A couple weeks ago I went to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma for the annual Society of Professional Journalists conference. As it turned out, the conference was being held the day after my birthday, so I was feeling a little woozy the morning of… But I made it there via Greyhound Bus and had myself a grand ol’ time.
I got to PLU later than I wanted to and missed out on a speech by Candace Dempsey. (Dempsey is the author of “Murder in Italy” a book about the Amanda Knox case.) But I was just fine with being late. It allowed me to slip into the conference room somewhat unnoticed – saving me the trouble of mingling awkwardly with strangers.
Under the impression I was splitting a dorm room with a PLU student, I asked Dana Neuts, the regional SPJ director where I could drop my things off. Turns out, PLU never booked me a room. Instead, Dana booked me a room on the SPJ’s ticket. And so shortly after I left with her and the rest of the SPJ officials (including el presidente John Enslin) to our hotel. It was a very big moment in my dull life.
We arrived at the hotel. I wasn’t sure what to expect (not much to tell the truth). The sliding doors opened and blam… the Hotel Murano. It looked like it was built solely out of ritz and impressionist art. It had sort of a futuristic feel to it as well. It was pretty damn swanky.
I checked into my room. Dropped of my bag. Ate a $7 bag of chips. Drank a $6 bottle of water. Watched five minutes of a boxing match (took a picture of it). And went back downstairs to have a drink with some of the SPJ members.
After socializing with Dana and meeting Ian Marquand (and getting free rum and cokes) I went to bed. I woke up at the hellish hour of 0600 in a bathrobe courtesy of the Hotel Murano and threw everything in my one small bag and hurried downstairs before everybody left. Feeling a little like a tag along, I followed everyone out to the parking lot and left for PLU.
The conference was pretty fun. A lot of students. A lot of “real” journalists. For about eight hours people wandered from the upstairs conference room, to the downstairs conference room, listening in on whatever advice a speaker was offering. Topics ranged from Twitter, Occupy crowds, covering medical stories, submitting resumes, collaborating with the advertising department etc. etc. etc. It was very informative and pretty engaging. I attempted to take notes, but found it much more enjoyable to just listen to what the speakers were saying rather than trying to keep up with what they were saying. I relaxed. I spoke with a few students from some other colleges like North Idaho College, and Oregon State. In between each speech I made an attempt to meet at least one person and get my name (and the Horizon‘s name) out there. After all the conference wasn’t just about listening to people rant and rave about journalism. It was really about getting contacts. Knowing people.
At around five I caught a ride back home with a nice young lady from Western (who also happened to be a former editor for the Western Front). Drove back to good old Bellingham with my pockets stuffed with business cards and phone numbers, email addresses and websites. I can now say with confidence “I know people.”