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    Your Guide to the 17 Journalism Conferences Worth Attending in 2015

    by Yael Grauer
    February 2, 2015
    Photo by Tony Hammond and reused here with Creative Commons license.

    The following piece is cross-posted from Contently. You can browse more media events, curated by MediaShift, here.

    It’s the new year, and you’ve just taken a long, hard look at your goals for the coming year. Get more work? Check. Learn new skills? Check. Make more money? Check. The thing is, all of these goals are predicated on meeting the right people who can help your career improve.

    "Writing conferences are certainly a great way to network and get a change of scenery for those of us who are used to communicating with people by email or phone. "

    Writing conferences are certainly a great way to network and get a change of scenery for those of us who are used to communicating with people by email or phone. So pull out your calendar, check out our roundup below, and figure out which of these conferences will help you meet your goals for 2015 — and beyond.

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    1. 2015 COMPUTER ASSISTED REPORTING CONFERENCE

    Dates: March 5–8
    Location: Atlanta, GA
    Cost: $250 by February 6, $280 by March 3, or $310 on-site, plus a $70 fee for an Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) membership. Students pay $100 plus $25 for membership.
    Why you should go: If you want to use more data in your stories but keep hitting walls, this conference will help you learn how to use spreadsheets, databases, and online maps and improve your data visualization and data science skills. Through panel discussions and hands-on training sessions, you’ll get to dig deep into design issues, data journalism, online security, and more. Classes can get geeky depending on your drug of choice: Google forms, Django, SQL, Excel, Access, Tableau, Unix, Python, etc.

    2. BINDERCON

    Dates: March 28–29
    Location: Los Angeles, CA (and online)
    Cost: $125 early-bird available now, which will presumably increase to more than $150. Or, you can pay $300 for your own ticket and a scholarship.
    Why you should go: Out of the Binders was formed to promote the voices of women and gender non-conforming writers, and the community surrounding the conference is incredibly welcoming and diverse. The symposium will include panels on cultivating your career and improving your craft, but also diversity and intersectionality — topics that usually aren’t covered in a meaningful way at many other events.

    3. SOCIETY OF AMERICAN BUSINESS EDITORS AND WRITERS SPRING CONFERENCE

    Dates: April 23–25
    Location: Chicago, IL
    Cost: Before March 25, members pay $299 and non-members pay $349. After that, rates increase to $349 for members and $399 for non-members. Students pay $125. Group rates are available.
    Why you should go: If you’re a business reporter, the SABEW conference has a lot to offer. The lineup of speakers is stacked — Rahm Emanuel, anyone? — and you’ll learn strategies for evaluating startups and entrepreneurs, covering business in a global economy, and enhancing your reporting with cutting edge technology.

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    4. ASSOCIATION OF HEALTH CARE JOURNALISTS HEALTH JOURNALISM 2015

    Dates: April 23–26
    Location: Santa Clara, CA
    Cost: $175 before March 6, $200 after March 6, and $225 on-site for members. Students receive $60 discounts, and some fellowships are available. Public information officers and PR reps pay anywhere from $325 to $800.
    Why you should go: Aside from being a very affordable conference, AHCJ is a treasure trove of medical expertise. If you’re on the science, health, or medical beat, you’ll likely leave with an improved understanding of health policy, medical research, and clinical medicine. The conference also includes optional field trips to research or health-related facilities as well as a freelance pitch fest for you to interact with editors directly, speed-dating style. Speaking this year is Abraham Verghese, a Stanford University physician and bestselling author.

    5. AMERICAN SOCIETY OF JOURNALISTS AND AUTHORS CONNECT FOR SUCCESS

    Dates: April 30–May 2
    Location: New York, NY
    Cost: Not set, but 2014’s early-bird conference fees were between $462 and $582 for members, including a members-only day on Thursday. Non-members paid anywhere from $358 to $438, depending on when they registered. Students got in for $200. Single day registrations were also available.
    Why you should go: If you’ve ever felt left out at a journalism conference since you weren’t on staff at a major publication, you’ll feel more at home at ASJA, where you’ll be surrounded by fellow freelancers. This conference contains tons of panels and sessions on business management, marketing, and writing and research techniques. And since it’s smack dab in New York City, the conference gets high-profile panelists from just about every beat. ASJA members get access to personal pitch sessions, where you can have speed-dating style meetings with publishers, agents, and even a handful of editors, so this conference is potentially lucrative in addition to being informative. Author Jennifer Boylan is speaking this year.

