ASNE Convention to Focus on Innovations and First Amendment Battles

By: Joe Strupp

Issues ranging from sports coverage on the Internet to Iraq War reporting to anonymous sources and leaked documents will be among those discussed at the American Society of Newspaper Editors annual convention next month.

The yearly ASNE event, slated for March 27-30 in Washington, D.C. is being touted as a look at “Innovations Under Way,” ranging from technical improvements and challenges to financial concerns and needs, said Executive Director Scott Bosley. He also said the First Amendment, and various attacks on it, will be of prime concern as well.

“It is the future and the First Amendment,” said Bosley. “The First Amendment is under siege in many ways and clearly our members want to deal with those issues.”

Toward that end, the convention’s first event will be a panel discussion with two top Washington, D.C. bureau chiefs: Andy Alexander of Cox Newspapers and David Westphal of McClatchy. Also on the panel are Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle, who have been held in contempt of court for refusing to disclose their sources in the BALCO steroid case.

There is a slight chance Fainaru-Wada and Williams would miss the convention if they are forced to go to jail after a March 5 hearing before a federal appeals court. But chances are more likely that, if they are turned down, any jail sentence would be delayed again for a possible Supreme Court review.

“We are working under the assumption that they will not have to fulfill a sentence right away, that they could go to another appeal,” Bosley said. “We are hoping they will be with us.”

Other events include a session on newspaper ownership, which will include Brian Tierney, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and a partner in Philadelphia Media Holdings, which bought the Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News last year. Bosley said other such new owners or prospective buyers are being sought for that discussion.

Several sessions are planned to look at new technology and the Internet, including one that will include Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and NBA Commissioner David Stern discussing sports coverage, as well as Donald Graham of The Washington Post and Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post talking about aggregators and online alliances.

Finally, on the last day, sessions related to the Iraq War and coverage of national security are planned, with a group that includes Bob Steele of The Poynter Institute, Leonard Downie Jr. of The Washington Post and Hannah Allam, a former Baghdad bureau chief and current Cairo correspondent for McClatchy.

ASNE has also invited major D.C. officials, includingPresident George Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. None have confirmed, however. “There have been some conversations, but no promises are expected until two to four weeks out,” Bosley said.

Social events include receptions sponsored by McClatchy and The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, along with regular ASNE gatherings that include a Small Newspapers Reception, Womens Reception and the recently instituted Gay Reception.

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