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20 Jul ‘All the President’s Men’ just a part of largest national convention

This fall, the national convention of the Journalism Education Association and National Scholastic Press Association is going to be in Washington, D.C.

This scares me.

Robert Redford, right, and Dustin Hoffman portray Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the movie, “All the President’s Men.” (AP Photo/file).

Oh, not for any national security reason or for any battle I might have to fight with the TSA to get there — that’s inevitable. It’s because this promises to be the largest convention we’ve ever had, topping 6,353 that we had in 2009, the last time we were in D.C. It’ll be the largest number of students in the write-offs we’ve ever had. And we’ll probably occupy, at least in part, some five hotels in the area. I’m taking bets on when the convention hotel will fill up — Sept. 1.

But this also promises to be one of the best conventions we’ve ever had thanks in large part to the local folks. It’s the local committee that adds color, flair and a uniqueness to each convention. At past conventions, they’ve brought in mariachi, drum corps and singers that a national planning committee just couldn’t have done. Some local groups (um, Texas) have even produced a book of student work in the state just for the convention. Sure, the staff members in the two national offices could put on a convention — a top-notch, well-organized convention. But it’s the local folks like Val Kibler and Carol Lange who will make this convention special. And they deserve a pat on the back for all their work as do all the local committee members.

It also means we’ll need more speakers and judges than ever before. The last time we were in D.C., we were trying out a new online system for Write-offs. It was a disaster. The company that created the software just wasn’t ready for the last-minute volume of uploads. Now, with five years under our belts, we’re ready. Now it’s all up to the hundreds of people who volunteer their time to write critique and to do judging. It’s also up to the people who come in to stuff bags, teach sessions and organize tours.

Being in the nation’s capital also provides students unique opportunities. I predict the convention hotel will not only sell out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but will sell out on Tuesday and Wednesday as students and advisers come early to experience the city and all its wonders from the tours of the Washington Post to visiting with their local congressmen. To bring the discussion into another venue, JEA members chose All the President’s Men as the JEA One Book, a unique opportunity for members to share their experiences reading a book few journalism advisers have escaped reading during their careers.

To add to that discussion, below are links to two handouts I’ve produced for the JEA magazine over the years that can add to the classroom experience with All the President’s Men, the book and the movie. Enjoy them both. And get ready for a humdinger of a convention.

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