Baywatch

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

The AAN West Conference, a convention made up of members of the alternative press, was held in San Francisco last weekend, and Dennis, Kat, John and I went down.

As I sit here, looking at this mostly empty page, I’m wondering what you might find most interesting about the weekend. Most of the world doesn’t go to conferences, so the common sitcom joke is that nobody does any work; they just get hammered from breakfast on. There is a little bit of that. For example, one editor friend of mine didn’t wake up until noon on Saturday morning, missing the whole morning’s program, but at least he made Craig Newmark’s lunchtime keynote speech. Newmark is Craig of Craigslist, and I found him interesting and a little brave, since he was addressing a bunch of print journalists who stand to see their jobs get much more difficult as he saps the lifeblood of their newspapers with his free classifieds. After the lunch, I asked him why he didn’t put progressively-minded content on the site, basically become an alternative to USA Today. “We’re thinking about it,” he said.

One of the things I like best about conferences like these is the nuts-and-bolts orientation. The topic of Willamette Week’s seminar was “Here’s how we conducted the investigation that won us the Pulitzer.” The Investigative Reporters and Editors group offered a three-hour tutorial: Getting Better Stories on the Beat with Documents, Data and Sources. Willy Stern, former staff writer at Forbes and Business Week and an investigative reporter of some repute, gave us 20 down and dirty reporting tips.

I’m not the first guy to say it, but I’m disturbed by the fact that so many attendees are about my advanced age. Part of that is that newsrooms are tightening their belts, but it seems important to me that young journalists attend these workshops. Somebody’s going to have to carry the torch when Craig begins adding content.