We can always improve

It is nice to be back on flat land, sleeping in my own bed, and eating at normal times. I love the annual Interna?tional Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors Conference every year, but there are just certain things that can?t be beat.

Lindsey and I returned from Durango, Colo., on Monday with more knowledge and ideas than I ever could have hoped for the Hills?boro Free Press and the rest of the newspaper group.

We received many complements on the newspaper, but there were plenty of editors and publishers challenging us to get better, which is why I love that conference so much.

Everything can always improve.

We were critiqued from folks near and far, editors and publishers from Washington to Glasgow, Scotland, and even a Pulitzer Prize finalist. We also sent papers back to Australia to have our friend Barry look them over and give us a few pointers.

It was very humbling and encouraging. Outside of the critiques, the sessions were interesting as well. We heard from publishers who have dealt with major disasters in their area, which was scary to say the least.

One publisher told a story of much of his town, including his office, being destroyed by a mad man who built a tank out of a bulldozer, equipped it with guns and reinforced steel, and proceeded to drive it through Main Street, one building at a time.

Another publisher told us how she dealt with giant forest fires in Colorado, putting out her paper, all while the fires threatened her home and the homes of her friends.

The stories go on and on. We will be drawing up disaster plans because of this discussion and think most business owners should do the same. You never know when something crazy could happen.

One of the coolest things we got to experience was a talk from Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Mitchell, who wrote a string of stories about the Synanon Cult through his weekly newspaper, ?The Point Reyes Light,? in California.

His stories helped educate people about the dangers of this cult when major media outlets wouldn?t touch it with a 10-foot pole because of million-dollar lawsuits being filed by the cult. Mitchell was brave and was recognized for his excellent journalism with the Pulitzer Prize.

Mitchell has been a member of the group for years and gladly shared his story, which was inspiring. There were hundreds of other things I could share, but the above were just a few of my favorites.

The conference every year is eye-opening and helps us improve. I come back once again jazzed up about community journalism and making our newspaper group the best it can be.

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