I went to a convention in San Francisco last weekend.
I’ve been to a lot of conventions as a journalist. Some are better than others; these AAN West conferences are particularly unpredictible. AAN stands for Association of Alternative Newsweeklies; AAN West is a regional conference. The regional conferences are often planned more as social events than career development opportunities—you know, you arrive on Friday night, end up on the cable car on wheels with a tub of beer on ice, crawl into the second half of the Saturday morning meetings, eat lunch and head out for a nap in the afternoon before catching the evening mixer.
I’ve been told the regional conference is primarily about networking, which is only good if you’re planning on looking for a job.
Not this year, this year the conference was about doing good journalism. There were no planned evening group get-togethers. (Don’t get me wrong, the News & Review team did get out, particularly on Saturday night after the conference closed, and, in case you’re wondering, it is possible to drink too much Jack Daniels on the rocks.)
At any rate, Saturday’s meetings focused on one thing: investigative reporting. We talked about such things as how to get at the documents that tell the real stories, how to wrangle human sources, how to cover business and non-profits, how to use little known pieces of the Internet, how to do the week-to-week stories while working on the investigative stories. Talking about this kind of stuff is extremely motivational. I’m too much of a realist to say that this conference will definitely impact what you will see in this paper, but I hope it does. I read newspapers from around the country, and I can tell you that solid investigative reporting is sorely lacking—almost everywhere.
RTV No. 12: Voters receive the esteem of people they care about. Non-voters are often dismissed as uninvolved.