updates” or your irritating habit of listening to the loudest people instead of taking a wider view.

    And now, as a response, you’ve created an award that, by design, excludes any material that could actually demonstrate the wild imbalance that actually took place, by demanding that its presence in reality not be demonstrated?

    What a sad day this is. You had the chance to show you had balls, and instead, you retreated back into your hugbox, where you pretend you are capable of that which you have failed to demonstrate chronically:


  • bryoneill11

    If kotaku or Polygon ending up winning some shit, all this was for nothing.

  • chizwoz

    Not necessarily. Not everyone at Polygon and Kotaku are as bad as their worst offenders like Kuchera and Hernandez. Totilo wrote very reasonably about Daniel Vavra’s participation with gamergate and Owen Good at Polygon wrote a very impartial piece on the airplay thingy.
    While I would probably agree that the games industry would be a better place if these 2 sites just went out of business, that’s probably not going to happen. So trying to improve them is more realistic approach.

  • SPJ AirPlay

    I’ll give you “irritating” and even “button-pushing” – I’m self-actualized enough to concede those traits – but how can a contest fail to be objective because it eschews opinion?

  • Vetarnias

    For the news reporting category, I can understand: it’s a fairly traditional way of describing it, but I doubt you will find much of it in the gaming press, which tends towards hype. Brave games journalism is rare (and Kotaku’s maudlin “Ubisoft and Bethesda blacklist us!” doesn’t really count if it’s just a passive-aggressive way to arm-twist them into feeding Kotaku content that it can get page hits from), and what little of it exists should be rewarded, yes. It’s not the place for opinion pieces.

    But for features, though, why not? Why don’t opinion pieces count? Or essays? Or anything that bears a passing resemblance of what goes on in video games writing? If those are out, I’m not even sure what would be left to qualify. It’s even more obvious for the video categories, as all you’ll find there is opinion.

    Surely you don’t buy the GamerGate narrative that there can exist such a thing as an “objective review”? Assuming that you don’t, is this post really saying that the Kunkels – with opinion pieces out of the way – don’t even have an award for game reviewing, when the Pulitzers, just to name those, have prizes for both editorials and criticism? That what is missing from the current state of affairs is precisely recognition for video games reviewing?

    Likewise, does that mean that the entire field of “new games journalism” is disqualified because it values its very subjectivity? Never mind that I’m quite certain that if in 20 years’ time, if not sooner, it will be the only kind of games writing from today that will still be read – and if not that, then nothing.

    Which is how I interpret the Kunkel Awards in the light of this update: it’s all for naught.

    Would you care to point to a piece of writing (ideally one too old to qualify for these awards), that exemplifies what you consider to be an admissible feature?

  • Fabian T. Gonsior

    A thanks to all people making this happen!

  • bryoneill11

    So two judges are anon… *sigh* If Kotaku or Polygon win something this was all for nothing. They dont respect Koratzky or SPJ and still this guy talk shit about gamergate and defend these idiots. Nobody will respect us after this shit

  • Bill

    “Mano-a-mano” means “hand-to-hand” you monstrous hack.

    Obviously you should be fired for making this error. By yourself if necessary.

  • yohami

    Tracy is a crazy malajusted individual who happens to be right and saying the truth, in a world manipulated by the mainstream media which no longer seeks the truth, if it ever did at all, but pushes a narrative for the highest bidder.

    “harassing the parents of dead kids”

    Have you watched the hoax theories videos and read their material? To me the only difference between these hoaxes and other hoaxes that have been accepted as such, like the Rolling Stone rape case, the -only- difference, is that with the shootings you have the whole body of media repeating the same story even though its incongruent with any kind of evidence, and no one is crossing the line to talk to the people on the fringe pointing at it. Journalism anyone. Just go there and get the data, make up your own mind. Report what you find.

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