    6. MUSE & THE MARKETPLACE

    Dates: May 1–3
    Location: Boston, MA
    Cost: Not set, but last year was $465 for members and $495 for non-members.
    Why you should go: This three-day literary conference helps writers find that elusive balance between artistic excellence and working for money. Authors delve into the craft of writing, while agents, publicists, and editors talk business. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

    7. NORTH AMERICAN TRAVEL JOURNALIST ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE AND MARKETPLACE

    Dates: May 4–9
    Location: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
    Cost: $449 for members and $629 for non-members (including membership) before January 31. Non-media members pay $779. Hotel expenses and meals are included.
    Why you should go: Complementary airfare is available for members (but not companions), pre- and post-conference media tours are included with the registration fee, and your meals, lodging and transportation are provided by the host destination. You’ll have professional development seminars in the morning and a marketplace to meet with exhibitors and hear their destination promotion spiels. In the afternoons, you’ll be drinking cocktails, taking tours, and catching dinner, and listening to an evening keynote speakers. (A tentative conference schedule has been posted.) If you’re a travel writer who’s okay with the ethical issues of accepting freebies — and have your editor’s blessings — the North American Travel Journalists Association Spring Conference looks like a fun excuse for vacation.

    8. TRAVEL CLASSICS EAST

    Dates: May 28–31
    Location: Tarrytown, NY
    Cost: $750
    Why you should go: This conference is open to writers who have published three or more major magazine articles within the last year and a half. Like the NATJA conference, it includes meals as well as pre- and post-conference media tours. You’ll also get to sit in on presentations by top magazine editors and book agents and consult with them one-on-one.

    9. 2015 INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS AND EDITORS CONFERENCE

    Dates: June 4–7
    Location: Philadelphia, PA
    Cost: $250 by May 8, $280 by June 2 , or $310 on-site, plus a $70 fee for a one-year IRE membership. Students pay $100 student plus $25 for membership.
    Why you should go: Investigative journalism ain’t easy, but this conference provides guidance on locating documents, accessing public records, finding stories, and managing investigations. Although the schedule hasn’t been posted, the conference promises to cover a wide variety of beats, including public safety, health care, government, military, business, education, and the environment.

    10. OUTDOOR WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF CALIFORNIA SPRING CONFERENCE

    Dates: June 15–16
    Location: Big Bear Lake, CA
    Cost: $142 for members and $192 for supporting members. Lodging is included.
    Why you should go: If you like to work hard and play hard, this conference will give you a chance to get some fishing and off-roading in while working on improving your craft, gathering story ideas, and networking with other outdoor writers.

    11. MAYBORN LITERARY NONFICTION CONFERENCE

    Dates: July 17–19
    Location: Grapevine, TX
    Cost: $374 before May 1, $425 after May 1. Educators pay $354, and students pay $324.
    Why you should go: Prepare to be inspired by world-renowned storytellers in a series of lectures, panels, and one-on-one sessions. Keynote speakers this year include authors Anne Fadiman, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Alex Tizon. If that’s not enough, former New York Times editor-in-chief Jill Abramson is one of 18 featured speakers—with more to be announced. The overarching conference theme? “The great divide between the Haves and Have-Nots in American society and the social, economic, racial, cultural and political fissures created by this divide.”

    12. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR BLACK JOURNALISTS 2015 CONVENTION AND CAREER FAIR

    Dates: August 5–9
    Location: Minneapolis, MN
    Cost: Early bird tickets purchased by March 15 cost $325 for full and emeritus-retired members and associate members, $225 for student members, $275 for NABJ and affiliate chapter members, $550 for non-members, and $310 for non-member students.
    For those who register between March 15 and June 15, rates jump to $380 for full and emeritus-retired members and associate members and $275 for student members.
    On-site registration is $550 for full and emeritus-retired members or associate members, $300 for student members, $600 for non-members, and $350 for non-member students. Daily rates are also available.
    Why you should go: NABJ, the largest organization of journalists of color in the nation, has been hosting these conventions since 1975. The workshop and program topics are phenomenal, and includes sessions ranging from covering the aftermaths of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, covering Ebola in West Africa, female sports journalism, entrepreneurial journalism, building sources and contacts, how the increased digital presence impacts the black press, and more. The convention also includes a pitch fest when freelancers can bring story ideas to science and health editors.

