Raise your hand if you’ve been to a professional convention, trade show, or other event held to honor winners, provide training, and help you network with colleagues in the greater region.
We go every February to the stately Boston Park Plaza for the New England Newspaper and Press Association convention, attend seminars over two days, have at least one good dinner out on the town, celebrate well-deserved awards, and then head back for a Sunday at home. It’s fun, engaging and we all learn more than we ever expect.
This year — while the seminars on advertising, news reporting, graphics and distribution all touched on familiar themes — the focus and mood could be summed up by four words: Print is not dead.
We’ve been true believers of that mantra throughout the decade-old panic caused by the Internet, mobile apps and other digital innovations, but it was satisfying (and comforting) to see speakers and the big media players finally adopting a similar optimism about our profession.
Not that anyone in media can rest on their laurels these days. Newspapers are no longer just about print. The Addison Independent has active websites that generally garner the most hits of any site in town; we have mobile apps (the Middlebury Mobile App, operated by this newspaper, won first place for overall design among all New England papers); we have or are partners with other digital products (LocalvoreToday is one of our partners); and we have the ability to produce slide shows and video clips on our websites — encompassing the benefits of broadcast into our print world with the added advantage that our clips and audio broadcasts are available on the web 24-7, meaning you don’t have to be parked in front of the TV to catch the 90-second clip you hoped you might catch on TV news.
It’s a big media world out there and newspapers are finally embracing the expanded opportunities without a foreboding sense of doom, while keeping their print products strong. It’s more of a challenge than ever before, but it’s definitely one in which we can showcase our talent and strengthen the connection to our communities.
That’s part of the good news, and there’s more.
But first, let’s go back to Boston proper, and the opportunity to spread a little glory throughout our offices.
In Brandon, we’ve dubbed The Reporter (which serves the towns of Brandon, Pittsford, Proctor, West Rutland and others in their sphere) as “the little paper that could.” This paper of two and a half employees and a circulation of about 1,500 (which has almost doubled in the past four years), won three first-place awards, a couple seconds and a couple thirds. Editor Lee Kahrs won two first-place awards for business news coverage — for a special section they did on the business community in Brandon recovering from the flood damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene — competing with more than 300 other newspapers in the weekly category ranging in size up to 50,000 circulation with staffs of more than 50.
The Reporter’s team also won a first place in graphics for an advertisement produced by designer Mandy Davis and a couple other advertising awards, just to demonstrate their overall appeal. It’s a classic example of individual talent and a sense of ownership making a big difference in those communities.
A bit further south, the Mountain Times of Killington and Rutland County entered the contest for the first time, garnering several seconds and a couple thirds in advertising, its mobile app, and design of its magazine, Getaways.
The Addison Independent won four firsts in advertising, mobile app design, local election coverage and general news photo, plus 17 second- and third-place honors (see story on here). Notable among those awards were two columnists: Andy Kirkaldy and Eric Davis, who won second and third places under the serious column category for their pithy, insightful and informative arguments on the Addison Independent’s editorial pages. Two of our graphic designers, Jennifer Sabourin and Sue Miller, took second and third honors for their graphic designs for advertising.
Our photographer Trent Campbell earned first-, second- and third-place awards, while reporter John Flowers and humor columnist Jessie Raymond (perennial winners for their entries) won second- and third-place awards. As a team, the Addison Independent won first place for its local election coverage of Town Meeting, heralded by the judges for its complete and thorough job of producing special sections prior to the election and after, detailing the nitty gritty of the 24 towns we cover throughout Addison County. And we earned honors for Vermont Ski & Ride Magazine.
As important as celebrating our successes and keeping abreast of new trends in the business (is it really true that we’re boring you to death with our coverage of selectboard and school board meetings?), we took the time to have fun, bond together with a night out on the town, and see ourselves as a team of seven newspapers, two statewide magazines, mobile apps and a digital business. That team, for the record, is comprised of: the St. Albans Messenger, Milton Independent, Essex Reporter, Colchester Sun, Addison Independent, The Reporter in Brandon, the Mountain Times in Killington, Vermont Sports magazine and Vermont Ski & Ride Magazine (all loosely known as the Lynn group).
For the better part of two days (from Thursday night or early Friday morning to late Saturday night), we were 27 colleagues learning more about our trade, cheering for those who were honored, and exuding an energy and enthusiasm about our craft that was palpable. As a board member of the press association for the past two years, I’ve heard from many fellow publishers across New England that they envy our enthusiasm, youthful vigor and camaraderie.
It’s evident in the annual meeting we have as a group at the newspaper convention. Sequestered in a conference room on Saturday morning, my brother Emerson and I presided over an hour-long meeting with 27 of us in the room. It was a good give-and-take about where we are and where we are headed, and how we could get there together. Most exciting and promising is this one fact: Take Emerson and I out of the line-up and the average age drops to right around the early 30s, with more than half of the crew under 30. That’s youth and vigor and excitement — in the print industry, or rather, in this new industry of ours called multi-media.
And that’s a good sign.