Couldn’t make it to the CAJ conference in Ottawa from May 13-15? We did. Read on for a round-up from some of our favourite sessions, and some great quotes from the weekend’s keynote speakers.

Couldn’t make it to the CAJ conference in Ottawa from May 13-15? We did. Read on for a round-up from some of our favourite sessions, and some great quotes from the weekend’s keynote speakers.

May 13th
Keynote speaker: Philip Meyer, author of “The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age” and former Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina, offers us the long view. By looking at the past, he looks at how to predict the future of journalism. His proposals, which attracted the attention of the Economist, are debated internationally.

The quick hit: Meyer talked about the changing landscape in journalism, and the way journalists present their information. He believes “specialists” will become an in-demand commodity going forward, and tells students they need to pick a speciality — whether it’s a subject, a form of social media, such as liveblogging, or both. He also brought up the touchy subject of certification/licensing, saying there was a difference and arguing for the former. In conclusion, he says, the newspaper business will not die, but it will need to adapt. “I only know that there will be newspapers,” he said. But as to what they will look like, well, who knows?
Notable quotes: “If you want to blame somebody, blame Craig’s list”;  “You’re confusing certification with licensing”; “Our fate for the foreseeable future is chaos”

Crime reporting session: Gary Dimmock knows what it takes to extract stunning detail out of people who, at first, don’t want to talk to him. Hear how the veteran Ottawa Citizen crime reporter works his beat.

The quick hit: Dimmock opens the session by saying: “I’m not telling you what to do, I’m just saying it worked for me.” One of the things that works for him: Not going where every other single reporter is going. For example: When reporting one story, when everybody else is at the courtroom, Dimmock took the chance to go visit the accused’s friends. He goes to see the family. Another thing that works: Just knock on the door. You never know when somebody will talk. And, when it comes to getting those people to talk, just be yourself. Be human. Immerse yourself into their lives and really, really know where you are.
Notable quotes: “It’s not easy to get people to talk, but sometimes you just got to be there”; “I was the only one who wanted to talk about their friend”; “Crime reporting is really just human reporting”

May 14th
Network News: What is the role of broadcast network news in today’s multi-platform news environment? Panelists will discuss strategies, programming and news formats, as well as competition as the national all-news television genre gets hot with the launch of the Sun News Network. Todd Spencer, executive director of CBC News Network, Jack Fleischmann, general manager of CTV News Channel and BNN, as well as Mike Omelus, eastern regional director of Global News, will be among the panelists.

The quick hit: Broadcast is changing. With so much social media, blogging, online video, people don’t want just the objective point of view — i.e. what happened — but also the big picture, the why. It is becoming more and more important to become “platform agnostic” — able to file on whatever platform is available. And, also, to — sometimes — put film up that may not be the highest quality, — i.e., video from a phone, or Skype — when it is timely, or unique. The option of doing longer, six to seven minute stories, and throwing them up online when there’s no time for them in the T.V. broadcast is becoming more popular — and is expected to continue to do so.
Notable quotes: “This is a very good time to be a broadcaster … There’s been no better time to do this than in the last 25 years.” — Omelus; Also from Omelus: “Our goal at Global is to be platform agnostic, meaning a journalist can file [in whatever form] is appropriate”; “It’s [broadcast news] is not dead, but it serves a very, very different purpose.” — Spencer “Local is going to be a key driver for viewership, but right now they’re [executives/investors] investing more money in national” — Spencer “I think they need to get better fast” Fleischmann on Sun News Network

Keynote speaker Rob Curley: The Las Vegas sun is a bright light amid the doom and gloom of the U.S. newspaper industry. Rob Curley, new-media editor of the Las Vegas Sun – a former Vice President at Washington Post and Newsweek Interactive – shares the reasons why a focus on video and quality local journalism turned the Sun into a multi-award winning online darling.

The quick hit: Curley says there are five Ps that drive people to the internet. Passion: people go to the internet to find the things that they love. Practical: People go to the web to learn things, i.e, “Is the new Tron movie any good?” Personal communication: “What is the number one visited website in the world? Facebook.”  Playfulness: People have fun, they go on YouTube “and watch monkeys fart” “No news site is fun” Porn:”The last thing that draws big traffic on the web is porn — but I can’t really talk about that.” Keep these things in mind, says Curley, and once you start serving your readers’ needs, they reward you. Give your readers a gift, he says, something they don’t even know they’re expecting, and watch the traffic and kudos roll in. Visit here for examples, such as the Sun’s history of Las Vegas feature.
Notable quotes: “What makes great journalism work is a mass audience”; “No story can appear on our front page [in print] unless it appears in our top 10 [on the web]”; “If you’re writing it like a textbook — shame on you” ; “Pay attention to your reader”

May 15th
Beat Reporting: Get tips on how to get the best out of your beat with Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mary Agnes Welch and Canadian Press reporter Murray Brewster who have both been nominated this year for a National Newspaper Award for their beat reporting

The quick hit: Brewster gives five tips: “When you’re first coming into a beat … always have a plan”; “Become a student of what you’re covering”; Cultivate sources “The people you deal with intimately give you the best stuff” Brewster has nick-named these people “old ladies”; Keep an organizational tree; focus on original reporting.
Welch gives her own tips: Find a niche; “read the crap nobody else reads”; “Carve out a half-hour each day to do a little ‘diggy-diggy’ stuff”; do profiles
Notable quotes: “I have a coffee, not beer rule. I try really hard to try not to socialize with my sources.” — Welch; “You do not go to parties with these people [sources]; you do not invite them over to your house. When you sit down every time, you draw the line for them: If there’s something you don’t want me to know, shut up.” — Brewster

Foreign Reporting brunch: The Globe and Mail’s Sonia Verma witnessed the Egyptian protests first hand. She joins a panel on foreign reporting with veteran broadcaster Tom Clark and Murray Brewster of the Canadian Press – whose coverage of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is nominated for a National Newspaper Award. Rounding out this panel will be award winning Kathy Gannon of Associated Press who will be honoured by the National Newspaper Awards on May 13 for her work around the world.

Notable quotes: “We can’t just be the voice that translates what is going on; we have to curate” — Verma; “There is too much [foreign reporting] about the government and the military, and less about the people … Reporters repeat things, like “the surge is working” — Gannon; “This is a very critical time … [I am concerned] about the parochial nature of the editors back home who will often ask me, ‘What is the Canadian angle?’ Everyone wants to take the approach of ‘what are our troops doing?’ — and that is a huge disservice to the public. You don’t have to have Canadian source in every story. A story is a story.”; “Don’t advocate, because that’s the end of your career if you do that.” — Clark; “You never go to a place where you don’t know how to get out of it” — Clark; “The Afghans will never tell you the truth if you’re standing near a bunch of soldiers, because they’re afraid” — Gannon; “I’m not going to die for a minute-45 story on the news network — I’m sorry it’s just not going to happen.” — Clark

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