Looking at RTDNA Canada’s upcoming conference

If you’re like many other journalists out there you may have some questions, concerns and perhaps a bit of hesitation regarding the future of journalism in a digital age.

If you’re like many other journalists out there you may have some questions, concerns and perhaps a bit of hesitation regarding the future of journalism in a digital age.

This year’s Radio Television Digital News Association’s (RTDNA) national conference, RDTNA @ 50 The Future of Electronic Journalism, aims to answer some of these questions and concerns. The organization is commemorating its 50th anniversary and has invited all of its past presidents to attend a gala on Friday night to celebrate.

“It’s a bit of a celebration of our past but its also a great time to look at the promise of our future,” RTDNA Canada president Andy LeBlanc told J-Source. “It’s a good time to not only continue with the principles that have been developed over decades of experience by electronic journalists, but also to look at the best practices and techniques for the best possible storytelling with today’s technological tools.”

The conference consists of three days of sessions, discussion and awards and is being held this weekend, June 21 – 23, at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in downtown Toronto. The sessions’ topics range from writing catchy headlines to leading change in a digital newsroom. Valerie Geller will present a session on storytelling techniques and Lloyd Robertson will discuss the future of the news business from his personal perspective.

“We have a number of sessions, everything from best practices in storytelling to some reflection from some of the top people in our industry of where were are now and how we’re going to make sense of what is changing and moving forward from here,” says LeBlanc.

The conference includes a session for students and young job seekers as well. The ‘5 Minutes With the News Director’ gives job hopefuls an opportunity to network, ask questions and get advice while taking part in the speed-dating like process.

Friday and Saturday evenings will hold awards galas; the RTDNA President’s Awards Gala will take place on Friday, while the RTDNA National Awards Gala will be on Saturday. At the RTDNA President’s Awards Gala two important awards will be handed out: the 2012 Distinguished Service Award to CTV Ottawa news director Peter Angione and the RTDNA President’s Award to a deserving industry colleague. RTDNA’s past presidents have all been invited to attend. At the RTDNA National Awards Gala radio and television regional winners will compete for national honours.

If you’re wondering how RTDNA is going to address some of the issues plaguing journalists today, LeBlanc says in a healthy way — by talking about it.

“One of the great things about this conference is that anything that is happening now tends to be discussed, not just in the itinerary, but in the hallways, the sessions and that sort of thing,” he says.

LeBlanc points out that the discussion of the future of journalism has been asked numerous times by numerous people, but he thinks that it’s an important question to ask as new technology continues to arrive.

“We need to have those discussions,” he said. “Can we [RTDNA] as an organization spell out and dictate what the future is going to be? I don’t think we’re qualified to do that any more than a single network. But, we’re all in this together and we’re not even just exploring and thinking about the future. We’re part of it.”

He’s right  — we are all part of this rapidly changing industry, whether we’re excited about it or not. No matter if you’ve happily accepted the digital world or have feelings of anxiety, RTDNA’s conference is a thoughtful place to learn about, discuss and be a part of the future of electronic journalism.