By Joe Skeel
Register today! The 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference is just two weeks away. If you haven't registered, what the heck are you waiting for? This year's convention is sizing up to be one of the best ever.
Register by midnight, Monday, Sept. 24, to avoid higher on-site registration fees and long lines.
JOURNALISM GIANTS. Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Washington Post Vice President Ben Bradlee will be on hand to discuss "Watergate: 35 Years Later." The panel will also include NPR's Daniel Schorr, author Alicia Shepard and Information Trust Executive Director Scott Armstrong. CBS news legend Bob Schieffer will moderate. This session alone is worth the price of convention registration.
MORE GIANTS. If those journalism legends aren't enough, check out this list of impressive speakers who will discuss all things media:
— Bob Novak, the Chicago Sun Times columnist that got the ball rolling in the Scooter Libby case
— Leonard Downie, executive editor of The Washington Post
— Ken Paulson, editor of USA Today
— Steve Capus, president of NBC News
— Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, co-sponsor of the Open Government Act
— Leila Fadel, Baghdad bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers
— Helen Thomas, do we really need a description for this legend?
— The Honorable David Walker, Comptroller General for the United States
— Bob Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association
— White House Press Corp members
— Ron Nessen, former press secretary to Gerald Ford; Larry Speakes, former press secretary to Ronald Reagan; Mike McCurry, former press secretary to Bill Clinton.
CAMPAIGN 2008 AND MORE. It's an election year, so SPJ is taking full advantage of the talent and experience in the nation's capital to bring you an unprecedented menu of election programming, featuring top political journalists and pundits. These sessions build on one another to provide the most comprehensive training possible. Sessions include:
— Planning Campaign Coverage
— Deciphering the Numbers
— Bringing National Issues Home
— Campaign Finance
— Reality Check
Not interested in election coverage? Check out a list of the many other programs.
COMPUTER ASSISTANCE. SPJ is offering four hands-on professional development programs dedicated to computer-assisted reporting. Like the Campaign 2008 track, the session content builds on the content from the previous sessions, so plan to attend all four programs to get the most benefit from the courses. Contact Heather Porter to pre-register for this track. Laptop computers are required.
— Essential Spreadsheet Skills for Journalists
— Digging for News in Databases
— Shining Light on Campaign Finance Data
— Web 2.0 Tools for Displaying Your Data
PROJECT WATCHDOG. Join a discussion led by awarding-winning WTOP reporter Mark Segraves at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G. St., NW, near Gallery Place-Chinatown and Metro Center stops. Segraves will talk about "Who's keeping an eye on our rights and our tax money?"
SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY. When planning your travel, be sure to stick around for Sunday's programs, which include topics such as: Virginia Tech, Duke Cunningham, investigative reporting with Post reporter Debbie Cenziper and more.
NEW SESSIONS ADDED. Two latecomers have been added to the program schedule:
— "Larry Craig: The Strange Tale of a Senator's Downfall." Journalists from Roll Call and the Idaho Statesman, who led the breaking coverage surrounding Craig's bathroom sex scandal, will be on hand to discuss the story.
— "The Battle over the War." When renowned documentary producer Ken Burns began promoting his 14-hour epic on the brave soldiers of World War II a year ago, he got more response than he expected. Hispanic veterans, educators and journalists were stunned that none of the people featured in the series were Hispanic. Burns and PBS found themselves having to explain how a $10 million documentary, in the works for six years, could have made it to the screen with such a glaring hole. How could it have been prevented?
DO I HEAR $50?. Did you hear that our guest auctioneers at the Legal Defense Fund Auction, which takes place during the Opening Night Reception, are radio giant Jim Bohannon and CBS newsman Bob Schieffer? Check out the items available for bid.
WHIRLWIND TOURS. The D.C. pro chapter has kindly lined up newsroom tours for you throughout the convention. Newsrooms request a limited number of participants; so sign-up sheets will be available on-site in the Journalism Expo. Tour locations include Bloomberg News, NBC News Washington Bureau, ABC, C-SPAN, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and the National Press Club.
It would be impossible to mention all the fabulous opportunities at this year's convention.
See You in Washington, D.C.!
HIGH SCHOOL DAZE. Three years after a new federal law took effect that required schools to educate all students about the Constitution and the First Amendment, a new survey shows that a majority of America's students aren't even aware that Constitution Day exists. This year's "Future of the First Amendment" follow-up survey, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and done by the University of Connecticut's David Yalof and Ken Dautrich, revealed these key findings:
— More than half of all high school students say they have not heard of Constitution Day. Just 1 in 10 remembers how his or her high school celebrated the day last year.
— Despite increases in the number of First Amendment classes from 2004 through 2006, nearly three-fourths of students still don't know how they feel about the First Amendment, or take it for granted.
— Parents, not teachers, have the greatest influence on students' choice of news sources.
— More students are turning to the Internet to find their news. Their definition of news isn't much different than that of their parents.