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Gordon Cameron

Lessons from the convention trail

Since April, I’ve been to five newspaper conventions (including three different time zones in the last three weeks) and while I could write several columns all about the wonderful and exciting things going on in the industry, I’ll spare you that for the moment and instead share with you a few things I’ve learned living out of a suitcase.

Watch where you’re going: Coming back from the Quebec conference my directions read “Highway 417 to Highway 7,” which should have been clear enough. However, once I hit Arnprior, 50 km further on from my exit, I realized something was wrong. Rather than turning around and heading for Highway 7, I attempted to find my way via the back roads. Three hours later after many wrong turns (which I’m going to blame on poorly marked roads rather than any navigational deficiencies on my part) and almost running out of gas, I finally made it back to where I was supposed to be.

Double check everything: I discovered last week that, much to my and my wallet’s chagrin, I had failed to book my flights to and from Calgary for that weekend’s convention.  I could have sworn that I had, I even bragged to one of my convention friends about doing it as he booked his flight two weeks before on the streets of Charlottetown. That was a costly mistake to be sure.

I’m also quite paranoid about hotel alarm clocks due to several alternatively humourous or near-disastrous incidents involving  them going off too soon, too late or not at all. To combat this, I’ve taken to bringing my own clock which has generally served me well. However, twice in my recent travels, the battery has come loose rendering it inoperable. Had I not woken up early and given a glance in its direction I could have been in big trouble, including potentially missing my already expensive flight home from Alberta.

Get out and explore: Given all that goes on at a newspaper convention it can be very easy to check into the hotel and not leave until you head for the airport. But if that’s your attitude you’re going to miss a lot of great things the host city has to offer. I saw York boats and bison in Winnipeg; walked along the ocean in Charlottetown; went bar hopping in a Quebec ski village and saved $15 on breakfast in Calgary. My experience of each place was much richer for it.

Make friends: Most of my convention time was spent either talking about newspapers or learning about what’s new in newspapers with a revolving cast of characters. However, there was a small group of folks who, like me, attended all the conventions they could. We developed friendships and got to know each other beyond our connection to the industry. And as much as I love newspapers, it was nice to just talk about sports, politics or other sundry topics as a change of pace.

And who among us couldn’t use a few more friends?

Gordon Cameron is Group Managing Editor for Hamilton Community News

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