Annual meeting preview

Sweet home Chicago: New association meets in a familiar city

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After hosting Inland Annual Meetings for more than a century, Chicago will be the first meeting site of the new association formed by the merger of Inland and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association.

That may occasion some nostalgia in a large portion of the attendees—but this particular Annual Meeting is being programmed to be forward-looking and enthusiastic about the revived strength this merged association brings to the newspaper industry.

There’s also going to be some drama—in a good way—as the association drops its working “NewCo” moniker and launches with a new name and branding.

Promoting the Annual Meeting on social media, current Inland President Doug Phares (@dougphares) tweeted, “This will be extra exciting as they unveil the new, combined organization with Inland.”

Some entertaining surprises are also being planned by the meeting’s organizers, drawn from Inland and SNPA.

Then, too, there will be the hugely increased opportunities for networking with newspaper executives and vendors across the industry, just as attendees found when Inland and SNPA held its first joint Annual Meeting, two years ago in Colorado Springs.

An enduring draw of annual meetings past will be front and center in Chicago October 6 to 8: Robust programming presented by industry veterans, media experts and rising stars.

One confirmed presenter, Jennifer Preston, combines all three of those descriptions. A former reporter for The Philadelphia Daily News, and editor at New York Newsday, and The New York Times’ first social media editor, Preston is now helping steer the future, and cultivate other rising stars and organizations, as the Knight Foundation’s vice president of journalism.

An example of the impact Preston and the Knight Foundation was seen just last month when The Dallas Morning News staff writer Obed Manuel revealed that a U.S. citizen, Dallas-born Francisco Erwin Galicia, was being held for weeks in the custody of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. On July 23, days after The Morning News articles appeared, Galicia was released.

Preston and the Knight Foundation’s connection to this story? The foundation is a major funder of Report For America, and Obed Manuel is one of 61 emerging journalists in 50 newsroom in 2019 whose salary is partly paid by RFA to report on under-covered topics and communities.

Another way of funding coverage will be discussed in a session on the Google News Initiative underway at The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, and at The McClatchy Company newspapers.

This Annual Meeting will also spotlight newspaper champions, including Frederic Rutberg, the retired judge who along with three other investors bought The Berkshire Eagle in western Massachusetts and three sister dailies in Vermont in 2016. His business plan: Staff up the newsroom, focus on investigative projects and local news, and improve the newspapers’ websites.

Rutberg will report on how that strategy is working. He will also deliver the message that appears to be resonating with people in the Berkshires. “It is not the printing presses or the paper itself that makes newspapers effective watchdogs,” he wrote in a recent note to readers, “It is because we employ scores of full-time, well-trained, hardworking reporters who themselves become the watchdogs. This is why we posted billboards throughout Berkshire County that show a large part of our news team. Their work not only enlightens us, but indirectly it eases our tax burdens.”

Look for more Annual Meeting program information at a new website focused on the gathering, www.inland-snpa.org.