A bunch of us from the office went to San Francisco to an alternative newsweekly conference in San Francisco this weekend. Overall, it was a very good conference and a good combination of work and play.
First, perhaps, I should mention that there are a lot of papers similar to ours around the country. In fact, most cities our size and larger have alternative newsweeklies with comparably styled arts, news and attitude. Las Vegas, for example, has three alternatives: Las Vegas Citylife, Las Vegas Mercury and Las Vegas Weekly. The Bay Guardian is a well-known weekly in San Francisco, and the Village Voice in New York City has been a cultural icon since the ’50s. Anchorage, Ala., has a weekly, as does Salt Lake City.
The great thing about conferences like this is the feeling of community. Every one of these newspapers is community focused, like ours, yet hanging out with these journalists is like hanging out with brothers and sisters. Yes, there’s a certain amount of friendly professional competition, but, in general, we mostly work to improve the quality of each other’s work, which in turn, improves our communities, which in turn improves our country and world.
What do we talk about? Well, from 9 to 5, we talk about things like how to cover war from home; how to help the victims of bureaucratic systems, how to follow the money in political stories, how to protect against libel lawsuits, how to improve arts coverage, and more nuts-and-bolts topics than you could shake a keyboard at. We talk about freedom, responsibility and inclusion. After 5 o’clock, well, the topics can be even more wide-ranging.
Talking to and hearing from people who see the world the same way I do imbues me with pride and confidence for both journalism and our country. It’s easy to be pessimistic in these days of media stumbles, but when I look beyond the potholes, the road looks like it’s rising.