The SND conference reflects the changing times we live and work in and how the current situation is hugely impacting professionals

News media professionals from across the board meet every year during a workshop organised by the Society for News Design (SND), an international non-profit organisation based in the US. This year the workshop was held in St Louis, Missouri. More than 80 speakers from all over the world shared their experience in print, tablet and online publishing. This year what drew attention was the optimism for the future. Although the financial crises affected the news industry in America the annual meeting revealed a kind of hope for the future for news technologies and even for print editions in emerging countries.

Crises were also responsible for life changes in people, but sometimes it can be for the better according
to a presentation by Charles Apple, a visual journalist consultant, instructor and ACES (American Copy Editors Society) columnist in his presentation, Reinvent Yourself; Reinvent Your World.(Read the Charles Apple’s thought) He mentioned a long list of great professionals in journalism who changed the profession because of their situation: a lost job, becoming frustrated or simply taking a chance to make their dreams come true. These include a journalist who opened a successful restaurant, or another who started writing a book or yet another who started a small newspaper by a paradise beach all by himself. Sometimes situations force us to take another direction but in the end everything turns out OK – a professional still lives his life with dignity. And in some cases things turn out better than when they were working in the media industry.Rob King, vice-president and editor in chief of ESPN digital media, shared his father’s advice on facing difficult situations “It’s going to work out. You just don’t know how yet.” King also said we should think of our jobs as “a journey, not a career. … If you think you’ve been in the same job for years, you’re not doing it right.”

‘No Longer a Tourist’ was the session presented by Bill Gaspard, design director of China Daily, originally from America, who now lives in Beijing. The topic covered the prospects of finding a job overseas and becoming an expatriate employee. The presentation gave a practical look at the prospects and pitfalls of a new adventure and the reality of working in a different culture and language.

Lifetime achievement

Roger Fidler receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from SND President Steve Dorsey

One of the highlights of the event was the presentation of the SND Lifetime Achievement Award. It’s a special recognition for professionals in the news industry for maintaining standards of quality and innovation. This year, the awards went to Roger Fidler and Gayle Grin.

Fidler is the digital programme director at Digital Publishing Alliance at the University of Missouri’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. In 1981 he began experimenting and developing portable, flat screen reading devices. In the 1990s, he created and led Knight-Ridder’s Information Design Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

In 1994, Roger’s team produced a video to showcase this vision: The Tablet Newspaper: A Vision for the Future around 20 years ago before Apple produced it on an industrial scale.

Gayle Grin is AME Visual for the Canadian newspaper The National Post. She won the award for her creative work and leadership at papers in Canada and her enthusiastic, smart and tireless work on behalf of SND; sowing seeds, pumping energy and good humour into the board’s work and discussions, setting the stage for many of its initiatives. Her level of involvement at the board level, in workshops around the world and in facilitating the annual competition, is amazing.

According to Steve Dorsey, vice-president of R&D at the Detroit Media Partnership and president of SND, “This conference itself is a reflection of the changing times we live and work in. It’s the culmination of unprecedented collaboration, with a tight focus on our shift to digital innovation and storytelling”. As for the visual aspects of publications, the UAE ranks high in quality of design, creativity and innovation among the top 10 countries. Newspapers from the country have won a number of awards for excellence in the ‘Best of News Design’ category.

The SND competition surely helps raise standards of design, but the most difficult and important things are maintaining the quality and thinking about how we can become better.