Making the most of San Francisco

12 Apr

Don’t lose your shoes and/or name-tag at the dance. Coming from personal experience, that’s the best advice I can give for the spring JEA/NSPA convention in this week. Trust me: your older editors, advisers and fellow roommates will not be happy when they have to get new room keys at midnight because of you.

When thousands of student journalists gather in one place to learn about and celebrate scholastic journalism, snafus are bound to happen, but the awkward memories will make you laugh for years. The following is a list of suggestions from an editor-in-chief who has attended and led her staff to seven local and national conventions in the past three years.

Before the convention:

  • Plan to spread out: On the plane, train, bus or car ride to San Francisco, look at the convention programand split up sessions. You’re each likely paying hundreds of dollars to attend the convention, so make sure your staff samples a wide range of sessions that don’t overlap, from writing and design to leadership and press rights.
  • Pack: sunscreen, enthusiasm, notebook, journalism pick-up lines, extra smartphone charger, etc.
  • Print business cards: When you’re making awkward introductions [see below] it helps to have your address written out if you’re arranging a paper swap. However, I don’t recommend bringing these to the dance–please don’t be that kid.


  • Learn something new: Branch out beyond your section/niche. Op/ed seminars may apply to sports column writing, and everyone on your staff should know something about press rights.
  • Sharing is caring: Bring old and current issues to leave around the convention center, and introduce yourself to as many students as possible. Remember that you’re at a high school journalism convention so it will be awkward, but you’ll likely never see these people again.
  • Take active notes: During a session, you don’t have to copy down everything on the PowerPoint; you can always ask the presenter to email you later. But do think about how you can relate the lesson to your publication. Write these brain blasts down, however minute, because you may forget by the end of the session.
  • Write a postcard: Tell your principal and superintendent how much you’re learning [leave out that you lost your shoes] and thank them for continuing to support your staff. Even if you paid for your trip out-of-pocket, the administration likely approved your adviser’s absence and paid for a substitute teacher.
  • Get feedback: Ask other students and professionals to critique your paper before sessions start; participate in Break with a Pro; discuss controversial stories with the 45words crew at our booth or after our presentation.


  • Debrief with your staff: On the way home, have everyone share the most salient points from their seminars and how your publication should change as a result. You may consider asking your convention attendees to present a lesson to the entire staff about what s/he learned.
  • Discuss with your principal: During your next meeting, share what you learned and what opportunities you took advantage of at the convention. This makes a convincing case for future staff trips, and shows him/her that your trip was worthwhile.
  • Keep the enthusiasm going: Put together a visual of the trip: slideshow screensavers for the computers in your production room, a framed picture of your staff in front of the Golden Gate Bridge or Fisherman’s Wharf or printed candids for the production room wall. Translate that excitement into a great upcoming issue.
  • Stay in contact: Remember those business cards you received and paper swaps you arranged? Follow through with everyone. Most importantly, make sure you keep in touch with 45words as we continue to roll out new ways to help student journalists.

Modified for 2013 from a previous blog by –

Meghan Morris
Co-editor-in-chief, The Spoke

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