Meetings reaffirm papers

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By Tim Timmons

It was nice to see a lot of old faces as well as several new ones at the recent Annual Meetings and Government Conference.

For those who were there, thank you for coming.

For those who weren’t, let me share a little bit of what you missed – and urge you to attend the HSPA and HSPA Foundation event next year.

Let’s start with a giant tip of the cap to the HSPA staff.

From Executive Director and General Counsel Steve Key to Foundation Director Karen Braeckel to Administrative Assistant Shawn Goldsby to Com­munications Specialist Milissa Tuley to MAP advertising director Pamela Lego to Office Manager Yvonne Yeadon, the conference is truly a group effort. We’re blessed to have such a great staff.

Next, let’s talk about the prizes.

Randall Shields, publisher at The Daily Reporter (Greenfield), won an iPad 2.

Randall’s round table ideas were voted the best of the best, and he was justly rewarded for sharing.

There were also other great prizes, including gift cards.

How about a free room?

For those who didn’t want to make the drive to Indy two days in a row, HSPA generously paid the bill for a night at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown.

Can’t speak for everyone, but it was awfully enjoyable to be able to stay late, share quality time with colleagues and even enjoy a cocktail or three.

The speakers were outstanding.

First there was a dynamic publisher panel that featured The Indianapolis Star’s Karen Crotchfelt, CNHI’s Robyn McCloskey, KPC’s Terry Householder and The Elkhart Truth’s Brandon Erlacher.

This honorable group gave us insights as to some of the good things going on in each of their businesses.

Chris Lee came all the way from The Deseret News (Salt Lake City) to take us on a trip into hell and brought us back out again (I think).

Tonda Rush, chief executive officer of the National Newspaper Association, helped us understand the madness of postal issues, and Indianapolis attorney Daniel Byron gave us some great tools to avoid libel problems.

Of course there was the Legislators Luncheon, when everyone had a chance to break bread with legislators.

If nothing else, that time alone makes the conference worthwhile.

Perhaps the biggest highlight was the two awards given out.

Retiring Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard was honored with the Frank O’Bannon Sunshine Award for his support of open government.

And Tribune-Star (Terre Haute) Editor Max Jones joined a who’s who of Indiana newspaper elite as this year’s Distinguished Service Award recipient.

But more than anything, at least for me, the conference reaffirmed the strength of our industry.

In light of the toughest few years we’ve seen, we’re still standing.

Great ideas were still shared.

Growth was reported.

While one revenue category slides, another one goes up.

While news becomes more fragmented than ever, interest in the news we offer remains high.

A few years ago at this conference, Gov. Mitch Daniels spoke to our assemblage and admitted he was a newspaper guy at heart. Chief Justice Shepard said he is, too.

Smart people usually are.

Our industry, like every other industry in this great land, continues to face challenges.

It’s harder today than it was 10 or 20 years ago.

That seems to be the way of the world now.

But the reality is that this state’s newspapers offer our readers information.

Information that’s credible.

Information that’s accurate.

Information that’s timely.

Oftentimes it’s information they can’t get anywhere else.

Almost always it’s information that’s important.

The Annual Meetings and Government Conference, your conference, was a good reminder of that.

Tim Timmons is publisher of The Paper of Montgomery County (Crawfordsville) and The Times (Noblesville) and president of the HSPA board of directors.