Put a few hundred journalism majors in a hotel for a few days and they’re bound to analyze every waking minute of the weekend. Deeply examined topics ranged from anxious inquiries of dresses being too reminiscent of high school homecoming dances for an awards banquet to the ethical challenges photographers face when a child in a museum is behaving as an ideal subject for a feature photo competition.
This was my first Journalism Association of Community Colleges state conference. I had attended the Northern California JACC last semester at LMC. It had been a day spent trying to figure out which workshop to go to next and would anyone I know be going to it?
The state conference brought together twice the amount of people and lasted three times as long in our state’s capital. All I was sure about going in was that it would be close-quartered, sweaty and strung out on all of us journalist’s drug of choice: caffeine. Little did I know I was in for a lot of surprises, for better and worse.
Naturally, the accumulation of so many critical minds ended up an ideal breeding ground for intellectual ideation, a.k.a. complaining about all that was wrong with the weekend. I asked my classmates to repeat their criticisms that dominated quite a few conversations that weekend.
The Doubletree, which more than 350+ community college students stayed at for three days, was actually a maze in disguise that forced us to create in our phone “notes” a list of directions in order to get back to our rooms.
The most common complaint was that the variety of intriguing workshops was sullied by the overlapping of them all and often happened during one of the competitions, which meant I couldn’t go to the workshop on how to report on LGBTQ issues, something dear to me. But I soon learned the presenter of that workshop was not qualified to speak on such an issue, bordering on offensive at times.
Every person at the con noticed the most embarrassing folly when the projector that was used for big events in the banquet hall kept cutting out. You’d think they’d have had this under control by the third day for the awards banquet but no; it somehow managed to get worst by repeating photos we’d already seen in addition to its previous problems.
But the suggestion on how we may change the conference that seemed to really sum up a lot of my own thoughts came from our Sports page editor, “Instead of all of us competing in writing and photo contests, we all have to try to steal a valuable jewel from inside (the hotel), ‘Oceans 11’ style.”
At first it was a non-response. But when I let myself consider it, it became undeniable that I would sooner win that jewel than a story competition. I am not salty that I did not win (I didn’t even finish my story). Rather, I am salty that my competition’s atmosphere set me up for failure.
A student who wouldn’t stop questioning every word that came out of our proctors’ mouths disrupted the room for ten minutes in which we were writing our feature stories. I am not one to blame the common idiot though; they usually prove to not possess the IQ to know when to shut the hell up (in retrospect, I’m convinced she’s actually a genius with a foolproof strategy to weed out the competition who may need every minute).
I am, however, disappointed that the proctors didn’t tell us when our time started and didn’t pause it for us while loud mouth sprayed her rather distracting feelings all over our precious time. They also took the first five to seven minutes of our writing time to explain the rules and technicalities and oh also, how valuable our time was.
All in all, despite all that we found wrong, I wouldn’t trade the weekend for another shot at it. After all, I secretly appreciated the extra calories burned on my mile trek to and from my ever-evading room.
What really surprised me most of the con was the immediate camaraderie that spawned between my peers. It didn’t even take us getting to the conference for us to have fun; the ride there had us all laughing when the GPS wanted us to take a left into a pile of dirt.
It made me sad that I had spent almost three semesters working long hours in the same room every week with these people but a single weekend in which we were forced to pay attention to each other’s existence and behaviors outside of a newsroom revealed so many shared interests and thoughts. I don’t like surprises but that weekend I embraced the experience.