Friday, April 27, 2012

#CAJ2012

After 9 months of planning, as co chair of the Canadian Association of Journalists national conference, it has finally arrived: the big day.  The conference is about to start in less then 2 hours. I have learned a lot of things about putting together a conference such as that hotels charge for Wi-Fi in their conference rooms but not in their hotel rooms, that you need extra power cords for the trade show people, and that if you are partnering with another organization that is larger and has more money then you, their gifts to the speakers will be a lot fancier then yours!

And that speakers get sick the night before with sinusitis or the flu and cancel. Or that a volunteer's grandparent dies the night before so you have to find someone to replace them on their shift.

But the great thing about putting this endeavour together has been that I've met dozens of the movers and shakers in current Canadian journalism, because I've invited them to participate in the conference to speak or deliver workshops on an array of topics such as data journalism, trauma reporting, mobile journalism, business, health, and more.

And I've learned again that the skills of a chase producer  which a journalist uses to make cold calls to book big sources to come on your TV or Radio show, sure come in handy on conference planning when trying to book high profile guest speakers (Dawna Friesen, Thomas Mulcair, Marci Ien, and more.) You can't win if you don't play, as they say. You just have to ask, ask early, and ask often. And most of the time, they say "Yes".

It's been a privilege to work so closely with my colleague Shauna Rempel at the Toronto Star as co chair (especially because neither of us wanted this job back in September 2011), but thanks to the gentle persuasion and machinations of the CAJ board, and president Hugo Rodrigues and Paul Schneidereit (treasurer), we just accepted the inevitable and went ahead and planned the thing.

Thanks to Micah Luxen of the Globe and Mail for her great work designing and putting together the beautiful programme and to Dileen Simms and Aldis Brennan of Centennial Journalism for their help on the layout and design of posters and fliers.

Thanks to my colleagues Lindy Oughtred, Ted Fairhurst, Ted Barris, Malcolm Kelly, Stephen Cogan, Jules Elder, Phil Alves, and Sylvan Ng and all the amazing journalism students at Centennial College who worked tirelessly to book guests, buy envelopes and eat pizza as they stuffed delegates bags, especially grad Dorian Nicholson who ran the trade show, and Judy Batay for the videography coverage.

A special thanks to the UTSC/Centennial joint journalism students Sunnie Huang, Sarah Taguiam, Cortney Cook, and Dylan Robertson. And to all the volunteers from newsrooms and campuses across the country who worked to put this together, including Martin Seto, Dale Bass, George Browne, Lauren McKeon, Gustavo Vieira, Simon Doyle, Elizabeth Thompson, Steve Kowch, Mike Karapita, Vivian Smith, Susan Down, and all the folks at Newspapers Canada. If I forgot anyone, my sincere apologies.

Thanks to Tony from Pro Staging, and Jon Luce from PSAV and Gary Scott from AVTELAV for their A-V advice and suggestions.

And to my family, who put up with my three hour long Skype meetings all year, and anxiety and worry that despite such a great lineup of people, no one would come! Well, deep breath. Here we go!