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Last-minute advice from convention central.

Ah September. It's the month when editorial writers bound for the annual NCEW convention ask themselves two questions:

* "Why in the world did I sign up for critiques? Gaah! I don't have time!"

* "How am I going to stockpile eighty-seven editorials and three columns in the next two weeks?"

In the words of Douglas Adams, don't panic. Below are some last-minute FAQs that will help you get the most out of the Portland convention.

Can I do my critiques on the plane?

Technically, yes. You can also join the half-dozen frazzled people who miss the Wednesday reception and the Thursday morning session about Portland because their critiques aren't done. But I don't recommend it. Critique chair Dick Hughes will make you do pushups.

Plan to spend about six to seven hours on critique preparation. Divide it into ninety-minute bits, if that helps. Don't think of it as altruistic work: You'll get out of it what you put into it. It's amazing how much you can learn about your own newspaper by studying someone else's. Also, one of the surest ways to make three or four new friends at the convention is to give them the courtesy of a thorough, thoughtful, blunt, and respectful critique.

Will Portland live up to its insufferable hype?

It depends on what you look for in a city. I think of Portland as the anti-Vegas. When you go to Las Vegas, you say, "WOW, THIS IS GREAT!" Then you desperately want to leave after two days, once you realize the noise and heat and general lack of humanity are shortening your lifespan. When you come to Portland, you say, "Huh. This place is really nice." Then maybe a week later you never want to leave. The city is green and friendly. You feel a little healthier, a little calmer, a little freer. (Insert soaring music here.)

This doesn't mean the city is a wonderland. It has a bit of a raging meth problem, for example. It's generally very safe to walk at night along Broadway and in the downtown core, but don't walk by yourself at night in less-populated or sketchy areas, such as the blocks around the enclosed Portland Classical Chinese Garden.

What should I pack?

Portland is not a dressy city. People tend to look as if they just rode their bike to town after working in the garden. Odds are, they did.

At the convention, business-casual clothes are fine for most events. Pack business attire for the Wednesday reception and Saturday evening dinner, such as a suit or sports coat for men and the equivalent for women. Wear your dancing shoes on Saturday, because we'll have a honky-tonk country band called "Lisa and Her Kin." (The lead singer works at Powell's bookstore, by the way.)

Most important, bring comfortable walking shoes. Also, bring layers for the outdoor events. We will be outside on Thursday evening at the Classical Chinese Garden, and on Friday afternoon in the Gorge. It might be warm; it might be cold and rainy. It might be all three within a few hours. This is why Northwesterners live in fleece.

Other helpful items: Sunglasses, a camera, sunscreen, umbrella.

My spouse and I are going to Cannon Beach for the guest tour. What should we bring?

Bring a camera, dress very casually, and wear layers, layers, layers. Tell your sweetie to do the same: A cold and wet spouse is an unhappy spouse. The weather in September is usually sunny and good. However, beach weather can be windy and unpredictable. Start with a t-shirt, sunscreen, sunglasses, and sturdy shoes. Then bring a fleece, rain parka, hat, sweatshirt, etc. You can always leave them on the bus.

What's the Internet situation at the Benson?

You can check your email for free at a public computer in the lobby. Wireless high-speed Internet is available in all hotel rooms, and some rooms are hard-wired for high-speed Internet. The hotel charges $9.95 a day for those services. The hotel website says, "If you require a secure connection, please request a hard-wired room when making your reservation." Wi-Fi works in rooms and all public spaces, but not meeting rooms.

Anything else?

Yes. Enjoy yourself. Get squared away at the office and come ready to learn. As NCEW president Kay Semion says in this issue, we'll spend a lot of time talking about writing better editorials, avoiding liability, starting blogs, working more productively in small shops, and incorporating the latest innovations. We'll also learn a little about what makes Portland tick. Travel safely!

NCEW's 2005 convention chair Susan Nielsen is an associate editor at The Oregonian. E-mail susannielsen@news.oregonian.com
COPYRIGHT 2005 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:CONVENTION 2005
Author:Nielsen, Susan
Publication:The Masthead
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2005
Words:775
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