Save the date: SFJ 2019 is headed to Detroit!

“Detroit” by Diego Rivera

By Margaret Myers, 2019 SFJ president

Calling out around the world!

Join us Sept. 18-21 in the Motor City for our annual conference as we network, share knowledge, and celebrate our craft.

As always, we have invited some of the best in the business to share their wisdom with us. This year we will feature Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Hallman of The Oregonian, and we are planning to have frank conversations about culture and identity and how it shapes our coverage. We are also excited to feature a panel on innovations in podcasting and how audience research can inform your storytelling. 

Oh, it doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there!

We will be staying at the Element Detroit at the Metropolitan, a newly opened Marriott in a refurbished 100-yea- old building in the heart of the Downtown’s vibrant city center, within walking distance to several “best of” bars and restaurants.

Book your room now using this link, for a special rate of $179 per night, which includes a hot breakfast.

The Element Detroit at the Metropolitan

There’ll be swinging and swaying and records playing …

We’ll gather Wednesday evening, Sept. 18, at the hotel for a welcome reception! And later, who knows, we may sample some of the nearby delights, from the speakeasy-inspired cocktail joint tucked into the alley across the street, to the velvet-drenched old Hollywood lounge around the corner.

They’ll be dancing, dancing in the street.

To register for the conference, click here. To get the $100 early bird discount, please register by July 1!

We will be updating the website with more details. Follow us on Facebook for updates, and don’t forget to renew your 2019 membership!

For questions, pitches and ideas, email me, your dance captain for this party: Margaret Myers,

Now here are a few stories to whet your Detroit appetite:


SFJ18 conference schedule: A time for renewal


Society for Features Journalism
Conference 2018

Wednesday-Saturday, Sept. 12-15, 2018
New Orleans
Theme: Renewal
Hotel: Ace Hotel
Sessions location: Loyola University New Orleans
Auction location: The New Orleans Advocate

WEDNESDAY | 09.12.18

Opening reception and registration | 6 to 9 p.m.
Barnett Dining Room and Courtyard at Ace Hotel
Meet your fellow features creatures, register for the conference and relax. Enjoy a glass – or two – of wine, some hors d’oeuvres and good conversation. SFJ President Jim Haag and other officers will welcome guests and introduce some special folks, such as our Diversity Fellows and any panelists in attendance.

THURSDAY | 09.13.18

Communications/Music Complex, Loyola Unversity New Orleans

Those attending will take the streetcar from Ace Hotel to Loyola. The streetcar runs every 15 minutes. The trip takes about 30 minutes. We’ll provide streetcar passes for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

8:30-9:15 a.m. | Breakfast and registration at Loyola

9:15-9:50 a.m. | The conference opening
Let the renewal – of your skills and your spirit – begin. SFJ President Jim Haag, retired features editor at The Virginian-Pilot, welcomes attendees, and Mark Lorando, editor of The Times-Picayune, delivers the keynote address.

9:50-10 a.m. | Break

10-11 a.m. | Finding story ideas: 20 tips your editor won’t tell you
Lane DeGregory, enterprise reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, talks about stories that came from a variety of sources and discusses how a general assignment reporter comes up with fascinating people and topics to write about.

11 a.m.-noon | Get the most out of online tools
Samantha Sunne, a trainer with the Society for Professional Journalists, will offer tips on using YouTube, Public Data Explorer and Trends. Samantha is well-versed in many technology tools involving Google and other online sites.

Noon-1:15 p.m. | SFJ Hall of Fame luncheon and induction
It’s been too long – eight years – since SFJ inducted anyone into our Hall of Fame. So, we’ll rectify that this year by introducing our newest members – two former SFJ presidents who continue to inspire and teach us: Ann Maloney of Times-Picayune, and Alice Short, retired from the Los Angeles Times.

1:30-2:25 p.m. | Navigating the new world order – online and in print
More reporters – and even news sites – are injecting opinion in their posts on Twitter and Facebook in the wake of #metoo, school shootings and the current political climate. How is that greeted, and legally can reporters get fired for these kinds of posts? We’ll share some social-media policies from around the country, and try to shed some light on this issue. We’ll also look at the state of presenting the ”other side” in stories when you know that the source is not being honest. Does balanced coverage mean accurate coverage? Where do we draw the line? A panel discussion led by Emily Spicer, features editor at the San Antonio Express-News, with Jamie Stockwell, deputy national editor at The New York Times; Eva Saketkoo, a media attorney with the Hearst Corp.; and others.

2:25-2:30 p.m. | Break

2:30-3:30 p.m. | The perfect recipe for creating a food community on social media
Hear how publications are using social media to create a food community that shares stories and can be mined for ideas. Emily Spicer, features editor at the San Antonio Express-News, leads a panel discussion that includes Ann Maloney, a food writer at Times-Picayune, who will talk about her publications vibrant food following and how it came to be. Liz Seymour, features editor at The Washington Post, discusses The Post’s new stream of food coverage called Voraciously that is aiming for a young digital reader.

3:30-4:20 p.m. | Reporters and editors: teaming up to tell stories
Reporters want attention, support and confidence. Editors need focus, patience and conviction. Success means working well together. Lane DeGregory, enterprise reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, and Maria Carrillo, assistant managing editor/enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times, will talk about what editors and reporters can do to build that relationship.

