Megan Tady and I spent two days at the Democracy and Independence conference in Amherst, Mass., just a short drive from Megan's home in Northampton. For a collective as geographically dispersed as ours, we realized pretty quickly that the event served at least as much purpose in bringing two TNS staffers together as it did networking opportunities and so forth. I think we tend not to realize how strange it is that we work with people we rarely share downtime with, so I think we both found the weekend rewarding in that regard.
The conference itself was a mixed experience. It was much smaller than we had anticipated (though possibly that was my fault for making assumptions). Even still, we didn't wind up meeting a lot of people who do anything like what we do, so our opportunities to learn were limited. It didn't help that we were both exhausted by our usual full-time-and-then-some workweeks.
We tabled all day on Saturday, with our whole set-up including a digital projector and screen to display the image of our front page big and bright. However, the tabling was not a major aspect of the event, and it was relegated to a room away from all the others where panels were usually taking place, instead of in a social space where conference-goers might have congregated between or even during sessions, which is typically the way it's done. As a result, almost no one came to our table.
On Saturday, I participated in a panel discussion on citizen journalism. This was the highlight of the weekend because we had a real chance to expose people to our project wtihout having to to pull them aside in the hallway. Even though we are an all-professional operation instead of a citizen journalism endeavor, I think we turned out to fit in on the panel as TNS was started with the same values and intentions as many citizen journalism projects, all revolving around people-centered news coverage.
In the end, we probably missed more terrific people than we met, but we learned about (or were reminded of) some great projects that are worth checking out. Here are just a few:
The Tyee -- a progressive online news project in British Columbia.
ePluribus Media -- You really have to explore this collaborative journalism project to get a real grasp of it. We're hoping to brush up against these folks online in the near future.
The Forum -- A fascinating example of "citizen journalism" in a very small, conservative New Hampshire town.
The ePluribus folks have posted a far-more-thorough review, including a slew of great photos.
And many thanks to our Premium Members and donors for making our attendance of important events like this possible. We spent less than $400 on this whole trip, even though it was the most expensive conference we've attended yet.