Last week I went to the Ohio Newspaper Association's annual convention with two other members of Cedars, our campus newspaper. Mr. Gilbert (faculty adviser), Emily Severance (managing editor) and I (layout/visual editor) went because Mr. Gilbert entered our paper into the collegiate newspaper contest, and we had won several awards.
Before we went, we didn't know what kind of awards we had won, only that we had placed in five categories. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much. All of our entries were from the previous school year (2010-2011), and since we only started in spring semester 2010, we were still figuring out what on earth we were doing.
As a result, I wasn't terribly excited about going at all, especially because I had checked the schedule beforehand. The whole day was full of sessions that may be interesting or useful to career newspapermen, or even students ultimately interested in going into the newspaper business, but I didn't fit in either category. And frankly, updates from a post office expert didn't seem like anyone's cup of tea.
So I got up early Thursday morning not expecting much. I figured I'd get a free lunch out of it and get to see the first modest awards for our little paper, and that would be it. We drove over an hour to the north end of Columbus and went through airport-worthy security to get into the convention.
Did I forget to mention that Vice President Joe Biden was speaking? Yeah, he was there. I'll get to him later. But he explains the security. Unless hotels are just generally distrustful of journalists...
When we got there, one of the sessions was already underway, and we decided to skip it. They were speaking on advertising, anyway, and we don't get many advertisers. So, we looked at the displays of the award-winning papers (weekly community papers and collegiate publications) and talked to a few of the vendors.
Then we went to a Round table Discussion, which was basically an unorganized session full of people complaining about young people. At least that's what it was at our table. Most of the attendees were publishers and top editors of their papers, and were ... old. There were several men at our table who went on long rants about how the young 20- and 30-somethings wouldn't read their papers because they led with the most important local news on the cover of their weekly paper. To these men, the most important local news was the latest chamber of commerce meeting. Or something equally boring. Honestly, they lost me when they were actually sitting in front of me talking. What was really weird, however, was that these old men were asking other old men what they should do about the problem, when there were two girls sitting there who were obviously in their twenties who could have given much better information.
If you want to know what young people read and why, doesn't it make more sense to ask young people than old?
Yeah, it didn't make sense to me either.
Then they hustled us off to the main dining room for Biden's speech. It was interesting for the first 10 minutes or so, when he was talking about journalism and newspapers and the internet and freedom of speech and such. But unfortunately, his speech was about an hour long. And the last 40-50 minutes were all campaign mumbo jumbo. Boring.
It was pretty interesting to see a political campaign stop; I've never been to one in person, and certainly not for someone as important as the current vice president of the United States. But I've never been terribly interested in politics, so he lost me when he lost the topic of journalism.
Biden wasn't the keynote speaker of the event, however. Jack Hanna was. For those of you who don't know, Hanna is like the Crocodile Hunter of the US. Without the stupidity, I think. He's always worked with animals, and is the reason that the Columbus Zoo is the the best in the country.
Last October, Ohio experienced an animal emergency. A man in Zanesville (a town outside Columbus) had a farm full of exotic animals that he kept like a private zoo, a legal practice in Ohio. Last October he committed suicide after cutting the fences and gates of all his exotic animal enclosures, setting them free. A nearby farmer called the police because when he went out to check on his horses that evening, he saw a full grown male lion out by his barn. This was less than an hour before dark.
When the police and Hanna responded, there were 49 dangerous exotic animals loose, and less than 45 minutes till dark. They had no choice but to shoot to kill. This controversial decision gained attention worldwide, and Hanna is still fighting to let the truth out about that horrible night.
He mostly focused on what really happened, and talked about a bill to ban keeping exotic animals as pets in Ohio, a topic very close to his heart for the safety of both the animals and the people living around them.
But after all that, he did what he does best. He showed us animals. There was a bearcat and a penguin and a flamingo and a full grown cheetah, and a few other things that I cant remember. But they all came right into the banquet hall and we got to see them up close, without fences. It was awesome.
Later that afternoon, we went to the awards ceremony, and I was blown away. Colleges from all over the state were represented. Some of the huge schools, and some that I'd never heard of. And we were listed among them.
When they read the awards, I couldn't believe my ears. I was expecting our 5 awards to be 3rd and maybe 2nd places, simply because we spent most of the year finding our stride. But they weren't. We got 5 awards, and not a 3rd place among them. We won:
2nd place Headline Writing
2nd place Sports Coverage
2nd place Arts and Entertainment Coverage
1st place Photojournalism
1st place Design
!!!! Do you see that? We got all 1st and 2nd! And, the 1st place sections fall under me! I am the layout and visuals editor, and we won first place in the two visual categories!!!!
(Yes, the exclamation mark police are going to arrest me. I think I earned them.)
All in all, I think it was pretty good day.