The editorial programming at AAN’s 2006 regional conferences was well received, while the advertising and design streams were uneven at best, according to the results of post-conference surveys completed by attendees. Regardless of the seminars they attended, though, most respondents considered the conferences to be an “overall success,” with 93 percent of those who attended AAN East in Washington, D.C., and 84 percent of AAN West attendees agreeing with that positive assessment.
The editorial track scored well across the board, led by the “Better Watchdog Workshops” presented by Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. (IRE) presenters Brant Houston and Ron Nixon; “Lessons Learned From a Pulitzer-Winning Investigation,” a panel discussion focusing on Nigel Jaquiss’ award-winning Neil Goldschmidt story; Willy Stern’s “20 Nuts and Bolt Reporting Tips”; and Mark Zusman’s look at “The Essential Ingredients of a Great Story.” In fact, respondent comments were sometimes effusive. One person called Willamette Week’s Zusman “a DREAM of an editor/publisher”, while another claimed that “Willy Stern is a genius.” But even those hosannas fell short of the ecstatic praise that the leader of the “Spectacular Arts Writing” seminar drew from one attendee: “Bill Wyman is a god. Nuff said.”
The retail and classified advertising programs at AAN West were both patchy, according to survey respondents. Although the roundtable discussions in both streams in San Francisco received mixed reviews, the “Why Sell Online Advertising?” presentation was almost universally disliked, with over 60 percent of respondents ranking it “poor.” As a result of the overwhelmingly negative response at AAN West, “Why Sell Online Advertising?” was canceled prior to AAN East, and the advertising programming in Washington fared much better with survey respondents. Randy Shoults on telephone sales and Stacey Lindsay on non-traditional revenue both received high marks from AAN East attendees.
With few attendees completing the survey, response to the design and production programming at AAN West was difficult to gauge. Nevertheless, the four individuals who did respond were clearly enthusiastic about Michael Ninness’ Photoshop seminar (100 percent “very good”) and just as clearly disappointed with David Karlins’ Illustrator workshop. At AAN East, the D&P respondents gave a general thumbs-up to presentations by Athena Towery and Mike Kalyan.
AAN West keynote speaker Craig Newmark scored remarkably well, especially for a speaker who was accused of building an empire and compared to a Vietnam bomber in the question-and-answer session following his presentation. More than half of the respondents gave him their highest rating, and another 35 percent said he was “good.”
For PDFs of the complete survey results, visit the AAN Resource Library.