Newspaper financial execs draw sizable gathering p. 15

By: Tony Case Annual INFE convention draws the largest crowd since 1988 sp.

CORPORATE REENGINEERING and especially the streamlining of accounts payable, payroll and performance evaluation procedures had International Newspaper Financial Executives members buzzing at their convention last month in Las Vegas.
But conferees also discussed such hot topics in the newspaper industry as independent contractor status, electronic publishing and what has been billed as the latest corporate efficiency tool, procurement ? or purchasing ? cards.
Organizers said the meeting drew 460 people, the best showing at the annual gathering since the 1988 INFE convention in Fort Lauderdale.
The impressive turnout indicates the newspaper business has rebounded after recently suffering the worst times it had seen in a half-century, observed Scott Messer, director of corporate accounting at Dallas-based A.H. Belo Corp. and the new INFE president.
Messer in an interview related that at these industry gatherings, "We always ask, 'How's everything going?' A few years ago everybody was saying, 'Oh, linage is down, circulation is down, advertising is off, we're laying off people.' But this year people said things are better. They've had good first quarters, advertising is strong and they were very encouraged."
He noted that travel and entertainment are traditionally among the first areas financial managers look at when slashing budgets. But as business has improved, so has attendance at professional conclaves.
The fact that INFE was held concurrently with and just down the Vegas strip from the mammoth Newspaper Association of America Nexpo technical exposition and conference ? which drew over 12,000 people ? probably had more than a little bearing on the turnout. As Messer pointed out, many INFE members also attend Nexpo.
And the financial and technical people were joined that week in the gambling capital ? amid temperatures exceeding 100 degrees every day ? by hundreds of advertising folks at the NAA Classified and Cooperative Sales and Marketing Conference.
Hoping to build on the renewed interest in conventions, conferences, workshops and trade shows, INFE is expanding its regional conference program. Messer reported that in addition to the national convention, the association will increase from three to seven the number of INFE regional conferences, which will be held throughout the country.


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