SFJ19 conference schedule (including VENUE UPDATE): Renaissance Revival in Detroit

Spirit of Detroit

ESPN’s Kelley Carter to kick off Society for Features Journalism’s 2019 conference

VENUE UPDATE FOR THURSDAY: We will now meet at St. Andrews, a decommissioned church on Wayne State’s campus, right next to the Communications building, Manoogian Hall. (Not to be confused with St. Andrews Hall on E. Congress, which is a downtown music venue.) If you’re staying at the hotel, the shuttle driver will drop you at Manoogian Hall, and you will see the church just next door.

If you’re coming on your own, we’re at the corner of Warren Ave. and the Lodge service drive. If you’re driving, Garage #2 is just behind the church on W. Kirby and the Lodge service drive. It’s a public, pay parking garage.

ORIGINAL POST: The Society for Features Journalism announces its 2019 conference schedule, starting with its keynote speaker, a Detroit native who’s reporting on the national stage for ESPN’s The Undefeated. Check out the full schedule of sessions below, plus everything you need to know to plan your visit:

WEDNESDAY | 09.18.19

Tour Downtown Detroit | 2 to 4 p.m.
Pick-up and drop-off, Element Detroit at the Metropolitan
Never been to Detroit before? Jump on this tour bus, provided by The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. A seasoned guide will show off some of the city’s most beautiful architecture, from Art Deco masterpieces to mid-century modern standards. Register here for the free tour.

Opening reception and registration | 7 to 9 p.m.
Pendant Room, Element Detroit at the Metropolitan
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 Margaret Myers and other officers will welcome guests and introduce some special folks, such as our Diversity fellows and panelists in attendance.

THURSDAY | 09.19.19

9-9:30 a.m. | Coffee and registration, St. Andrews, Wayne State
The Element hotel provides free breakfast for guests. We will provide a shuttle from the Element to Wayne State.

9:30 a.m. | Keynote with Kelley Carter from ESPN’s The Undefeated
We are thrilled to feature Detroit’s very own Kelley L. Carter! Kelley is an Emmy-winning journalist and the Senior Entertainment reporter for ESPN’s The Undefeated. She got her start at the Detroit Free Press, and since then has written for some of the most recognized news outlets in the business, including USA Today, Vibe, BuzzFeed, Ebony, Essence, ESPN.com, MTV News, and the Chicago Tribune. At The Undefeated, Kelley’s developed a beat that draws from the intersection of entertainment, pop culture, and race.

10:30-11:30 a.m. | The future of Detroit (and who gets to write it)
Reporters—and headline writers—like Detroit. There are news stories: “Five years after bankruptcy, Detroit’s comeback still has a long way to go.” There are stories that use Detroit as a metaphor: “Russia’s Detroit falls on hard times.” And there are stories that target potential visitors: “Detroit: The most exciting city in America?”

But how can we get a real sense of Detroit and its future? For starters, you can listen to the experts—people who live or have lived here and have made time for thoughtful observation. We have four of them on our panel: Nicole Avery Nichols, Urban Affairs Editor at the Detroit Free Press; Candice Fortman of Outlier Media; Martina Guzman, a local features reporter; and Ron Fournier, the former publisher and editor of Crain’s Detroit Business.

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. | Parenting coverage: What works, what falls flat, and why?
Some parenting stories resonate with readers so profoundly that they break traffic records for their publications and spark meaningful, important discussions. Other parenting stories garner almost no traffic at all. Why the disparity? What works and what doesn’t? Is there a magic sauce?

This panel can help you decide whether your publication should have a parenting beat and, if so, how that beat might work best in your part of the country. With Rebecca Dube, head of TODAY Parents Digital for the TODAY show; Ron Fournier, author of “Love That Boy,” a book about his relationship with his son with autism; and Amy Joyce, On Parenting editor for The Washington Post.

12:30- 2 p.m. | Lunch and Show & Steal part I
Back by popular demand! Just as writer’s block is real, so is editor’s block. Get inspiration from some of the best work by SFJ members from around the country. Laura Coffey of TODAY.com and Sharon Chapman of the Austin American-Statesman will guide this highly visual ideas bonanza.

2-3 p.m. | Freelancer AMA
Editors, how strong—and how diverse—is your freelance roster? With shrinking staffs and audiences’ demand for authenticity, now is the perfect opportunity to cultivate your bench and uncover deeper levels of storytelling. And writers, do you know how to develop your niche and do you even need one? How do you manage the business side of things while staying focused on the creative work?

In this frank discussion, we will hear from veteran freelancers who are all in different stages in their careers, with different backgrounds and goals for the future. They will share advice with the editors and the writers in the room on everything from pitching to pricing. With Daniel Hernandez of the New York Times, Janelle Harris of AARP’s Sisters, and Evan F. Moore of Chicago Sun-Times.

3-4 p.m. | Innovation and on-demand audio
Why the podcast and on-demand audio space is so ripe for innovation. But first, what even is innovation? And how do you know if you’re doing it? A look at The Washington Post’s approach to podcasting, with a focus on smart approaches to innovation in any medium. With Jessica Stahl, the head of audio for The Washington Post.

4-5 p.m. | How to Cover the Arts on Any Beat
For years, local news organizations under financial strain have cut back on arts coverage or eliminated their arts staff altogether. Features writers and beat reporters are asked to pick up the coverage in newsrooms, while writers dedicated to covering the arts are left to navigate the freelance world.

Our panel will give resource-strapped reporters and editors creative and sustainable approaches to incorporating arts coverage in business, features and breaking news stories. With Christopher Wynn, arts and entertainment editor of The Dallas Morning News; and Joshua Barajas, deputy online editor at PBS NewsHour.