4:20-4:30 p.m. | Break

4:30-5 p.m. | Show + Steal, Part 1
Laura T. Coffey, a writer and editor at, moderates one of our most popular sessions, where editors share their best ideas from the past year for anyone to steal. A warning: Laura’s enthusiasm can be infectious, so we might get a little carried away here. The streetcar will take us back to Ace Hotel.

6:30-9:30 p.m. | The SFJ Foundation Auction at The New Orleans Advocate (about three blocks from Ace.)
We’ll offer appetizers and drinks as we sell, both silently and aloud, the goodies we’ve gathered from across the country to help support the SFJ Foundation’s Diversity Fellowship program. Emily Spicer and Jim Haag will lead the craziness, with able assistance from those in the crowd. Dan Shea, president and publisher of our hosts, The New Orleans Advocate, will welcome guests, and Diversity Committee Chairwoman Jeneé Osterheldt will talk about the importance of the Diversity Fellowship program and will introduce our three Fellows for 2018. Expect an evening of chaos and be prepared to sing, just in case.

FRIDAY | 09.14.18

Communications/Music Complex, Loyola University New Orleans
Those attending will take the streetcar from Ace Hotel to Loyola. The streetcar runs every 15 minutes. The trip takes about 20 minutes. We’ll provide streetcar passes for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

8:30-9:15 a.m. | Breakfast at Loyola

9:15-10:15 a.m. | Hello, digital! Goodbye, print?
Liz Seymour, features editor at The Washington Post, talks about the process of transforming from print to digital and what that really means in 2018. The Post has been a leader in the field, but even the biggest papers are finding a slow road as we cut our ties with paper and fully embrace the digital future.

10:15-10:30 a.m. | Break

10:30-11:30 p.m. | The #metoo movement: Where are we now?
The news of 2017 and 2018 was frequently dominated by stories about sexual harassment and assault. A trickle turned into a torrent of headlines, accusations, denials and apologies. Companies and institutions and individuals resolved to look inward to change toxic cultures. Many women found reasons to feel optimistic – or, at the very least, they found outlets for their rage. Now it’s September 2018, and the big question is: Where are we as a country and a culture? Institutional change takes years, but are there examples of documentable change or plans in place that might offer hope that the issue won’t fade from prominence? Who continues to kick ass and take names? Alice Short, retired assistant managing editor at the Los Angeles Times, will lead a panel discussion with L.A. Times columnist Robin Abcarian; Brett Anderson, food critic at Times-Picayune; and Jeneé Osterheldt, a writer at The Boston Globe.

11:30 a.m.-noon | Search and slice: being your own best editor
Learn how to edit – yourself and others – when you’re racing against a deadline. Maria Carrillo, assistant managing editor/enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times, offers pointers that will help you get your stories online quickly and accurately but also will serve you well when you’re doing long-form work.

12:15-1:15 p.m. | SFJ award winners luncheon
We laud the winners of the 2018 Excellence-in-Features Awards.

1:30-2:25 p.m. | Show + Steal, Part 2
Laura T. Coffey, a writer and editor at, is back with more great ideas to share.

2:25-2:30 p.m. | Break

2:30-3:30 p.m. |Cooking up profits on social media
Learn how publications are making money – money! – from food events. Emily Spicer, features editor at the San Antonio Express-News, leads a panel discussion that includes Ann Maloney, a food writer at Times-Picayune, who will talk about ways her publication has mined food for gold.

3:30-3:40 p.m. | Break

3:40-4:30 p.m. | Short takes: reporting and framing narratives in a day
Follow a veteran reporter – Lane DeGregory, enterprise reporter at the Tampa Bay Times – and a longtime editor – Maria Carrillo, assistant managing editor/enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times – as they talk about taking small bites off the news and writing short narrative stories and doing it all in one day.

The streetcar will take us back to Ace Hotel.

SATURDAY | 09.15.18

Communications/Music Complex, Loyola Unversity New Orleans
Those attending will take the streetcar from Ace Hotel to Loyola.

8:30-9:15 a.m. | Breakfast at Loyola

9:15-10:25 p.m. | What should we do with kids today? Train ’em? Teach ’em? Or – maybe listen to them?
We all need cheap labor, right? How about hooking up with a local college? But then what? Laura Jayne, a former professional journalist and now the director of student services at Loyola University New Orleans, talks about a program she started at Loyola that lets students in her class partner with and The New Orleans Advocate and write for them as freelancers for the exposure. She’ll offer tips on how to do this at your own paper. Barbara Allen, the managing editor of the Poynter Institute’s website and the former director of student media at Oklahoma State University, will offer
advice for mentoring college students, whether they’re interning or freelancing or the newest members of your staff. And a college student will tell us what journalism students want from professional journalists.

10:25-10:30 a.m. | Break

10:30-11:30 a.m. | Features 911
We’re bringing back an old favorite. Annette Sisco, features editor at The New Orleans Advocate, leads a discussion where we answer questions posed by conference attendees. We’ll have a 911 box available throughout the conference, and we’ll ask conference attendees to ask questions, both big and small. Sharon Chapman of the Austin American-Statesman already has the first question for the group: How does everyone handle movie listings these days?

11:30 a.m.-noon | Changing of the guard
It’s a time-honored tradition: The current SFJ president, Jim Haag, turns over the gavel – and few surprising pieces of clothing – to the incoming president, Margaret Myers of Atlantic Media. Then, sadly, it’s time to wrap it up.

12:30-2 p.m. | SFJ BOARD MEETING at Loyola
Margaret Myers will lead her first meeting at SFJ president, and the SFJ gang starts to look ahead to 2019.