Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thursday's buzz

Is there an exceptional buzz on the opening day of the conference this year or am I just particularly tuned to it? My experience at past ACES conferences -- first as a new guest, eventually as a presenter, and then as a board member-elect -- is that Thursday was the slightly uncomfortable, slightly awkward, break-the-ice, get-to-know-people day, when we all would nervously approach each other, introduce ourselves and actually (gasp) talk. Then Thursday night arrives and the opening reception and the drinks, and things loosen up. By Friday, you've made new friends and you're hanging out together. By Saturday, the dress gets a little more casual and your hugging everybody by nightfall. But I feel more comfort on this year's first day -- such a buzz, how exciting!

Chris gave quite an opening speech, did he not? I told him he even had some cadence in it. Conference veep Deirdre, I see, is more relaxed now that the conference has begun. After the opening reception, my day began with my own presentation on finance in the A section, and I was relieved to see some 30 people actually wanted to come to it. My Mac froze right at the beginning -- the very thing I had feared for weeks -- but it recovered nicely. More importantly, the class was quite willing to discuss the issue and offered a lot of good insights. I saw eager crowds in the sessions I peeked in on later. Doug Ward presented his People Editing seminar, surviving computer problems as well with his engaging speaking and good advice on working with colleagues up, sideways and down, and he brought in the guests' experiences as well. Alex Cruden of course was delightful discussing his experience filling in as city editor (also presenting notes from Teresa Schmedding, who did the same thing but couldn't make the conference on Thursday because of staffing problems at a time when she was flexible enough to let four of her staffers attend the whole conference). I saw Marie Hardin filling in for Rich Holden instructing on ever-important math in journalism, while attendees tried to solve the worksheet.

Later I was part of a huge crowd in the giant Gold Room who sat perfectly silent while Paula Devin and James O'Byrne of the Times-Picayune discussed their Katrina ordeal, using gripping video, still-shocking photos and their personal experiences. It was remarkable. If you at the conference didn't get to it, they're doing the presentation again on Saturday. If you have colleagues who complain about their work life -- about hours, equipment, work stations, pencils, what have you -- tell them about the T-P, not only about how they dealt with Katrina but how they prepared for hurricanes every year (imagine sleeping on the floor beside your cubicle!). I'm now hoping the video and photos we saw are available for anyone to show their staffs.

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