Powers tapped as keynote for NNA’s 129th convention

May 1, 2015

Acclaimed writer Ron Powers will address National Newspaper Association members at the Oct. 1-3 convention in St. Charles, MO.

Powers shares the hometown of Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain, and has written about Clemens’ life in a 720-page biography, “Mark Twain: a Life,” which won the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. Powers will offer thoughts about the American political and cultural scene from Clemens’ viewpoint.

His presentation will be “Sam Clemens Got Me My Job. He Got You Yours, Too.”

Powers observes Clemens had little use for the urbane and avoided the influence of the New England Transcendentalist. He perfected his voice in territorial newspapers “out in Nevada and in the new state of California, far from the reach of Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes—a region where the miners and outlaws and main-chance artists all spoke in a pared-down lingo. Sam heard the poetry and the truth-telling in this proletarian lingo, and he brought it back East and elevated it into literature.”

Powers said he believes the plain-speaking traditions gave him his own writing voice and that of community newspapers today.

Powers is a 1963 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. At age 31, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his TV critiques for the Chicago Sun-Times. He collaborated on the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s memoir, “True Compass,” in 2009; a New York Times bestseller 17 weeks; and with James Bradley, a son of one of the six flag-raisers on Iwo Jima to publish “Flags of Our Fathers.” He was the media commentator for CBS News Sunday Morning for five years, from 1983 to 1988.

Social events at the convention will feature a visit to Grant’s Farm, the 281-acre ancestral home of the Busch family, named for Ulysses S. Grant, who originally worked a portion of the land. The famous Clydesdale horses will make an appearance for photo ops.

The program in St. Charles will be rounded out with a presentation by Matt Waite, a University of Nebraska professor discussing and demonstrating the use of drones in journalism, and by dozens of speed-round discussion tables on revenue, circulation, news-gathering and advertising. Among the topics:

• Selling digital ads.

• Covering tough stories (Ferguson).

• Writing great editorials.

• Using video to build an audience and how to use that audience.

• Using Facebook and other social media to build an audience and how to use that audience.

• “Diversify digital revenue with Google consumer surveys.”

• Better grammar tips.

• Keeping meetings open.

• Drawing recent graduates to community newspapers.

• Compensation for ad salespeople.

• Using contests to increase circulation.

• Succession planning.

• Using surveys/metrics to build circulation.

• Public notice.

Registration for the 129th NNA convention is available at nnaweb.org/convention.

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