Archive for February, 2015

We have a venue and not one but two great keynote speakers so register now!

Our regional conference just got a lot more awesome.

We have a venue for it now, the historic Hotel Whitcomb on Market Street in San Francisco near Twitter HQ (and its well-known wall) …


… and very close to other cool stuff.

Our keynote conversation will feature two Bay Area media leaders: The San Francisco Chronicle’s new editor-in-chief, Audrey Cooper — the youngest woman to lead a major U.S. newspaper — and Holly Kernan, executive editor for news at KQED, a dynamic television, radio and digital public media outlet.

If that’s not enough for you to stop reading this blog post and lock in our early-bird discount and register right now, read on for more details.

On April 17, we’ll offer intensive hands-on workshops on data security,  building your brand and data visualization at the Impact Hub.

On April 18, we’ll feature a full day of programming at the Hotel Whitcomb, where media professionals will share expertise on innovative publishing platforms, new funding models, hot trends in podcasting, science reporting, making the most of online video, mastering data visualization and more.

Our early-bird discount ends March 17 so don’t delay. (Second chance: Register here.)

Conference-goers can also take advantage of a discounted room rate of $159 a night to stay in the Whitcomb Hotel. Book your room reservation online or by phone at (415) 626-8000. You must say that you are attending the Society of Professional Journalists’ conference to receive the conference room rate.

Check back here and on the conference website for more information. A full schedule of workshops and programming will be posted soon.

See you in San Francisco.


Journalism’s worst week

What a week. What a terrible, awful, heartrending week for our industry, our colleagues, us. Tributes and obituaries are everywhere. Heaven just got one hell of a news team, but it has been a brutal week for journalism.

Our losses seem almost unbearable. Truth, a touch more elusive.

Laurie Becklund. Bob Simon. David Carr. Alison Gordon. Stan Chambers. R.I.P., all.

Our first cruel blow came Sunday when former San Diego Tribune and Los Angeles Times border reporter Laurie Becklund died at her home of metastatic breast cancer. She was 66 and “born a reporter,” journalist Barbara Kantrowitz told the Times.

From the Times’ tribute: “Toward the end of her life, Becklund was still reporting, according to Kantrowitz, untangling the politics of breast cancer. ‘She wanted to find out why so much attention was paid to early detection and not to metastatic cancer,’ Kantrowitz said.”

Then Tuesday, within about an hour, a quick succession of stunning revelations: Jon Stewart was leaving The Daily Show, on his own terms, but still; Brian Williams was leaving NBC Nightly News, on a six-month suspension for embellishing an Iraq War anecdote, and CBS 8 sports director Kyle Kraska was shot 10 times — 10! — outside his San Diego home in a dispute with his painter and rushed to the hospital, where he remains in critical but stable condition. Each of those were stories that alone could occupy our conversations for a week. But not this week.

Because Wednesday, suddenly, 60 Minutes standout Bob Simon was dead in a car crash in New York. It was unfathomable. He was 73 and had won 27 Emmys, believed, as CBS reported, to be the most ever earned for a field reporter; he’d also won four Peabody Awards in a five-decade career.

Thursday was no less terrible: David Carr, just 58, The New York Times’ marvelous media critic and champion, collapsed in his newsroom and died. Grieving, we learned, too, that Alison Gordon, the first full-time female beat reporter in Major League Baseball, was dead at 72. Yahoo Sports recalled that her initial Baseball Writers Association of America membership card “infamously referred to her as Mr. Alison Gordon, because they’d never had a woman in the association.”

Her death brought sorrow because she was a standard-bearer, but Carr’s collapse is just heart-breaking because he was for many the heart of the industry. A gruff, no-holds-barred giant of journalism, he once told the graduates of UC Berkeley: “Being a journalist, I never feel bad talking to journalism students because it’s a grand, grand caper. You get to leave, go talk to strangers, ask them anything, come back, type up their stories, edit the tape. That’s not gonna retire your loans as quickly as it should, and it’s not going to turn you into a person who’s worried about what kind of car they should buy, but that’s kind of as it should be. I mean, it beats working.”

Twitter, as the Washington Post put it, howled with pain Thursday night, when the co-editor-in-chief of Variety wrote this:

The question certainly seemed hyphothetical.

And that was before Friday, when maybe we all thought we’d wake up, catch our breath and stagger into the weekend with the sort of bad news — someone else’s — that we typically deliver, but no.

Friday, we learned that KTLA newsman Stan Chambers was dead at 91. Over the course of 63 years — 63! — with the station, he reported more than 22,000 stories. Twenty-two thousand.

Some of those stories were sad, like the one we’re telling now. It’s just part of the job. We get that. Always has been. But this week, mourning these losses, we grieve for our own and thank them for their service and send them on their way and remember why we do the work we do. Why we try.

So thank you for your service, everyone. Now and always, caper on.

Here is Carr’s commencement speech to the University of California, Berkeley, in 2014 when he spoke of this grand, grand caper, and of us.


Save the date for our regional conference

The committee planning our Region 11 spring conference in San Francisco is working hard to make sure the trip is worth your while, so please set aside the weekend of April 17 to join us. We expect to have an announcement by the end of next week about the venue, workshops and speakers. We’ve scheduled Saturday, April 18, for a full day of programming and for the presentation of our prestigious Mark of Excellence Awards for the region’s best college journalism. We’re also considering a nighttime reception on Friday, April 17, and some optional sightseeing on Sunday, April 19.

Our venue remains in flux because the site we had chosen came back to us with a contract total higher than we expected, so we are pursuing a range of options and will pick a site very soon and share it with you.

As for the MOE Awards, judges have begun their work and expect winners will be announced next month.

We will post more information when we have it on our conference website and the website of our hosts, SPJ NorCal. We will have discounts for early-bird registration, students and SPJ members.

Thanks for your patience as we wrap up our planning. Looking forward to having a big group in April. Any questions, please email me at with the subject line “Region 11 conference.”


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