By Karen T. Braeckel
HSPA Foundation

The scraping sound you heard came from the soapbox I just drug onto this page.

Spare me, you plead.

Bear with me, please.

With the fantastic lineup of speakers who will present at the Newsroom Seminar Dec. 5, even the “also-rans” become winners.

Say what?

Translated: Those who enter the Better Newspaper Contest but do not place can gain as much as winners in the educational sessions prior to the awards luncheon.

Why do so many newspapers allow only winners to attend the seminar? How do other reporters advance in the field without training?

It makes no sense to me.

I understand budget constraints and rewarding those who win. But check out the lineup on the front page of today’s Publisher.

Where can you find this many quality speakers, plus lunch, for a $69 registration fee?

This year’s event returns to the Indianapolis Marriott North on Dec. 5, the first Saturday in December like always. The event includes lunch, and parking is free. Watch your mailbox for registration materials.

The Foundation subsidizes events to keep costs low for our members. Part of our mission includes enhancing the ability of Indiana newspapers to fully educate and inform the public.

This means providing training to journalists in a wide variety of areas at affordable rates.

Milissa Tuley took over event planning this year on top of her communication responsibilities. The ever-faithful Newsroom Seminar Committee came up with highly qualified speakers. As I looked over the list, I saw one of the great combinations in several presenters – professors with former newsroom experience.

These people can teach (and not everyone can) –
and know what they’re talking about.

If you’ve been to a recent seminar, you know Nancy Comiskey, a lecturer at The Media School at Indiana University since 2002. She worked for 14 years at The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star as a reporter, columnist, features editor and managing editor.

She is a past president of the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists and the Indiana AP Managing Editors.

(And she’s one of the few people ever to outscore our boss on evaluations. Shhh! We don’t tell him.)

She consistently pulls 3.8+ out of 4 – and trust me, journalists do not mince words (or scores). Of 36 respondents, 30 wrote additional comments, and every one glowed, including the person who first mentioned the room was freezing.

(A teaching moment here: When attending events in hotels, layer, layer, layer. By the time the temperature in the large rooms adjusts to our liking, we’re home drinking adult beverages.)

Are there any reporters on your staff who could use a few tips on investigative reporting and watchdog journalism? We believe the remedy visits here in December.

Coming from out of state, Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters & Editors, is also an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.

A longtime IRE member himself, Horvit worked as a reporter, editor and projects team member at newspapers in Texas, North Carolina, Missouri and Florida.

Photojournalists enjoy the informal reviews of photos entered in our own contest. Maybe one who does not bring home the hardware could pick up some pointers. Or the reporters who just learned they will shoot photos on their smartphones along with interviewing might appreciate help.

David LaBelle, photographer, editor, teacher and author, worked for 20 newspapers and magazines. He directs the photojournalism program at Kent State University and taught at Western Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky.

CNHI’s Director of Digital Content Kayla Castille oversees digital content initiatives for a network of 67 daily newspapers. The former digital news producer and then managing editor for two TV station websites started her career as a reporter at Louisiana newspapers.

While she does not lead a journalism program at a university, she deals with papers of all sizes and will offer something for everyone.

Frequent seminar goers now expect two popular sessions: HSPA’s Steve Key and Public Access Counsellor Luke Britt will address access issues, while Evansville Courier & Press photojournalist

Denny Simmons will lead a panel in reviewing photos.

We understand it’s a Saturday conference, but after multiple discussions, we can’t find a better time.

Could staff members other than your winners build their confidence and careers by attending sessions presented by these successful veteran journalists?

Can you find an extra $69 or even $138 in the bottom of the coffer for a hard worker who hasn’t cracked the winners list yet?

We hope to see them in December.

(Hmmm … I hear a crackling sound and smell smoke. Anyone seen my soapbox?)

Karen T. Braeckel is director of the HSPA Foundation.