What follows is a note written by Fred Myers, longtime journalist and ACT Experience annual attendee…
Hi Samir . . . .
You really did ring the bell this time. It’s always easy to say “the best yet” even if there’s a nagging feeling it wasn’t. But not this time. From my perspective, it was about as close to perfection as one can ever expect or hope for. Even things over which you had no control, mainly the weather, bowed in your direction.
The conference began on a high note and stayed that way until the end with all the presenters giving an excellent performance in terms of content, timing and delivery. More presenters tended to stay longer or even to the end rather than leave right after their presentation.
Scheduling the conference to coincide with class periods was a great idea. Having so many more students attend did much to fulfill the original intent of the event. Also, I believe you have finally found the perfect way to wind up the event. That is, you kept the program strong right to the end then lost no time in getting everyone to Clarksdale where everyone had the exact amount of time to unwind and immerse themselves in music before calling it quits.
In my opinion, the only downside in all of this was the opening dinner. I don’t know about anyone else, but my food not only was mediocre but also ranged from cold to barely lukewarm when it was served. Also, I don’t multi-task very well so I found it difficult to eat and listen to who was speaking and do justice to both at the same time. Also, starting the evening program at almost the same time we began eating shut down table conversation. Even worse, with such a tight agenda I found myself not being able to properly absorb the highly informative and powerful performances by both Linda and James. All of this was on top of what had already been a long travel day for most people there.
Back to the positive, several first timers vowed they would be back and it’s not difficult to understand why they say that. It’s an easy professional atmosphere on an exceptionally easy campus. Even those competing with each other in the everyday business world feel themselves loosening and relating easily, enjoyably and profitably. The only caution is you dare not let this event become much larger than it already is lest it lose that closeness and camaraderie that give it a distinctive flavor and an inviting nature that plays so well with the students.
Now, and to look forward, here’s a suggestion. In all the discussion concerning print vs. digital and how to survive in a less than a friendly environment mix of tradition, economics and technology, we have said much about the critical importance of quality content and how to use it in serving that part of the intended audience. That’s all well and good. After all, the industry has had to have some kind of peg on which to hang its future. Yet, not directly addressed is what it takes to achieve that quality and I believe it’s now time for that subject to take center stage.
What kind of editors and writers are needed? How do we acquire them? What qualities do we look for? What kind of atmosphere must we have to accommodate their creativity? What’s the best mix between staff and contract writers? What about pay or other forms of compensation? How do we nourish not only creativity but also ingenuity, a state of mind or being fostering the emergence of the best that person has to offer? And what about the connection between what’s supplied by the journalist and the result of complementary and enhancing elements of art, design and layout?
There’s a limit as to how much of this can and should be treated at any given ACT. The purpose, however, isn’t to explore these areas in exhaustive detail but rather to cause thoughts and ideas to emerge as how best to achieve a higher level of journalistic quality in view of tighter budgets and reader demands. Some publications are already doing it. Many more need to.
On a far more personal note, Samir, I’ve often wondered why my keen interest in ACT and my willingness to pay for the privilege of attending and delving into the challenging professional intercourse it offers. After all, last Friday, I had no office to return to, no staff to be concerned with and no next issue of a magazine to fill. I already have too much to do before I croak, speaking of which, at 86 I’m already living on borrowed time.
I didn’t have the answer but someone I was talking with did. They said, “You may not be in the industry but the industry is certainly in you.” I think they’re onto something.
I mention this because when I react to something Bo has on his blog, he nearly always includes it in his reader feedback. Me providing insights he values highly enough to share with 15,000 movers and shakers in this industry? I don’t see that happening but it is. Even in the early hours of this year’s ACT, I concluded in the simplest way what I believe has been the cause of much of the uproar in the industry these last few years.
Simply stated, I see every publisher as having a structure consisting of three layers — mission (what is to be achieved), vision (the plan for getting there) and methodology (tools used for completing the mission). The mission never changes, the vision may change but only for good reason and the methodology is always changing.
We got into trouble when we allowed mission and vision to get caught up in what became a wild west situation in methodology that, in turn, led to such aberrations as content marketing. How much better it would have been if we could have managed to keep the mission, the rock solid foundation intact and kept our view on the future and wrestled with methodology on its own terms. The good news in all of this is that we seem to have reached a plateau of sorts on which some signs of stability are emerging.
I tried that out on several people including Linda Thomas Brooks and Jim Elliott. True, that they didn’t disagree might have been a matter of courtesy, but I don’t think so. They are no-nonsense folks and I got the feeling my point was well taken.
I give you all this because I think it feeds back into the intense enthusiasm I have for what you are doing at Ole Miss with ACT being the specific. This is an exciting and highly rewarding industry in which as a journalist I’ve played only a minor role. Yet, allowing it to prevail provides me with an undeniable sense of purpose.
The only other element I can add is that I seem to be blessed with a considerable amount of what I call “country boy logic.” In fact, I recently nailed that down as an internet domain name under which I’ve already drafted 7,000 words that I see as the beginning of a book written to that theme.
I realize I’ve put a lot on you this morning. I apologize if too much.
In the meantime, bask in the light of your latest success. You deserve every bit of it.
If you have any comments regarding the ACT Experience, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be more than glad to publish you comments. The ACT Experience’s goal is to provide the best information about the magazine and magazine media industry current industry leaders as they interact with the future industry leaders.
Thank you one and all and save the date for ACT 9 Experience April 23 thru April 25, 2019.