Last week, we criticized the decision of Advance Internet President & Creator Director Jeff Jarvis not to speak at the Online News Association‘s annual conference because the ONA plans to charge each speaker a regular attendee’s registration fee. We think the ONA’s policy is wrong, but we think Jarvis’s reaction is wrong, too. However, another reason Jarvis mentions is:
- “…I said that what makes these industry organizations worthless to me — the reason I have maintained a hermit’s distance from them — is that they are usually just newspaper people talking to newspaper people. And that may be fine for newspapers (that’s for them to judge) but it’s not for this new medium.
“What an ‘Online News Association’ should be doing is expanding its worldview to incorporate and learn from new definitions of news and new challenges to old views of how news is gathered and how it is used.”
We entirely agree with him that most of these conferences (including the Newspaper Association of America’s ‘Connections’ and Editor & Publisher magazine’s ‘Interactive Newspapers’ conferences) are woefully insular and regurgitate the same topics and discussions each year. We remember the wisdom of Christian Science Monitor Online Associate Editor Tom Regan, who once said that a newspaper executive will learn far more attending any consumer electronics, graphic arts, or other conference outside his industry than he will attending an online newspaper conference.
Nevertheless, online newspaper conferences will continue to be insular unless speakers speak in them about how insular they are, bring them outside ideas, new concepts, and shake them up. (That sounds like a wonderful opportunity for Jarvis, whose savvy could benefit online newspaper executives.) Being a hermit neither attending nor speaking at those conferences won’t solve the problem.) It’s a cop-out, not a solution.