Jam-packed NOLA Visit Serves Up Many Lessons

Four days in New Orleans to work the exhibitor booth, to attend some seminars and speeches, to take in the sights and sounds of this city along the Mighty Mississippi and to meet clients and a great, old friend, David Roffman, retired editor and publisher of The Georgetowner. Too much? Hey, it’s N’awlins, baby. “Laissez les bon temps roulez,” and let’s find the time to greet and to eat.

It was Mitchell Davis of Broadcast Interview Source, Inc. and the Yearbook of Experts, who invited Roffman to the combined journalists’ convention – the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists – at the Sheraton on Canal Street. A Georgetown University alum, Davis worked for The Georgetowner more than 30 years ago as a photographer and was delighted that Roffman had given him a darkroom back then.

On Sept. 25, while others stopped to speak with us, Roffman drove into the city from the Gulf shores of Alabama, got his convention badge and met us in the hall, ready to work. But this was more a learning rather than selling show, packed with speakers, sessions, book signing, critiques and receptions. Our retired publisher could simply relax, enjoy the show and explore the city.

We listened to Soledad O’Brien of CNN explain her work in documentaries, balancing family life, while admonishing newbie journalists to solve problems for themselves and their bosses, creatively and without complaint. Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman, proudly showed off “60 Minutes,” advising writers and producers not to cover too much but to focus and tell a story.

During the RTDNA awards ceremony for Lara Logan of “60 Minutes” and Linda Ellerbee of Nickelodeon’s Nick News, the room fell silent after the video introduction for Logan showed a base in Afghanistan and then Tahrir Square in Cairo, site of her brutal rape. She looked away from the screen and then spoke about how the attack seemed easier to live with then than now. “I am the model of imperfection,” said Logan, who lightened the mood and talked about the New York office. “If you are looking to go corporate, this is not the place for you,” the chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News said. “The same old offices have housed ‘60 Minutes’ for years. The diligent Logan said she strove for a good story at the end of the day and would ask herself: “How can I not f–k this up?”

On her recovery, Logan said she had felt “broken into one thousand pieces” but was “grateful for letters from people across America” and had expected more push back about the assault. “What we stand for as a Western society and America is free speech,” Logan said. “There is a war around the world against free speech. We are fighting for the survival of our civilization.”

Longtime TV news reporter and anchor Linda Ellerbee, now reporting the news to children with Nick News, showed she was a seasoned keynoter, tossing out such punch lines as “A journalist is an out-of-work reporter.” After double knee replacement on Sept. 15, she stood at the podium with her signature red Converse sneakers and admitted she could “get lost following a river.” Before she moved to her first TV reporting job, she was asked, “Have you ever done TV?” Ellerbee replied: “No, I’ve seen it.” Any job advice? “Don’t confuse change with motion.” “If you shove a microphone in someone’s face to convey tragedy, you’re a moral dwarf.” Her writing, she said, is the same for kids as when she wrote for the networks.  “I’ve morphed into some kind of raggedy-assed big bird,” Ellerbee said. “I love it. It’s good to laugh any time you can.”

Also available were training sessions on freelancing, videotaping, backpack journalism, Google, social media ethics, Facebook and journalism, transformational newspapers and narrative form in the age of tweets — not to mention the tour of post-Katrina levees or volunteering at the Second Harvest Food Bank. Was it too much? Of course, it was. And perfect to be in New Orleans, where print and electronic journalists and other media types were getting a handle on the changes all around them.


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