5:15-5:45 p.m. | Features 911
We’ll have a 911 box available throughout the conference, and we’ll ask conference attendees to ask questions, both big and small. Jim Haag and Sharon Chapman will lead this quick and lively session.

Dinner on your own tonight. Check out these lists for recommendations: the Free Press’s top 10 and Eater’s 38 Essential.

FRIDAY | 09.20.19

8:30 a.m. | Coffee, African Room, Department of Communication, Wayne State University
We will provide a shuttle from the Element to Wayne State.

9-10 a.m. | Soul for the Food
Telling the stories of a community by writing about its food. Regional cuisines are a product of the area’s history, native ingredients, colonial influences and more. So writing about Tex-Mex, Frogmore Stew, scrapple or other regional dishes gives us opportunities to write about the communities themselves.

This panel will explore how to mine an area’s food scene for the community stories that lie just beyond. With Emily Spicer, features editor at the San Antonio Express-News; Daniel Hernandez formerly of LA Taco; Jamila Robinson of the James Beard Awards Journalism Committee; and Paul Stephen, food writer San Antonio Express-News.

10-11:30 a.m. | Are features stories endangered species? 
At a time when the industry is focused on investigative, project and data journalism, we ignore—at our own peril—the kinds of feature stories that resonate with our readers. Tom Hallman Jr. will lead a workshop drawn from the real world of storytelling, discussing what’s needed to find, report and write feature stories with impact. More than a class on theory, Hallman will examine his stories, and the stories of other writers, to break down what is required to bring stories to life.

Participants will learn skills they can use immediately. While Hallman has written series and stores as long as 6,000 words, he believes a story does not have to be long, nor does it require months of reporting and writing. Hallman, a senior reporter at The Oregonian, won the 2001 Pulitzer in Feature Writing.

12-1:30 p.m. | SFJ award winners luncheon, Italian Room
We laud the winners of the 2019 Excellence-in-Features Awards.

2-3 p.m. | A new beat for an old magazine 
Why on earth would someone spend $50 on a water bottle? What does it say about you if you do? “If you can understand why so many people would spend 50 bucks on a water bottle, you can understand a lot about America in 2019,” writes Amanda Mull, a staff writer at The Atlantic. From why we obsess over fancy S’well bottles to the reason that young Americans are so sick of booze, Mull is carving out a fresh approach to examining contemporary culture, while developing a brand new audience for a 163-year-old publication.

3-4 p.m. |Write the Power: Community stories as told through music writing
Music culture coverage isn’t just cool, bringing dismissive hipsters to the fold or sending Boomers into nostalgic overloads. This arts beats is an essential part of journalism because it often tells us the stories of the overlooked and ignored. Whether it’s using a feature on a hip-hop group to showcase how people are powering pride in a crumbling part of town or examining cultural ties by explaining how K-Pop connects a second generation of Americans to their ancestral homeland, these stories unite us through art while bringing different faces and stories to news sites. In a time of representative reporting and diversity course correcting, the music beat can look on point. But the truth is music writers have been reporting on diversity and representation for years by simply finding the best stories about the best art.

We talk with a panel of veteran music and culture writers to explain how music coverage is more than snide album reviews or fawning Q&As; it’s a highly effective way to get diverse people on the front page and timely issues into the news sites. With Mesfin Fekadu, AP Music writer; Imani Mixon, freelance culture writer in Detroit; and Jim DeRogatis, author and former Chicago Sun-Times music critic; and Robert Morast, Senior Arts & Entertainment Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.

4-5 p.m. |Breaking down R. Kelly
In 2000, The Chicago Sun-Times was the first news outlet to publish a report that alleged R. Kelly had engaged in sex with minors. Veteran music reporter Jim DeRogatis has been reporting on this tragic story from Day 1. Now, as the pop singer awaits arraignment on federal sex crimes, we have this special opportunity to sit with DeRogatis and discuss this 20-some-year tragedy.

5:15-5:45 p.m. | Features 911
We’ll have a 911 box available throughout the conference, and we’ll ask conference attendees to ask questions, both big and small. Jim Haag and Sharon Chapman will lead this quick and lively session.

7-9 p.m. | The SFJ Foundation Auction, The Detroit Writing Room 
Meet us two blocks from the hotel at Detroit’s only co-working space for writers! And it was co-founded by a former features reporter for the Detroit News. We’ll have an open bar and apps. We hope you will bid big 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.

SATURDAY | 09.21.19

Stevie Wonder Room, michigan.com

9 a.m. | Coffee and doughnuts

9:30-10:30 p.m. | Digital storytelling—10 things digital editors wished you knew
Barbara Allen
and Kristen Hare from Poynter will lead this session. Come with questions!

10:30-11:30 a.m. | Show & Steal part II
Laura Coffey of TODAY.com and Sue Campbell of Star Tribune Magazine showcase more great feature ideas from SFJ members.

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

Editor’s note: We have updated this post to reflect a few changes from the original. Namely, Detroit’s Aaron Foley will not be joining us due to a scheduling conflict. We will miss him! Also, Sue Campbell from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune will be joining Show & Steal this year.   

Early bird deadline extended: Join us now for SFJ 2019 in 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. See the full list of speakers and panels here

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-year- 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 Aug. 21!

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, mmyers@atlantic57.com.

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

SFJ18 conference schedule: A time for renewal

Loyola-NOLA-1024x554

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 NOLA.com/The 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 NOLA.com/The 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 Today.com, 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 NOLA.com/The 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 Today.com, 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 NOLA.com/The 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 NOLA.com 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.