#ASJANY2018 - Green Conference Report

Green with envy, that is, for those of us who, for one reason or another, were unable to attend #ASJANY2018, a very special event on many levels. But sometimes the next best thing to being there can be hearing firsthand accounts and listening to the tapes when they become available in June (watch this space for more information).  So in the spirit of spring and flies on the wall—who hopefully have the good sense to go outside before my shoe and/or cats get them—here are some “overheard” comments and highlights:

Thursday night, 70th anniversary gala:

I was notified of my acceptance as a Professional level membership on May 1—I had planned on attending the conference, anyway—so I was thrilled that I could participate fully in everything, including the gala, which was outstanding. I wanted to put myself into as many rooms as possible. Yet, even though I was brand-new to ASJA, I felt like I could be myself from the first moment I walked in, even though I knew no one and the caliber of talent and experience was through the roof.  Kate Morgan (KM), new member and first-time attendee

Every detail of the gala was meticulously taken care of. The venue was perfect—a nice, clean space and balcony—and the networking fabulous. You didn’t really know who was who. We were just a group of professionals getting to know each other. That removed a lot of the barriers that normally happen at these types of events and made for great conversations. Linsey Knerl (LK), conference volunteer and publicity chair

Friday, Member’s Day:

The members did quite a bit of volunteering, and Client Connections went smoothly, much to the credit of Wendy Helfenbaum and her team, always true professionals. They’ve seen and experienced every possible scenario and somehow make it work, even though we were in a new venue.  I had five Client Connections, three of which were of very high-quality and which provided me with much food for thought on ways that I can remarket myself, such as working in a consulting capacity, which hadn’t occurred to me.  They [clients and editors] are serious about finding people; they go to ASJA with the understanding that we are pre-vetted and know our stuff. LK   

Awards ceremony, including Conscience in Media Award presented to Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of the late Daphne Caruana Galizia, and Salley Shannon, who received a  “surprise” Extraordinary Service Award: Salley seemed truly stunned and grateful and her husband and son walked up right as the award was announced;  she had no clue. It was also incredibly touching to see Matthew [Galizia] accept his mother’s award. Several family members from Malta were there, and he gave an inspiring speech about his mother’s work and how important journalism is. It felt like ASJA was truly honoring the tenets of the First Amendment and those who report in dangerous areas who don’t always have the same freedoms as we do in the U.S.  Carolyn Crist (CC), conference co-chair

The awards were so moving… [Conscience in Media Award honoree and] Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was murdered with a car bomb—that was the only way she could be stopped from telling the truth. We get so caught up in the day-to-day details of what we do that we can forget that the foundation of the freedom of the press is built on the backs of those willing to sacrifice their lives for it.  KM

Saturday sessions:  Each of the three tracks was focused and on-target to the level and topic they were aimed at. Even the beginner sessions offered a good refresher of what needs to be done and how things are constantly changing in our business. The keynoters for both days were varied and focused on the attendees, rather than trying to sell books or promote their own platform. All of the speakers were gracious and willing to interact with attendees and provide resources and information. LK

The pitch slam was the best! It gave me a huge boost of confidence, since I’d already written for a couple of the editors [at the magazine I pitched].  So when my turn came to pitch I got solid encouragement from a print outlet from a national magazine I’ve always admired. There’s something different and wonderful about walking into a bookstore and seeing your article on the magazine rack… The panel/workshop on personal essays was another standout. Along with listening to the panelists, we got to a chance to write the lead paragraph of an essay and share it with the others in the session. The feedback and range of ideas were hugely informative and inspiring. KM

The new venue (hotel): We had three tracks this year, so there were fewer sessions and fewer rooms to navigate at the same time. The session rooms and keynote rooms were all on one floor, which made it easier to navigate. The main (keynote) room was connected to the bookstore/food/lounge area, which made for nice transition for the keynotes to sign their books. Client Connections also took place in the main room and that ran smoothly as well. CC

It was clean and modern, although there was some confusion because people were unfamiliar with it. Although of course there are always some challenges with rooms and such, the conversations I heard on the elevator and elsewhere were that people thought it was a really good venue. LK


I went to Austin in February; it was great experience, although with a smaller group. You could sit down anywhere and feel immediately welcomed and at home. I wasn’t sure how this would play out in the larger New York capacity, but it was exactly the same! This is not necessarily true of the rest of the world so it’s wonderful to have a place where you receive such excellent support and camaraderie. LK

The conference exceeded my expectations! It was fabulous, I tell everyone who will listen to me, including those who aren’t as involved in writing as we are, like my mom and my boyfriend.  But the biggest takeaway was that there are no strangers in ASJA. Not only do we have much in common, but we each do so many different things and can learn so much from each other. Even, though as journalists, we are talking to others constantly, it can be isolating. And here’s a whole army of people who do exactly what we do and totally get the highs and lows of freelancing and why we love it so much. KM  

I, for one, am planning on attending ASJA 2019, barring unforeseen complications. Throughout the year, the conference will serve as impetus to work on my book of essays so I have a respectable chunk—if not all—to show potential publishers. And the inspiration and energy derived from convening with our tribe will provide much-needed fuel to be our best creative selves. 

Handouts are online! Click here to download handouts for Friday and Saturday conference sessions. And if you attended the conference, you received a link to complete a survey. Please make sure you do, as your responses help leadership decide how to improve the conference from year to year.