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Attending a national convention reaps rewards


by Susan McNulty, CJE The Stampede and The Hoofbeat adviser J.W. Mitchell High School, Trinity, Florida

On Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, a group of 20 journalism teachers, and advisers met with Kelly Glasscock of the Journalism Education Association and Laura Widmer of the National Scholastic Press Association at the site of the Fall 2020 JEA/NSPA conference.

Planning must begin more than a year in advance because a lot goes into providing a conference for 6000+ students and nearly 1000 advisers.

On a tour of the facility, Orlando World Center Marriott, the group entered vast conference rooms intended for exhibit halls and awards ceremonies; smaller rooms for breakout sessions; and a pool area outfitted with a game lawn, three big screen televisions and a waterfall slide.

We imagined the area crowded with JEA/NSPA members enjoying the Florida sun a year from this November. After the tour, the team got down to business, discussing everything from convention logo and theme to keynote speaker, media tours, student entertainment and registration.  

Of the hundreds of break-out sessions offered at national conventions, several speakers cover topics on law and ethics, including First Amendment, libel, court cases important to student media, copyright, plagiarism, reporter’s privilege, ethics, privacy, rights and responsibilities and staff policies.

These topics don’t always receive their due in our busy newsrooms, yet understanding them is vital to responsible journalism. Conferences provide students with a chance to delve deeper into the freedoms and protections afforded to student journalists and to hear from the Student Press Law Center.

In addition to all the work that the local planning committee puts into the conference, advisers who bring students spend hours in planning. I have taken students from Tampa, Florida to JEA/NSPA conferences in Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco.

Each experience provided me and my students with experiences that could not be duplicated in the classroom back home. Students met other journalism experts from around the country, heard from keynote speakers with diverse points-of-view, entered contests at the national level, made friends with students from around the country and visited with vendors in the exhibit hall.

Although taking students out of town or even out of state requires planning, organization and a great deal of fund-raising, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. JEA/NSPA created a PDF for schools outlining why conventions matter. It can be found here:

There are two JEA/NSPA Conferences scheduled between now and Orlando, the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention from Nov. 21-24, 2019, in Washington, D.C. and the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention April 16-18, 2020, in Nashville.

It’s not too late to register for the Fall 2019 conference in Washington, D.C. Early bird registration ends Oct. 30. Visit the convention page for more information or to register.

And if you can’t make it there, plan on Nashville or Orlando in 2020. 

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