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ACP 2011 | Reflecting on the first few days of ACP over coffee

When a hotel doesn’t have free wifi, newspaper editors make a beeline for the nearest Starbucks; at least you know they’ll have free internet.

So here I am with the Campanil, 9:40 p.m. on a Friday night, soaking up my first internet access since we landed in Hollywood for the ACP journalism conference. Late night coffee never tasted so sweet.

I have dozens of ideas for the Campanil rattling in my head from all of the discussions I attended today. I have been surrounded by sharply-dressed college journalists clutching slim hardback notebooks, ready to write down every moderately useful morsel of information.

The first session I attended this morning was “Developing a Staff Handbook” led by Chris Poore, the adviser of the University of Kentucky student newspaper. It made me realize how important spelling things out is; even though we’re such a tight staff, it’s always important to spell things out for our future staff. From a code of ethics to how to lay out a page, a staff handbook is essential to maintaining an organized newsroom.

I attended my next session down the hall: Reporting on a Private College, where students from Hope International University, Suffolk University, Saint Leo University and Biola University spoke about their experiences on their student newspapers. I loved hearing about how students deal with smaller staffs, managing to come out with publications on a regular basis (even if that sometimes means writing your own section).

And then I had one of those earth-shattering, fist-pumping journalism moments at the keynote address. Pill Plaschke, a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times, spoke to us about what the hell journalism is all about: a human connection. Sure, he can rattle off statistics about the Lakers like nobody’s business, but at the end of the day, people want to hear about the underdogs, the fighters, the survivors. Who wants to read about winning streaks when you could hear about Sarah Morris, an avid Dodgers fan with cerebral palsy who wrote with her head?

Hearing Plaschke speak fortunately pumped me up about sports, which was ideal since I was going to be a panel speaker on Covering College Sports next. I was on the panel with lovely editors from University of San Diego, Chico State University and Southern Connecticut State University. Even though I was nervous, I thought I brought a fresh all-women’s college perspective. I told people to look for new angles; sure, avid sports fans will read the sports section, but you want to create that human element so everyone will be interested.

My final session of the day was “Trends in Collegiate Newspaper Design” led by Randy Stano of University of Miami. The variety of designs was astounding; from whole page pictures to detailed graphics that take days to make, no newspaper design stone was left unturned.

But when I wasn’t taking scrupulous notes, I had time to relax; I am on vacation, after all. I worked out at the hotel gym this morning, had lunch with some of the editors, took a nap, then had a good ol’ all-American dinner at Mel’s Drive-In. We sat around the table over milkshakes and soda, gushing about the nerdiest journalism stuff possible.

And so now here I am, drinking my coffee and ready for bed. But don’t worry, I’ll be back for more coffee tomorrow, Macbook and notes in hand.

Read the The Campanil staff’s experiences at the ACP 2011 convention in Hollywood, Los Angeles on our website’s special blog page.