Conference Moves to Hartford; Astor New Vice President

Downtown Hartford, Conn.

Downtown Hartford, Conn.

The board of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists voted unanimously at its Sept. 10, 2012, online chatroom meeting to move its 2013 conference from St. Petersburg, Fla., to Hartford, Conn.

The weekend for the convention remains the same, June 27-30, and humor columnist Dave Barry still is to be there to accept the year’s Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award.

The main reason for the change made Monday was the untimely Aug. 27 death of new NSNC President Larry Cohen, who also was wearing the mantel of 2013 conference chair because he lived near St. Pete. New President Eric Heyl called a special meeting for Aug. 30, where the board voted to quickly assess Hartford, Cohen’s home for decades and the base of several speakers already confirmed for Florida.

One such expert is Gina Barreca, the noted feminist speaker, humor columnist and professor of English at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

As Newsletter Editor Robert Haught wrote in the September eColumnist, “Cohen held a dual role as president and conference host. With no one ‘on the ground’ in Florida to manage the event and since no contracts had been signed, there appeared to be no practical option but to look elsewhere.”

2004-06 President Suzette Martinez Standring, attending the meeting to represent an ad hoc conference committee, noted that moving to Hartford would be to enable Cohen’s “able colleagues to step in to carry out Larry’s vision.”

Mark Twain's Hartford house

Mark Twain’s Hartford house

Assisting in the conference decision was Cohen’s friend Vincent M. Valvo. He is chief executive of Agility Resources Group, a branding/marketing/ meeting planning/membership services agency based in Connecticut. Valvo also is a weekly columnist for a Boston paper, having been a long-time writer, editor and publisher for a number of publications. He joined the NSNC earlier this year. Valvo and Cohen had been conferring on the 2013 conference for many months.

In fact, Cohen had enlisted Valvo to serve as an at-large board member, writing the board on Aug. 8: “I know it is a bit unusual to put a NSNC newcomer on the board, but Vince has kindly offered to contribute the kind of advice we definitely need — and his journalistic skills are outstanding.”

The board Monday voted in Valvo as 2013 conference chair, a one-year position with full privileges including voting.

Elected at the Aug. 30 called meeting to a one-year, at-large board position was 2002-04 President Mike Leonard.

• • •

The meeting Monday had an unusually large number of major decisions.

The board decided unanimously to retain the annual contest‘s six categories as they have stood for recent years: General interest columns in large- and small-circulation newspapers, humor columns in large- and small-circulation newspapers, and online-only columns appearing on large and small websites.

All column and blog genres, from politics to business, family to sports, reportage to satire, music to criticism, reflection to pop culture, and the continuous essay to compiled short items, the last often called three-dot journalism — are encouraged in all six categories.

Rules for the respected, independently judged contest — the only one of its kind in America — will be posted in January.

The board also endorsed returning cash prizes to all six categories, with $300 going to first-place winners, $200 to second-place and $100 to third-place. All finalists, including honorable mentions, also will receive signed certificates.

Dave Astor

Dave Astor

NSNC Archivist Dave Astor was approved to complete the nearly two-year term of vice president, as Heyl had moved up with Cohen’s passing.

The board solicits NSNC members in good standing to volunteer to replace Astor as archivist. The normally two-year archivist term ends in nine months, next June. Those interested columnists and bloggers are asked to use this site’s Contact Form or communicate with any board member.

 — by Ben S. Pollock, NSNC Director of Online Media


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