Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Conference Web pages updated

Much of the conference coverage on the ACES Web site at www.copydesk.org has been updated. Some new pages, stories and photos have been added. Other pages have been revamped. Construction will continue for another couple of days, mostly to add photos, fix links and make other tweaks. We'll also add links to conference stories and photos that appear on other Web sites and blogs. So keep checking back!

Monday, April 24, 2006

See you in Miami

The conference has come and gone, but memories will remain -- along with hundreds of handouts. See you all in Miami next year!

Dance fever

What a way to close out a great conference! The party Saturday night at Fat Fish Blue was hopping. Yes, it was packed, and when the band started it was loud, but it was sooooo much fun! And Neil is right, copy editors dancing side by side with sorority girls in formals was quite a sight. I loved it when the band gave a shout out to the copy editors. How often do you get to hear that?

I've posted a few photos on Flickr. Apologies for the quality, but they were taken with my phone. Dancing and multiple cosmopolitans were involved as well...

Fat Fish Blue, baby

Oh, now we're home and it's all over, and many of us are still recovering from our Saturday night social at Fat Fish Blue, where a New Orleans-style band blew the roof off. Lots of dancing -- the Saturday social gets a lot of unlikely people letting loose. Come, for instance, to see Alex Cruden's one and only dance move, but done very convincingly. I don't know how we got booked at the same time as a college senior social, but suddenly there we were, dancing with college guys in tuxes and girls in prom-like dresses. And while Erin McKean got all the raves on this discussion board, her partner in words, Wendy Nichols, was the badest lexicographer in any American nightclub. Thanks for the great time, all of you; I miss you already.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Cleveland really DOES rock

The ACES Cleveland conference went out like a lion, with an Oscar-worthy performance of "It's Hard Out There on the Rim" by Beryl Adcock, Scott Toole, and the incomparable Hank Glamann.

Dan Husson's slide show, backed by "Cleveland Rocks," helped us get even deeper into the mood for the Fat Fish Blue party, and so did Jackie Kunzmann's fantastic Top 10 reasons to come to the South Florida conference next year in Miami.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped make this conference a terrific event.

In the home stretch

How is it possible that the conference is already almost over?? We have one more block of sessions -- the forums -- and then the closing general session. All of the sessions I looked in on this morning were well attended. Women in Management, with Leslie Guevarra, Melissa McCoy, Anne Ferguson-Rohrer and Teresa Schmedding, had a great discussion going that spilled over 15 minutes or so into the lunch break (which is great!) One participant in that session found me later and suggested a management track at next year's conference. What a good idea... I hope a lot of attendees will fill out their conference surveys so we can hear other suggestions like that.

Ether ore

One of the big challenges every year is dealing with the technology that's needed to run the conference. A lot of presentations use PowerPoint or the equivalent; some need Internet connections. Then there are the people who want to use overhead projectors; some arrive with Macs and need help setting up their equipment in a largely Windows world.

Then there's the Internet cafe -- and many thanks to the Plain Dealer for providing the equipment and setting it up -- which this year includes a wireless connection. (The printer has been a little wacky; it needs a good kick in the pants ... er, restart ... to operate sometimes.)

So far we've been really lucky, though, with all of our tech stuff, even in the banquet last night, which was such a tricky operation that it included two laptops, a voice recorder, and even lighting cues. It was especially a kick to hear Pam Robinson's voice coming at us like a surround-sound movie track, almost like the voice of God.

I was almost tempted to ask, "Who is this really?" Which will mean nothing to you if you're not a fan of Bill Cosby in his stand-up phase. But anyway ...

I think this afternoon's closing session will be the capper -- but I don't want to give anything away now.

Where the auction was

[My turn to be a conduit for Gerri Berendzen -- thanks for writing, Gerri.]

One of the better ways to have fun while parting with some of your money is at the ACES silent auction. Things were cookin' Friday night -- all for the benefit of the ACES Education Fund. It was fun to watch some of the bidding battles unfold, although not everyone walked out with a major award. (For those of you not in the know, that's a reference to "A Christmas Story" and one really ugly lamp.)
Tammy Yates of the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and Kathy Schenck of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel helped out with lively bidding for a print of the Sex Pistols. Take a look at Tammy and Kathy. Can you see either of them in the front row of a Sex Pistols concert? (OK, maybe I can see Kathy there.) But Tammy is a big fan and kept upping Kathy's bid, helping out ACES with her winning bid of $90.

