Regional conference canceled – and we need your input

It is with deep regret that we must announce cancellation of the Region 7 conference scheduled for April 13. I have been consulting with our regional director, Loretta McGraw, and we came to the conclusion today that we simply did not have enough registrations to warrant a conference. 

It is a great disappointment to both Loretta and me, as we were really looking forward to the conference and we had lined up some wonderful speakers on topics of relevance to both student journalists and professionals. But it is also a disservice to those speakers to invite them to share their expertise to a mostly-empty room. It’s also a disappointment for the students, I’m sure: those in the running for Mark of Excellence Awards deserve their moment in the spotlight for their fantastic work.

Loretta and I are working on a plan to make sure those students do not have to wait to find out about their awards; the most likely choice will be a Zoom ceremony, and even if you’re not up for MoE, I hope you’ll sign in and virtually applaud the next generation of journalists in our region. We are also grateful to the national SPJ, which had offered the funding for us to hold the conference in the first place. 

As to the rest of the programming: We still want to share these discussions with you. We had planned panels on covering mass shootings, unionization in the newsroom, the latest in FOIA, an update on attacks on journalism, discussion on ethics and A.I., a presentation from Project Censored, how to develop First Amendment programming on your campus, finding work as a freelancer, what to do when your college drops your paper’s funding, and more. 

This is too much good material to mothball, so Loretta and I are working on a plan for a series of Zoom webinars on these topics. We will be reaching out to our speakers to hopefully reschedule them for these webinars, and we hope you will join us for them. Meeting in person is always preferable, but time and money and energy and other factors often get in the way. Technology gives us the opportunity to have these discussions, and we will take advantage of it.

And we want to hear from YOU. We’ll be running a poll on Facebook, and we encourage you to share your ideas with us. Next fall/spring, should we try for an in-person conference again? Should we combine our regional conference with another region or with the Midwest Journalism Conference, which is happening this weekend in Milwaukee? We have done this before and it is a large, comprehensive conference (but also requires further travel). What topics would be of interest to you, either at a conference or in a webinar? 

St. Louis SPJ exists to support the work of journalists in our region, whether members or not. We wish to be of service to YOU. Let us know how we can best support you in your work and your career. 

In the meantime, congratulations to the MOE students, and many thanks to the speakers and student volunteers who planned to help us out at the regional conference. Your willingness to participate is deeply appreciated.