I was able to attend the Iowa Newspaper Association (INA) Conference, held in Des Moines this past week, to learn more about my chosen profession. It was also an opportunity to rub elbows with some of the best journalists that Iowa has to offer. Editors from big name papers and small town tabloids gathered together to pay tribute to the best of the best.
My adviser and five other staff members of the Mount Mercy Times left the school bright and early Thursday morning, the day after a snowstorm buried the midwest with more than a foot of snow. The drive was interesting, as we counted the cars and trucks in the ditch and jammed to classic rock.
The conference was held at the Marriott in downtown Des Moines, where, as luck would have it, was also where we would be staying overnight. A trade show, the location of breaks and networking, also included displays from various companies. A variety of seminars were held, with themes such as advertising, how to be a better writer, multimedia, social media and other issues.
After a great lunch at which a panel of three answered questions about the media, we were invited to attend the seminars (one that told us the positive future of newspapers and another that told us that Iowans are watching TV more than they are reading the newspaper) came the hour that all college journalists wait for: The Iowa College Media Association (ICMA) Awards. Student writers are recognized for their talents, when they can finally stand and be regarded as true journalists (even if it is inevitably followed by ‘in-training’). In all, the Mount Mercy Times brought home 11 ICMA awards.
The next morning INA sponsored a kick-off address, presented by Aaron Thomas, son of Applington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas, who was killed by Mark Becker, a former player of Thomas’.
“The Meaning of Courage: A Story of Family Compassion,” began with a 10-minute video that showed the life of Ed Thomas and the courage that brought the Thomas and Becker families through a most painful and heartbreaking time in their lives. Aaron explained that though it was an unbelievable ordeal, he credited Iowa journalists for respecting their family and dealing with the media aspect of the tragedy with grace.
A statement Aaron made the day his dad died showed that Ed Thomas taught his sons well. He told the town of Parkersburg not to blame the Becker family for what happened, that they were hurting, too. “It’s what my dad would have done,” he said.
Aaron said something that I have heard before but is good to be reminded of: “Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent of how you respond to it.” You can be angry and feel sorry for yourself, or you can do the next right thing.
“We felt we were doing the right thing,” he said.
The rest of the day was filled with other seminars full of great advice and tools to help me become a better journalist. But by the end of the day, we were ready to go home.
The INA held its award ceremony that evening, paying tribute to their best of the best.
The conference was a great experience for me, mostly because I have a desire to learn, and where else can I learn from the best?
There’s a lot to be said for learning in a classroom, but some things you learn by experiencing them. That’s why I never pass up an opportunity to experience something new. You never know where it will take you.