Dishing with Dee: Queens papers head north for N.Y. Press awards convention

By Dee Richard

This weekend was one of my favorite annual treks. It was the New York Press Association’s spring convention at the Gideon Putnam Hotel Resort in upstate Saratoga Springs.

The format seldom changes: It’s usually comprised of two intensive days of instruction Friday and Saturday. NYPA offers 36 different seminars each day covering every aspect of the profession. The difficulty involved is that you can only attend four seminars a day. The tough decision is to determine which four will suit your professional needs best.

This year, there were so many lectures dedicated to computer-assisted reporting, local mobile strategies, embracing the Web, effective use of social media and the entire spectrum of applications.

This year’s convention seemed more like one for techies. Whatever happened to my fourth estate ink and printing press-type of journalism? Where are all the writers who were larger than life and characters in their own way?

I refer to the likes of Jimmy Breslin, the brothers McCourt, Ed Sullivan and Dorothy Kilgallen, to say nothing of the highly competitive gossip columnists of that genre Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. They were quite different than today’s crop of journalists, who all seem to be melding into a somewhat flat, academic group rather than the cutting-edge type of the past. We live in a changing world — if you don’t change with it, you become a dinosaur.

The question is are all changes really for the best, or should some be allowed to exist in their uniqueness even if they might seem an anachronism? Will our multifaceted former type of journalism be superseded by a bland, impersonal technological type of journalism? Personally, I would prefer deja vu all over again.

Friday’s luncheon speaker was Terry Anderson, who was chief Middle Eastern correspondent for the Associated Press in 1985. He was kidnapped in Beirut by Shiite militants and held prisoner for nearly seven years. The comments Anderson made on Friday were, “We are living in very interesting times, with new technologies, like Facebook, Twitter, the Internet and blogs.” He also said, “The First Amendment protects the press, but who really is the press when everyone and anyone can publish?” Anderson was an interesting and informative speaker and we could listen to him for hours.

At 6 p.m. Friday, everyone dressed up to attend the cocktail party/dinner at the Canfield Casino. The hors d’oeuvres, dinner and desserts were all gourmet creations. During the evening, you could try your luck at gaming tables. In its heyday it was the casino of choice for the wealthy and powerful. Thank goodness the locals realized its value and got it landmarked as a historic building, which is now a museum and can be rented for special events. If you are ever up that way and are into old buildings and gorgeous architecture, be sure to check it out.

On Saturday morning at the 7:30 a.m. breakfast, NYPA featured “Baroquen Chords,” the electric light student orchestra from Columbia High School. Sorry to say I missed out on that one, as we were out too late Friday night and a 7:30 a.m. breakfast was beyond our best efforts. In fact, we barely made the first 9 a.m. seminar. Sorry about that.

The grand finale Saturday night was the annual cocktail party and awards dinner in the Gideon Ballroom. A number of weeklies from Queens sent publishers, editors and reporters to the convention and were among the 171 papers that submitted entries in 60 award categories.

The windup Saturday night after the awards dinner was dancing and drinks in the Arches, the entertainment was provided by Bryan Boyhan of The Sag Harbor Express and the Foy brothers. Michelle Rea and Rodger Coleman are to be congratulated on the outstanding job they did producing this year’s convention,

By the way, the snow was still piled up 10 feet high in some places. I am looking forward to seeing you same place, same time next year.

That’s it for this week.

I look forward to hearing from you with information on people, parties and politics or gossip. I like receiving your voice mails at 718-767-6484, faxes at 718-746-0066 and e-mails at deerrichard@aol.com.

Don’t forget to check out the Focus on Queens page.

Till next week, Dee.

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