No, it’s not whether we’re having future conventions or not. We are. But it’s where and how long and programming and how the contests will be presented and can KPA solicit sponsors or not.
At the April meeting, KPA President Jay Nolan appointed a “Future Conventions Committee” and named Carrie Dillard with the Paducah Sun to head it up. Members are Jane Ashley Pace, the Oldham Era/Henry County Local; Josh Givens, Central City Leader News; Cathie Shaffer, Greenup County News Times; and Sharon Burton, Adair County Community Voice/Farmer’s Pride.
The committee had two conference calls and, after assignments on various parts of the convention, committee members developed a survey. The survey was sent to all publishers, editors, ad managers and educators.
Two of the more important questions were at the beginning:
• Should KPA solicit sponsorships for the convention and some of the functions?
• Should KPA move its conventions to other areas around Kentucky rather than just focus on Lexington or Louisville?
The second question has been policy since the January 1983 Convention. That was in Owensboro and the Saturday that the convention ended, attendees faced six inches of snow across the state. The drive home was longer than usual for all members. Later that year, the KPA Board passed a motion to hold the Winter Convention in Lexington or Louisville. (Back in those days and in fact until the mid-1990s, conventions were Thursday afternoon through noon Saturday noon.)
Early returns from the survey express a clearcut interest in having the convention in other parts of the state. Which parts have not be determined but some possibilities include Northern Kentucky, Bowling Green and the Paducah area. No part of the state would be ruled out if there is sufficient overnight rooms in the area and a large meeting area that would host the programs and the ad and news contest award functions.
As to the first question, some companies have had a strong policy against their employees receiving any kind of “benefit” from a company. Corporate policies stated that attending events sponsored by a company that could be the subject of a story by a company newspaper could compromise the coverage. It was believed that if the company sponsored a reception or meal by itself, that business’ reps could tell a newspaper working on a story that, “Hey we sponsored the KPA convention program so we don’t think you should be writing that story.”
The committee, the Board and our members want less cost to attend conventions. Even though I will argue our conventions costs are among the lowest in the country — and they are — members still look at the convention as too expensive. So sponsorships could help lower the cost, especially if enough sponsor dollars can be committed.
The committee needed to know if there’s still a strong sentiment against sponsorships of conventions.
A quick scan of how members feel today about the first two issues raised is pretty much what was expected. Again, these are the early returns since the deadline to respond is not until this afternoon.
There is overwhelming support so far for sponsorships: 76 voted that they are NOT against sponsorships; 4 are not committed either way; and 8 voted that they ARE opposed to sponsorships. There have been 89 newspapers represented so far in the early returns but one did not answer this question.
That’s about as clearcut in support of the issue as you can get.
For the location, we asked if members are in favor of KPA holding conventions in other cities besides Louisville and Lexington. While not as obvious support as there is for the sponsorship question, still 65 newspapers have voted in favor of holding the convention around the state; 2 are non-committal; and 22 are opposed to holding the convention anywhere but Lexington and Louisville.
Few places around the state can offer a location with sufficient meeting space and sleeping rooms. State parks are not even close to being large enough so I doubt any of those will be considered. But there are some convention center/hotel areas in Northern Kentucky, Bowling Green, Paducah and perhaps Ashland that would be able to hold a group as large as KPA’s.
One thing is for certain. We’re already under contract for 2020 — The Hilton in downtown Lexington, January 24-25, 2019 — so whatever the committee decides from the survey and passes on to the Board for approval will not be applicable until the 2021 convention.
Still, state your choice if you haven’t returned your survey yet. There are still several questions on the survey that the committee will have to consider the responses before it moves forward, so your opinion does matters. But not if you don’t use the survey to let us know what you think.