From Baseball to Barack: Capital Conference Unites ASNE, NAA, NEXPO

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By: Joe Strupp

From baseball to Barack, the unified Capital Conference, combining three of the newspaper industry’s biggest conventions, is set to kick-off this weekend in Washington, D.C.

In a rare joining of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Newspaper Association of America and NEXPO, the conference will begin Sunday at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center and run through Wednesday. Also occurring at the same time will be the Associated Press’ annual meeting.

Although President George W. Bush would not attend — declining ASNE for the fourth year in a row — all three major presidential candidates are slated to speak, along with panels on issues ranging from covering the economy to various digital media panels.

Nighttime gatherings include a party at the Washington Nationals’ brand new ballpark, an evening at the just-opened Newseum, and a MediaNews Group party featuring legendary (“Secret Agent Man” etc.) singer Johnny Rivers.

The entire program can be found online at:

http://www.asne.org/index.cfm?id=6923

With registration still occurring, organizers said they had no firm numbers on attendance expectations. ASNE Executive Director Scott Bosley noted that it was difficult to compare to last year’s conventions with a combined event, but said “If you looked at NAA and ASNE individually, we would be down a bit,” he said, noting ASNE had about 500 people for its 2007 conference. “It is a little bit hard to compare because you do get some overlap.

“In the end, we will have relatively strong attendance given what is happening in the industry,” Bosley said, claiming conference events on the state of the industry would draw people in troubled times.

During the conference, each group will change leadership, with ASNE President Gilbert Bailon, editorial page editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, stepping down and Charlotte Hall, editor of the Orlando Sentinel, taking over for him. At NAA, Chairwoman Sue Clark-Johnson of Gannett will be replaced by McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt.

Bosley said the convention was told months ago by Bush’s office that he could not attend. He has spoken at only three ASNE conferences since taking office in 2001, with more appearances at NAA.

“We always invite the president of the United States because we feel it is important to have him there,” Bosley said. “If he doesn?t come, we understand. It is probably appropriate to have the candidates who will succeed him.”

Barack Obama and John McCain will speak on Monday, while Hillary Clinton is slated for the Tuesday program.

One change for ASNE this year will be online access to attendance lists and graphics, power point demonstrations and other background material from each presentation. “We have not done that before, but it is a way to go that NAA has done before,” he said. “If someone gives us a text of a speech, that will go up, too.”

Among the traditions at ASNE have been the various small receptions for new members, small newspapers and women members. In recent years, the organization has also gotten credit for a gay reception, organized in part by J. Ford Huffman, now with The Washington Post.

But the current schedule does not include the gathering. Bosley said ASNE never organized it and had always left it up to Huffman and others. “I am not sure if they were just unable to get it together,” he said.

Huffman, who has organized three such receptions since 2005, told E&P the expanded events from the combined program made it difficult to fit the reception in. “I wasn’t even going to suggest it this year with so much going on,” said Huffman, who is on the ASNE program committee. “It seems like the right time to take a year off.”

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