Add Colorado and Kansas to the list of press associations collaborating to produce joint conventions.
And while we’re at it, let’s add a special acknowledgement to the pandemic for making bigger virtual events a new standard.
Sharing a convention will be a first for Kansas and Colorado, organizers say. Consider it fitting the theme of the May 20-21 event will be “Succeeding Through Collaboration.”
Executive directors Emily Bradbury in Kansas and Tim Regan-Porter in Colorado said in a phone interview — done jointly, by the way — that collaboration has been a hallmark of their respective careers and it made sense in 2021 to work together to deliver new ideas and greater networking opportunities to their memberships. It also helped that both states are familiar with each other.
Besides, Bradbury joked, “We’ve always considered Colorado the Old Kansas Territory.”
Both said they’ve watched the success of other association partnerships, including the Tri-State Newspaper Conference put on earlier this year by Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Wider involvement allows for more chances to learn about an out-of-state newspaper’s strength, hear from different insightful speakers, or explore a Relevant best practice that’s outside your normal contacts.
“We don’t need to reinvent what we’ve always done,” Bradbury said. “With this collaboration, we can expand on what we can offer.”
When asked what would success look like, Regan-Porter responded: “Let’s not look on this as a one-time collaboration. We’re looking to offer new ideas so people can learn a lot and offer us future ways to expand. …Lots of new perspectives.”
Both organizers were interested in “going beyond routine Zoom fare” with increased interaction from attendees and programs that end with a takeaway, such as handouts that summarize the achievement or advice. “We want people to leave Zoom with something,” Bradbury said.
Rapid sharing of great ideas could be included as well, along with providing a critique, for example, of a newspaper’s product or a reporter’s story.
“We really like the Tri-State Convention’s ‘flash sessions’ that dealt with a topic in 15 to 20 minutes,” Bradbury said. This is an effective way to address frequent questions the associations receive from members, she added.
Both said the bigger conference also could improve chances of securing sponsors
Regan-Porter was surprised by the immediate positive reaction from members about the new approach and a partnership with Kansas. “Our members are excited. They saw it as a way to get to know different people and widen their network,” he said.
Bradbury said some of her members have operations in Colorado and belong to both associations — while others know Colorado from vacationing there.
Also, the Kansas newspapers wanted to learn more about the Colorado News Collaborative (COLab), which is “a nonprofit, statewide media resource hub and ideas lab that serves all Coloradans by strengthening high-quality local journalism, supporting civic engagement, and ensuring public accountability.” COLab is part of an important trend of newsrooms working together or the creation of reporting hubs being financed to improve coverage of key issues.
After making the announcement about the partnership, Kansas and Colorado asked its members to complete a short survey to “give us your thoughts and ideas.”
Bradbury and Regan-Porter were kind enough to invite me to participate last week in a planning session that included staff members and COLab. Regan-Porter said the conference would be organized on a virtual conference platform that includes a “Lobby” and “Exhibition Hall” with the ability to conduct multiple sessions at the same time — all in one place.
“We also can archive the content for one year so it’s feasible people can go back and watch” the workshops Regan-Porter said.
Each association might break off into their own events, such as contest awards ceremonies, annual board meetings, or discussions with past presidents, a tradition.
Bradbury and Regan-Porter agreed that the success of the virtual conference during the pandemic will result in newspaper trade associations using a hybrid approach in the future.
Going virtual allowed the association to involve members who could never go to an in-person event because of cost, time away from the newspaper or driving distance, said Bradbury, who noted it would take some members five hours of traveling to attend programs.
“We reach reached newspapers and members we never reached before the pandemic,” Bradbury said. “The $35 charged for a program, they told me, was much more doable without the hotel and mileage costs.”
Bank it as a major lesson learned.
“It’s going to be a hybrid going forward,” Bradbury said. “We want to keep adding to participation and more engagement.”