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The Crescent City boasts new adventures for convention-goers

By eijnews

By Mary C. Barczak
The Working Press

An impromptu brass band entertained a crowd Saturday night on the corner of Canal Street and Bourbon Street. Corinne Chin/The Working Press

This year’s Society of Professional Journalists’ convention in New Orleans promises to be full of new experiences. Besides tours of the French Quarter and bowls of gumbo, it’s the first convention co-sponsored with the Radio Television Digital News Association.
Joe Skeel, SPJ’s executive director, said the partnership came about because print and broadcast journalists are performing many of the same functions.
“Everyone wants to learn how to write for the Web,” he said.
Mark Kraham, RTDNA’s chairman, said media convergence made the match seem like a good fit.
“Journalists have found that the landscape has changed drastically, and we have to make a change,” he said.
Kraham said he sees a lot of promise in the new generation of journalists.
“When something happens, they’re the ones that are ready to do the work … and do it all – shoot, write, Facebook it, post it on Twitter and put it online,” he said.
It was this expectation of immediacy that helped lead to the partnership, Kraham said.
The organizations will meet jointly again next year in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and re-evaluate the partnership afterward.
The theme of this year’s convention is “Excellence in Journalism,” and some of the industry’s best will be on hand to pick up awards and give advice. Among them:
* Linda Ellerbee of Nickelodeon Television’s “Nick News” and Lara Logan, chief foreign correspondent for CBS News, will be honored at the Paul White and John F. Hogan Award Ceremony Monday.
* Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” will share his views during Monday’s keynote address on how real reporting can succeed in a multimedia platform.
Expect to see more hands-on training, including sessions promising to teach journalists Google tricks or how to post data on a blog or website.
“When journalists leave the conference, we want them to be able to have the skills to succeed in the newsroom and become a leader,” Skeel said.
While New Orleans is famous for its French Quarter and Creole food, it’s also known for being a victim of Hurricane Katrina. The city still deals with the aftermath of the August 2005 natural disaster that killed more than 1,300 people and flooded the city.
A lot of improvements to the education, health care and public transportation systems were made after Katrina and have strengthened the city, said Jennifer Day, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Tourism, an important part of the city’s culture and economy, is rebounding, Day said.
New Orleans drew about 8.5 million people a year before the storm, she said. The figure plummeted to 3.7 million visitors in 2006.
Last year, the total rebounded to 8.3 million people, who poured $5.3 billion into the economy.
“We are busy living our lives and moving forward,” she said.
In between sessions and networking, try to take time to explore the Crescent City, stroll down Bourbon Street — even if you’re not a drinker — or ride a streetcar.
As the city’s motto says: “It’s New Orleans. You’re different here.”
Skeel said he’s visited the city numerous times and wants the more than 1,200 journalists in town for the convention to get out of the air-conditioned hotel and explore.
“I hope that people experience some culture and debauchery that they might not have experienced otherwise,” Skeel said.