CUP's NASH conference and the business of journalism

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Photo: flickr/Alex Barth

More than 300 student journalists have gathered in Edmonton, Alberta at the Canadian University Press (CUP) annual NASH conference this week to hear a very strong message: think outside of the print product.

In an industry that is bombarded with shrinking newsrooms, layoffs and outsourcing, many young journalists today will no longer be working exclusively in print journalism. As well, the theme of business -- which was chosen by conference coordinators Andrea Ross and Alex Migdal -- has been prominent throughout the conference to promote financial awareness of the industry.

"It was kind of a new idea for NASH because NASH has always been focused on the editorial aspect of journalism," explained co-coordinator and University of Alberta student Migdal on the theme of business at the conference. "It was kind of a clever way to approach it, and especially in this day and age we thought it was super relevant."

But Migdal and Ross both think that journalism isn't dead or isn't going to be dead anytime soon. It’s just changing.

In addition to having sessions on editing, reporting and print design, CUP continued to offer many workshops and seminars on multimedia, video and data journalism, as well as many business sessions to help student papers survive through financial issues.

"We’re learning more and more that traditional media is no longer the thing that young journalists aspire to now," said Migdal.

Ross added, "People aren’t confined to having to work for a newspaper if they don’t see that as a viable option."

Many of the speakers understand that too and have been trying to pass along that advice to many of the students. Journalism in Canada is just not the same and it can never stay static.

"If you want to do journalism it’s just a matter of realizing that journalism just doesn’t look like you thought it did and to realize that it’s changing," said Alix Kemp, one of the NASH speakers and assistant editor at Alberta Venture.

However, the keynote speakers have been garnering much of the attention for the conference. The Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle, who is well known for her work on Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s substance abuse issues, and controversial conservative media personality, Ezra Levant, are two of four big headliners for the conference.

Doolittle’s talk on the first night of the conference on Wednesday focused on her work as a young journalist and how it helped her land a job at one Canada’s largest newspapers. In response to an audience question about the prominence of "Ford Nation" despite the mayor admitting to his crack use, Doolittle explained that "whether you think Rob Ford is a joke or not, the politics are real." She also mentioned the importance for papers to continue investigative journalism.

CUP’s decision to ask Levant to speak on the final night of the conference has received a lot of criticism and backlash from many student papers with some of them calling for a boycott of Levant’s talk.

"Let’s get people talking -- that’s what I wanted to do," said Migdal on the decision. "We are providing a platform for our audience to interact with him and I think there’s a really valuable discussion to take place."

The NASH conference runs from January 8 to 12.

Justin Smirlies is currently the Editor-in-Chief at The Cord. He recently received an Honours BA from Laurier with a major in history and a minor in film studies. One day, he hopes to become a journalist. Maybe.

Photo: flickr/Alex Barth  

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