Lessons learned from Nebraska Press Women’s first virtual conference

By Wilma Moore-Black

After its conference was canceled due to the COVID pandemic, Nebraska Press Women (NPW) finally hosted its annual conference Saturday, Oct. 17. It was an untraditional, historic conference — virtually via Zoom — from 9:15 to 11:30 a.m. sharp. I saw the NPW invitation and decided to join in.Wilma Moore Black

Ruth Brown and Sherry Thompson, conference co-organizers, kicked off the event with some tips on how to log in, unmute yourself, converse in the virtual chat and make sure everybody had clear communication. Jill Claflin, another co-organizer, spearheaded the virtual icebreaker called “Celebrating Us.”  This was a fun, interactive activity that participants explained what title they would give if they wrote their own autobiography.

Two seasoned journalists, Rebecca Steward and LuAnn Schindler, addressed challenges with the “Newspaper Start-Ups.” Both presenters discussed how and why they launched new weekly newspapers in 2019, have grown print and online readership, and how they are coping with 2020 COVID-19 challenges that are affecting the entire industry.

Schindler said it is important that the newspapers remain a trusted, reliable source regardless of the pandemic. Steward, who was a sports reporter turned general manager at the Gothenburg Leader, has learned to delegate. “I’m still learning, and I have learned to diversify. … We’re designing T-shirts and hosting a gift shop” in the newspaper business.

NPW president Lori Potter and her members were thrilled to have NFPW and other guests involved in their first virtual conference. Gwen Larson, the NFPW president who is from Kansas, shared updates from the national level during the virtual conference.  Terri Hahn, NPW contest co-director, presented the NPW professional contest awards and sweepstakes winner. NPW had 52 first-place entries that went on to the national competition. Individual winners had been listed in the NPW digital newsletter months ago, and the awards announced at the conference were the NFPW winners.

Mary Jane Skala, a Michigan State University graduate and former Ohio newspaper editor and Ohio affiliate member, was presented the NPW Communicator of Achievement award. She now is lifestyle editor at the Kearney (Nebraska) Hub newspaper and is the 2020 NFPW contest sweepstakes winner. Ruth Brown did an outstanding job of sharing the PowerPoint that showcased Skala.

“Bosses don’t have time to teach; only through organizations like NFPW do you add the fat that is critical for a successful career,” Skala was quoted on an NFPW blog by Teri Ehresman. “Professional friends become personal friends. I’ve attended conferences, made lifelong friends and seen parts of the U.S. that I might never had seen, thanks to NFPW. It polished my career.”

The series of PowerPoint images truly introduced you to Skala. I am grateful for the open invitation to the NPW conference, and I feel like I got better acquainted with 24 other NFPW members.

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