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Opening night reception connects convention-goers

By eijnews

By Olivia Ingle
The Working Press

Arizona State University student Gardenia Coleman, right, ordered a drink at the opening night reception, sponsored by CNN Newsource on Sunday.
Kevin Zansler/The Working Press

The sound of jazz music and the smell of Louisiana cuisine filled the Lagniappe room Sunday evening at the opening night reception sponsored by CNN Newsource.
Excellence in Journalism 2011 attendees drank cocktails and munched on hors d’oeuvre and New Orleans specialties — chicken jambalaya, red beans and Cajun sausage — while networking and catching up with fellow conference-goers.
“It’s a good way to get everyone socializing and making connections,” said Tyisha Manigo, a freelance journalist. “It gets everyone to loosen up for the next two days.”
The reception began at 5 p.m. and the New Orleans band Dominick Grillo and the Frenchmen Street Allstars played until 6:30 p.m.
There was a lot of excitement at the reception, said Robert Leger, assistant editorial page editor for the Arizona Republic and a former SPJ national president.
“SPJ is like a family reunion,” he said. “The reception gives us time to let loose and visit and catch up with what we’ve done since last year.”
For Ken Hedler, a reporter at The Daily Courier in Prescott, Ariz., the reception was a mixer-type event that allowed him to network and socialize.
“The rest of the days, we spend our time in a classroom-like setting at workshops,” he said. “The smaller groups don’t allow for much.”
Kelvin Davis, CNN senior director of sales and affiliate relations, said the reception provides attendees with a landing place to have a good time after the conference’s first day.
“I enjoy coming, as I’m sure everyone else does,” he said.
Because alcohol was being served, reception-goers had to be at least 21 years of age, but attendees ranged from students to retirees.
Cheryl Bacon, journalism department chairwoman at Abilene Christian University, brought several students to the convention and attended the reception.
“I really like giving them the chance to network and to talk and listen to the speakers,” Bacon said. “It’s really a productive time for my students.”
“It’s great having the opportunity of talking and listening to people who have been in the business for decades,” said Gardenia Coleman, an Arizona State University student. “It’s good to see where journalism is going and to know that what we’re learning is cutting edge.”
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