PA Press Conference 2016 looks to the future of news media

  • May 26, 2016

Cara Neil, Communications Director

The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, Pennsylvania Society of News Editors, and the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors Pennsylvania AP Broadcasters Association (PAPBA), in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists, hosted the 2016 Pennsylvania Press Conference, held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

This year’s event, held May 20-21, was booked solid with awards presentations, informative sessions, and countless networking opportunities with editors and colleagues from around the Commonwealth.

Two Online Reporter Project Interns tackle PA Press Conference
This year’s Press Conference was covered by two interns as part of the Online Reporter Project. Blaine Grisak and Michael McCarrick were charged with covering sessions, awards presentations and telling the stories of the attendees. One of this year’s most notable stories was on Keystone Press Award winners Chip and Paige Minemyer. Chip is the editor at The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown), and his daughter, Paige, works with the Altoona Mirror. Each won top honors in the state press awards.

Special thanks to our Online Reporter Project mentors: Liz Allen, Erie Times-News (ret.), Marta Gouger with The Times News (Lehighton), and Mike Sisak, AP.

The comprehensive coverage can be read at

Sessions focused on the future of news media
The speaker and session lineup for this year’s event covered topics from photojournalism to data journalism, video to apps, and the Right to Know Law. A few notable takeaways:

  • Changing Newsroom Culture: Lead the Integration of Video into Your Newsroom The PNA Foundation workshop focused on ways editors and managers can —and must — be the culture-changers in the newsroom. Leaders need to be fully committed to new ideas and projects in order to help get the rest of the newsroom excited about the changes. Led by Drew Berry and Pat Walker (Calkins Media, ret.), both speakers stressed the importance of video in newsroom evolution. Walker explained how she regularly went on sales calls to help build up the energy and excitement about video products and possibilities. She said her enthusiasm helped to get the clients excited too, and more signed on as a result. The last bit of advice they gave was to never be afraid to try something new and to never stop experimenting.
  • News Nerdery for Audience Engagement
    Moderated by Eric Ulken and led by Lauren Ancona, Erika Owens, and Joel Shannon, this session focused on engaging audiences with data in ways that is more than simply creating a bar graph or basic map. Each presenter discussed how they used data and data tools to increase audience engagement.Owens discussed the many tools available online that sift through dense, confusing data. She shared four resources that are readily available for journalists to use:
    • Tabula — a PDF editor that takes copied text from a PDF and keeps the formatting and removes any unnecessary symbols. As Owens described it, “It changes PDF copy into non-garbled text.”
    • •oTranscribe — a free, online transcriber, making by-hand transcribing a thing of the past.
    • Trint — a text-powered toolkit for transcribing, searching, and editing media (audio and videos) online. Also allows easy editing, searching and sharing of audio and video directly from text.
    • Census Reporter — an online database designed to sort out the census data you’re looking for without the hassle of downloading dozens of Excel sheets.

    Shannon’s recommendations also include:

    • SVG Graphics — takes graphics for print and allows you to create an interactive version with a few basic coding skills. Downside to this tool is that it must live outside of the CMS, meaning it is hosted elsewhere on the web and embedded into your site.
    • SVG Graphics — takes graphics for print and allows you to create an interactive version with a few basic coding skills. Downside to this tool is that it must live outside of the CMS, meaning it is hosted elsewhere on the web and embedded into your site.
    • Calculators — although, not the name of a tool, Shannon explained how calculators greatly increased engagement. When creating a calculator, he said knowledge of server-side coding is required, but the remaining code process is basic. The upside of the calculator and server-side coding is that the code is reusable. The only changes come in the next steps, which use HTML and CSS. This type of development also lives outside of the CMS.
    • Motion Graphics — videos, which can live inside any video-hosting platform. These can be created like a slideshow or with a stop-motion effect. These videos turned out incredibly high audience engagement numbers each time Shannon creates one. The videos can be created by anyone, but are time consuming. Shannon recommends hiring someone with a motion graphic background if possible.

Ancona is not a journalist, but lives in the world of open data. She encouraged anyone working with code to think “users first.” She added, if you need something to be created with data and coding, try to make it something that can be re-purposed or re-used later (like a calculator). When working with any kind of creative graphic, Ancona advised to think mobile-first and then desktop.

  • Uncovering the Right to Know Law
    Right to Know Law attorneys Craig Staudenmaier and Melissa Melewsky gave updates about recent legislation and cases affecting public access to records.
  • The 10 Apps Every Reporter Should Have on Their Phone
    Anna Orso and Steven Ibanez shared their thoughts on the Top 10 apps every reporter should have on their phones. They agreed that Snapchat, Yik Yak, Periscope, Google Voice, Google Photos, Genius Scanner, Videolicious, Hyperlapse and Boomerang, 5-0,, and Dark Sky are must-haves. For a full recap of what each app does, click here. 
  • Photography in the Danger Zone
    Photojournalists David Handschuh and Richard Drew shared their harrowing stories of being at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Both recounted detailed and moving stories of what was going through their minds at the time of taking some of their most famous work. Handschuh, who has become an advocate for trauma experienced by journalists, emphasized the importance of being open with fellow journalists who have experienced trauma on the job.

Keystone Press Awards Banquet
The Saturday evening event recognized hundreds of outstanding writers, editors and photographers from across Pennsylvania. Special award winners addressed the crowd, while sweepstakes winners shared acceptance videos. Watch the winners’ videos from The Bethlehem Press, TheBurg, Reading Eagle, PennLive/The Patriot-News, Central Penn Business Journal, and Beaver County Times.

Additional Awards
In addition to the Keystone Awards, outstanding journalism was honored at the PAPME and PAPBA Awards, PWPA Awards, and the SPJ Awards.

PAPME also announced that Anthony Fleet, a 2016 La Salle University graduate, won the 2016 Ralph Flamminio Memorial Scholarship. Fleet is attending graduate school at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University to study interactive journalism and integrated marketing. During the PWPA luncheon, Kimmi Baston, a rising senior communications major with a focus in journalism and electronic media at Waynesburg University, was awarded the Teresa Spatara Memorial Scholarship. 

The annual two-day Pennsylvania Press Conference covers issues of importance to editors, reporters and broadcasters, and is sponsored by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA), Pennsylvania Society of News Editors (PSNE) and the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors (PAPME), in conjunction with the Pennsylvania AP Broadcasters Association (PAPBA), Pennsylvania Women's Press Association (PWPA), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).  

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