2010 CAJ conference seminars

The Canadian Association of Journalists’ annual conference–titled Good Journalism in 140 Characters or More–takes place in Montreal this May. Seminars will focus on the new realities journos are facing, writes Dale Bass. 

Good journalism in 140 characters or more

This time last year, I was writing a welcome piece for the promotional material accompanying the 2009 Canadian Association of Journalists‘ conference in Vancouver. Our president, MaryAgnes Welch, and I were trying to come up with a label, something descriptive that would give people an idea of what they would find if they attended.

We ended up with Good Journalism in Bad Times. Unfortunately, it fit.

This year, we came up with Good Journalism in 140 Characters or More. We believe it speaks volumes to the things you’ll hear and learn about at the 2010 conference on May 28 to May 30 in Montreal at the Grand Plaza Montreal.

The CAJ is focusing on the new realities journalists are facing, things like writers being told to shoot pictures, photographers being told to start shooting video, everyone having to  file what they have as soon as they have it to websites and blogs. From there, this news is Twittered and Facebooked and, by the time you read this, maybe going to many more new social-media sites.

It’s why we’re thrilled to have Rob Curley as a keynote speaker. The self-described Internet nerd — and currently editor of the new-media division of the Las Vegas Sun and Greenspun Media Group — is one of those guys newsroom techies have been telling us in recent days they’d fly across the country to hear. As one of the first online newspaper editors in the U.S., he led the Lawrence Journal-World in such innovations that in 2004, Editor and Publisher called the Kansas newspaper one of 10 in the U.S. that “did it right,” with innovations “too numerous to list.”

Among panels and workshops during the three-day conference will be one on online journalism — not  what to do if it should arrive in your newsroom because the reality is it isn’t the future. It’s the now. Among people who will be talking about how you can not only survive but thrive in this new journalistic reality will be David Beers, award-winning editor of The Tyee, Greg Horn, editor of the online newspaper Iori:Wase, which focuses on news from the Kanien’Keha:Ka Nation in Khanawake, Que., and Kirk Lapointe, editor of the Vancouver Sun and the Canadian representative of the Online Newspaper Association.

You can’t do good online journalism if you don’t have the skills so there will be sessions on writing, editing, storytelling, shooting, investigative journalism, being able to read financial statements and figure out the numbers, avoiding lawsuits, staying true to the ethics and that most basic — and ever-changing in the Internet world — researching and knowing you’re using trustworthy sources.

There’s another reality in journalism these days that is unfortunately making headlines and taking its toll on everyone — trauma.

It can be something horrendous, as the Calgary Herald endured when its reporter, Michelle Lang, died in Afghanistan. Herald editor Lorne Motley will be a keynote at the conference, talking about this new issue newsrooms from senior management to reporter must consider.

Motley will join one of two panels being co-presented by the CAJ and the Canadian Journalists Forum on Violence and Trauma (CJFVT). He’ll join Rodney Pinder, director of the International News Safety Institute, Dr. Anthony Feinstein, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto; and Cliff Lonsdale, CJFVT president.

The other panel will be a roundtable discussion of covering disasters, focusing on the recent earthquake in Haiti. Taking part will be Sue Montgomery of the Montreal Gazette, who spend several days there; Paul Hunter of CBC News; Francois Bugingo, president of Reporters Without Borders Canada who recently returned from Haiti.; Feinstein and Lonsdale.

One other highlight: a Saturday noon-hour keynote panel with members of the Parliamentary Press gallery who will talk about covering the Hill in a time when information is controlled by the iron fist of the PMO.

A complete list of participants and sessions is on the CAJ facebook page. For those of you who steadfastly avoid Facebook, you can e-mail me (dbass55@shaw.ca) for regular updates.

The information should be on an updated CAJ website shortly. That site is nearing completion of a complete overhaul and hopefully will be live in days.