13 random observations from #CollegeMedia17

I’m spending the end of this week at the annual national college media convention in Dallas, Texas, where I’m finding a few immutable truths about travel, student media and how we all function as journalists. In hopes of having a happy weekend, consider a few random thoughts and observations about this wonderful experience:

  1. No matter where you are going, the cheapest flights are always at the most ungodly hours. Our flight out forced us to leave Oshkosh at 3:15 a.m. and our flight back will force us to be picked up by a shuttle at 3:15 a.m. This means we constantly face the conundrum of “Should I try to get some sleep or should I just stay awake?” Ask my managing editor, who manged to oversleep through three alarms he “swore” he set on the day we were slated to leave.
  2. Your best friend in a convention town: 7-11. I paid $4.89 for a 12 pack of Diet Coke as opposed to the $3 per can the hotel was charging.
  3. Barbacoa is awesome. Just don’t ask what it is.
  4. The greatest joy in my life is critiquing newspapers (OK, and websites, magazines and any other student press product). It is absolutely fantastic to sit down with students and find out ways you can help them to improve what they’re doing or to reassure them that they are doing awesome work.
  5. If you want to win something in a silent auction, you need to be there at the end and snipe. I’d apologize to the people I did this to at the SPLC book auction, but the money goes to a good cause, so the more the merrier.
  6. A necessary plug for SAGE: The publisher of my book is cooler than I had any right to expect. They overnighted a bound, proof copy of the Reporting text as well as an additional copy of the Media Writing book for free so that they could be given to the SPLC book auction. That took work and they never thought twice. (Congrats to Steve Listopad of Henderson State University who now owns my book before I do. Tell me if it’s worth it…)
  7. Bring an extra $25 for overweight fees on your luggage, especially if you’re taking home copies of the tons of student newspapers available at the paper exchange or if you’re really good at that whole “book sniping” thing.
  8. Don’t text your adviser and ask, “If I bought a beer, would you put it in your checked luggage?”
  9. As much as I tell my students, “It’s great if you win an award, but it’s not a bad thing if you don’t,” I’m as anxious as they are before awards are given out. A small part of me wants to get a convention coordinator drunk on a mix of tequila and sodium pentathol tonight…
  10. One of the hardest things to do is figure out what sessions to attend. There are so many going on at the same time that are all good. You almost have to have several people there to do a “divide and conquer” approach.
  11. We are all dealing with the same stuff, even if we don’t know it. (Part I) One of the things that I am always grateful for when it comes to these kinds of conventions is that it allows students from all over the place to realize that we’re all dealing with the same general levels of excitement, apathy, dysfunction and amazement. Every staff has one a-hole, one person who is “doing everything,” one person who SAYS they’re “doing everything” but isn’t doing anything, one person who is “too good for this place,” one person who is scared and one person who is wondering what they got themselves into. Bonus points are also available for people who have at least two random relationships going on or breaking up in the newsroom that leads to more drama than an episode of “Real Housewives” on meth.
  12. Hats. People in Texas are reeeeeeally into their hats.
  13. We are all dealing with the same stuff, even if we don’t know it. (Part II) The sense that we can do something great, want to do something fun, that we have found our family and that we can’t imagine what we’d be doing if we weren’t doing this is pretty much universal. And maybe that’s the best thing.

Onward to Day 3. Hope to see you there.

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