Later in the evening, the bidding started again at a live auction held after the banquet keynote speech to benefit help the New Orleans Times-Picayune Hurricane Relief Fund. A smaller group of bidders raised $2,725 for the fund. ACES auctionmeister Scott Toole urged ACES members to "bid with your hearts and not with your heads" and he did just that, offering $225 for a Times-Picayune "Come Hell or High Water" T-shirt autographed by the members of the T-P copy desk. After the stirring presentation by James O'Byrne of the Times-Picayune, who wouldn't want to help out.

The silent auction once again appeared to be a rousing success, although I haven't seen a final tally yet. I do know this, an Ohio-native reporter in Quincy, Ill., is going to be mighty pleased with the Cleveland Indians 2005 World Series tickets I'm taking home.

Where there's smoke

It's 5:50 a.m., and I just got back in from the sidewalk, where several dozen of my closest friends and I stood shivering in the fog while we waited to see why the fire alarm went off. I did appreciate that John Russial, Becky Hudson, Chris and I all were in ACES-logo T-shirts and sweatshirts. Apparently the fire alarm was limited to one or two floors, which is why there were so few of us out on the sidewalk. And I thought it was so clever to be staying on the 5th floor to be close to the meeting rooms. How early does room service start serving, I wonder??

Yes, Erin McKean, and Lauren Rich Fine

Oh, look at that, it's 2:45 a.m.; it appears I've spent all night talking to so many great people, some I've known for years and some I've just met. The show of hands requested Thursday morning to indicate who was at their first conference revealed about half the crowd, par for the course. It's always good that we see a new batch of copy editors each year and the ACES magic spreads.

I second, third, fourth the raves for Erin McKean, who not only is wicked smart but also has a passion for words that bubbles over *and* is such a dynamic, fun speaker (hmmm, with quite a command of the language). Wendy Nichols added her refreshing no-nonsense approach to an "Inside Dictionaries" presentation that turned out to be much more than word minutiae (as if there were such a thing among copy editors).

I peeked in on -- OK, I couldn't pull away from the session presented by Merrill Lynch media analyst Lauren Rich Fine, who was quite impressive herself with her thorough knowledge, frank and well-argued opinions, and clear enthusiasm again for her work. First of all, she sat at a table with zero notes or PowerPoint and just began talking, in an organized fashion even, and blew us away. *Then* she began taking questions. So many challenging ideas she presents for the newspaper industry, which I may write ad nauseam about later but which I'll summarize quickly now: Screw stockholders (because nobody appears to like your stock right now anyway), forget margins and do what it takes to fix yourself; try new things, something, anything to make yourselves more appealing -- even trying and failing is better than languishing as you are now; and give your customers what they want rather than what you think they want or should have (and that doesn't necessarily mean go after the young readers).

At the banquet I found myself bidding up live auction items whose proceeds will support a Times-Picayune hurricane relief fund. I've won a T-P T-shirt autographed by the copy desk. To me, it'll be the most valuable set of celebrity autographs I own.

Friday, and I'm fried

I second what Deirdre posted about James O’Byrne. What he says puts you in awe of all the journalists who dealt with Katrina’s destruction, and are still having to deal with it, wherever they work, whatever they do, in their professional lives and in their personal ones.

His speech reminded us what journalism and newspapers mean for people on the street, and how much we still connect with them. Wall Street and the futurists can fret all they want to, but the people of New Orleans and the Times-Picayune know what the score truly is.

On top of that, we were also wowed at the banquet tonight by a couple of other great speeches — one from Diego Sorbara, our 2005 Aubespin scholar, and one from Paul Soucy of USA Today, the winner of ACES’ first Robinson Prize for excellence in copy editing.

Both these guys were boffo — not a word I use lightly, or very often. In fact, I doubt I’ve ever used it before. But whatever.

Diego was engaging, funny, and uplifting. Not a combo you’d expect from someone speaking for the first time to a few hundred future colleagues.

And Paul, quietly passionate, reminded us that copy editors deserve recognition for what they do, and it’s great that ACES is giving them a way to get it. And his jokes were great, too.

I’m exhausted and falling asleep, so I’d better lie down before I keel over onto the keyboard. Unless somebody’s keeping something from me big-time, it looks like things are going along pretty nicely.

Two down, one to go. And then we start back up on next year’s conference and beyond.

Truly inspiring

Was there anyone who didn't cry during keynote speaker James O'Byrne's presentation? It was sad, moving, inspiring... I don't have the right words. Matthew Crowley is covering it on the ACES site. He'll undoubtedly capture it better than I'm able. I loved James' story of residents who had been plucked from rooftops and deposited on a bridge being so happy to see reporters from The Times-Picayune: They considered it good news that the newspaper had arrived, because it meant their story would get out. To be able to mean that much to someone is just incredible. What an amazing profession we have!