    13. 25TH ANNUAL ASIAN AMERICAN JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION NATIONAL CONVENTION

    Dates: August 12–15
    Location: San Francisco, CA
    Cost: $250 for members and $375 for non-members who register by April 12; $325 for members and $450 for non-members who register by June 14. And $400 for members or $525 for non-members who register on-site. Student members pay $100 by April 12, $150 by June 14, or $200 on-site.
    Why you should go: AAJA’s four-day convention is stacked with panels, workshops, lightning talks, and breakout sessions covering both industry and community issues. Although the schedule hasn’t been released, past conferences have covered everything from investigative reporting to freelancing basics, visual/design work, social media, photojournalism, and programming. The conference also includes a career fair and allows both student journalists and professionals to get critiques from seasoned veterans in the industry.

    14. ONLINE NEWS ASSOCIATION ONA15

    Dates: September 24–26
    Location: Los Angeles, CA
    Cost: Although the exact deadlines have not been posted, early bird tickets will cost $439 for members and $769 for non-members. “Getting closer” tickets will cost $549 for members and $879 for non-members. And “almost there” tickets will cost $659 for members and $989 for non-members. Student members pay $150 and non-member students pay $175. Last year, registration closed two weeks before the conference.
    Why you should go: Online News Association is at the cutting edge of digital reporting, and this conference is a perfect opportunity to geek out on everything from legal issues to news gathering techniques. If you’re a developer or technologist working with the media in some capacity, you will find a happy home here, whether you’re looking for nitty-gritty hands-on sessions or conceptual discussions. For this reason, ONA attracts attendees (and vendors) from the Guardian, The New York Times, Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. The combination of star power and everyone being on multiple devices at all times makes it a bit more challenging for freelancers to network, but the amount of quality information presented more than makes up for it.

    15. SOCIETY OF ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALISTS 25TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE

    Dates: October 7–11
    Location: Norman, OK
    Cost: Not set. Last year was $240 for members, $80 for students, and $1,150 for non-members.
    Why you should go: Whether you cover fracking, tornadoes, pollution, or conservation, you’ll get to explore facets of environmental science with advocacy leaders, scientists, government officials, and fellow environmental journalists. Although the schedule isn’t posted yet, the Society for Environmental Journalists conference will take reporters on tours to renowned research and operations centers that deal with severe weather, climate, water conservation, and oil exploration. You’ll also be able to ask experts questions on-site.

    16. JOURNALISM AND WOMEN SYMPOSIUM CONFERENCE AND MENTORING PROJECT

    Dates: Oct 9–11
    Location: Whitefish, MT
    Cost: Not set, but last year’s early bird rates were $345 for members and $445 for non-members. Regular rates went up to $375/400 for members and $475/500 for non-members.
    Why you should go: JAWS CAMP has a cozy and comfortable vibe, with conference attendees encouraged to wear jeans and t-shirts. Although the schedule isn’t yet set, past conferences have included panels on new media ethics, intensive training in editing and investigative reporting, documentary film screenings, morning yoga, and cocktail hours.

    17. SCIENCEWRITERS 2015

    Dates: October 9–13
    Location: Cambridge, MA
    Cost: Not set, but last year’s rates were $175 for members and $325-$350 for non-members
    Why you should go: This joint conference, bought to you by the National Association of Science Writers and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, features briefings on scientific research, professional development workshops, lab tours, and science field trips.

    So there you have it — conferences as close as your backyard and as far as Puerto Vallarta. Remember to register sooner rather than later, as early bird prices increase, hotel blocks fill up quickly, and limited field trip slots at some conferences disappear.

    This post originally appeared on Contently.

    An investigative journalist at heart, Yael writes about world-changing tech startups, online privacy, and cutting-edge fitness research. She covers controversies and movements with nuance and depth.

    Tagged: conferences explainers freelancers guides
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