Vol. 22, No. 4/Summer 2000
Bob Jansen, Jim Meier, Linda Henderson,
Jessica Baumgart, Dorothy Ingebretsen,
Laura Simpkins, Peter Johnson and
Charlie Campo walk back from the
Philadelphia Inquirer tour.
CONFERENCE HIGHTLIGHTS: SLA 2000, PHILADELPHIA
Undaunted by the June heat, we trudged up to the Philadelphia Inquirer and were rewarded with great food sponsored by Hoovers and a tour of the library and the eye-catching newsroom. The newsroom, a remake of the old Inquirer pressroom, has tall ceilings with large red banners floating above each news desk. Connie Pickett and her gracious staff showed us around and answered questions.
Back at the News Division suite we ate some more thanks to bigchalk.com and greeted long lost friends. The auction items began to pile up in the far room
The CE course on Sunday, Computer Assisted Reporting for News Librarians, was well attended. Handouts are available on the News Division web site at http://metalab.unc.edu/slanews/conferences/sla2000/car/cecourse.htm.
The panelists talked about a range of issues including the nitty-gritty of importing data from the web into spreadsheets. The most important thing I took away from the class was the idea that CAR does not have to be a thing apart. It's a tool to be used in everyday research to give a story perspective, ground it in a larger picture or show trends.
After the CE course, MediaStream sponsored the newcomer's open house in the News Division suite.
Monday morning, Justin Scroggs from Time Inc. and John Jansson from the Chicago Tribune woke us up with a Technology Spotlight sponsored by NewsEdge. Justin's talk was more theoretical, posing questions about multimedia, copyright and format standards. (How many formats do we need anyway?) John spoke of the painful, detailed process of making the whole history of a great newspaper available to the world. One hundred-fifty years of the Chicago Tribune will go on the web in mid-2002.
The SLA General Session speaker, sponsored by Factiva, was Terry Gross of National Public Radio's Fresh Air. Her interview with David Talbot, editor and CEO of Salon, an online news and culture magazine, was refreshing and provocative. Any editor who can fire his wife is newsworthy. The lessons learned in the online publishing field can help us all. The full transcript of the interview can be found at http://metalab.unc.edu/slanews/conferences/sla2000/fresh.htm.
Jerry Bornstein moderated a panel on Ethics in an Online World, sponsored by Jane's. The results of his 1999 survey of the ethical behavior of news librarians can be found at http://newman.baruch.cuny.edu/test/sla/.
Before long it was time to eat again at the News Division Annual Luncheon, sponsored by icopyright.com. John Allen Paulos, author of A Mathematician Reads the News, proved why he was invited to be on the David Letterman show. He showed us how easy it is to write alarming headlines using numbers out of context, and asked the question: "who tells the truth on sex surveys anyway?"
Politics and News Research, sponsored by Emerge Magazine (thanks, Caroline Hardnett, for the great CD-ROM) and moderated by Jennifer Belton of the Washington Post, was excellent. The panelists very generously shared a lot of hard work and value-added content for the upcoming elections. See their links at http://metalab.unc.edu/slanews/conferences/sla2000/index.htm.
It is impossible to explain the News Division Awards Banquet unless you've been to one, so I won't even try. Philadelphia's Down Town Club was beautiful, Lany McDonald was very funny and everyone was in fine voice. Newcomers may have been confused, but everyone left satisfied though a bit wet from a sudden rainstorm. Dessert was available in the suite thanks to PTFS.
Tuesday morning we woke up with Jim Lehrer of PBS News Hour. He's just written a new novel, The Special Prisoner. Jim told us that he was a writer just doing the TV gig so he could write. He explained the difference between reporting (here's what happened), analysis (here's what it means) and editorial writing (here's what I think about it). He believes those three entirely different methods of writing or speaking are not always clearly stated. Questions from the audience prompted a very chilling story about being in Dallas during John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The Freedom Forum luncheon featured Mark Chavunduka, editor of the Zimbabwe Standard and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He gave a very sobering and personal talk about persecution of the press in Zimbabwe.
After lunch, Gumshoe Librarians and the Grey Matter of the Internet featured Connie Kaplan of Kroll Associates, a corporate risk management company in New York. Besides the familiar online databases, Connie also uses databases like Bloodstock, for thoroughbred horses; Public Data Corp, which lists every bar owner in New York City; Quackwatch (www.quackwatch.com), for wayward doctors; NADA.com (www.nada.com), a nation-wide automobile dealers association for asset checks; and SafetyAlerts.com (www.safetyalerts.com), for product recalls for food and cars. Gary Price, research librarian at George Washington University, also appeared with his wonderful lists, found at http://gwis2.circ.gwu.edu/~gprice/listof.htm.
Chris Hardesty of the San Jose Mercury News moderated the vendor update. Speakers were Joe DiMarino of KR Mediastream; Mark Frawley, Factiva; Cliff Pierce, Bell & Howell; David Price, Lexis-Nexis; Deborah Harmer, NewsBank; and John Yokley, PTFS.
The MediaStream Philadelphia tour and dinner and the Lexis-Nexis party topped off Tuesday evening. Many of us did not get back to the Silent Auction until it was over. Those of us not wined and dined got an extra shot at all the goodies.
On Wednesday morning, Kare Anderson gave us a pep talk. Her advice ranged from "never say 'no problem' because you should always state things in a positive light" to "pass handouts on both sides of the room when giving a presentation because motion helps people to remember what you say." More help for the shy can be found on http://www.sayitbetter.com.
The luncheon panel, Finding Good People: Interviewing and Hiring Issues in the Workplace, was practical and well attended. Moderated by Teresa Leonard of the Raleigh News & Observer, speakers Lany McDonald of Time Inc. and Barbara Hijek of the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel made several great points for those embarking on this time-consuming, stressful but exciting enterprise.
Lany emphasized the importance of paying good salaries to library professionals, and Barbara told us to make sure that we asked 3 questions during the telephone initial interview: 1. What are your salary requirements? 2. When are you available? 3. These are the hours I need you to work. Is that OK? The answers will help eliminate wasted hours for both you and your candidate.
Case Studies in News Research Management, moderated by Julie Kirsh of the Toronto Sun and sponsored by the Gale Group, told three tales from the field. Richard Geiger at the San Francisco Chronicle achieved salary parity with reporters for his professional research staff. He moved them out of the library and on to the news desks. The researchers are assigned a department, attend departmental meetings and compile and write fact and Q&A boxes. Mona Hatfield, Contra Costa Times, wrote a successful capital request for 40 digital cameras for her newspaper's photo department. Ginny Everett of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who juggles many responsibilities at once, sees change as opportunity and has her archive up on the web by 6 a.m. every day.
My group's particular tour of the SLA conference ended at this point, and we headed back to Baltimore. We were sorry to miss the field trip to Winterthur Museum and Longwood Gardens, which looked wonderful. There is never enough time to pack everything in at a library conference. It is an experience that all of us should have at least once, and they get better every year. I hope more of us than ever can make it to San Antonio.
Sandy Levy is the Library Director at the Baltimore Sun. You can contact her at email@example.com.
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