Unity 2012 Convention in Las Vegas for journalists

August 2, 2012 · 7 comments

in Journalism how-to's, Money issues, Traveling

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LAS VEGAS — Being in this strange American city for a major journalism convention is a blast! What a great chance to schmooze, sunbathe and renew my passion for entrepreneurship.

Did I surprise you with that last word, entrepreneurship? Well given the sorry financial state of the profession, the only ones who are going to survive are risk takers with a vision, journalists who aren’t afraid to fail. That’s the message I’m getting in the workshops, panels and talks at the UNITY 2012 Convention.

This event, which happens every four years, has brought together four national journalism associations: Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) — and first-time attendees National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA). While plenty of African American professionals are here, National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), which is the largest of these organizations, pulled out and ran its own separate conference in June. Yes, there’s always drama

The convention is going on for nearly five days but I’m only here for two days and two nights. The last time I visited Vegas was in the early ’90s, to cover an FBI Asian organized crime convention (talk about drama!). Coming back here to see how things have changed is interesting.

We’re staying at the mammoth Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, which has a vaguely Asian-y tropics theme.

I have a very nice room for $164 per night (plus tax). The oversized tub was a treat following last night’s six-hour flight from New York’s Kennedy Airport; great to soak in the oversized tub and enjoy fluffy white towels.

The cartoonish architecture is a hoot. From the oversized palm trees to unapologetically over-the-top interiors, this city was built on steroids. Even the food prices are insane. This morning’s a la carte breakfast at one of the hotel’s many restaurants cost me $15.67. That amounts to $4 for each of my two scrambled eggs, $3.50 for the hot tea and $3 for the side of home fries. Whatever! As long as I’m here, might as well throw away some money later on the slot machines, to see if beginner’s luck is really possible.

This afternoon, I took a break from attending endless workshops to check out the hotel’s man-made beach, complete with wave pool. The whole idea of this artificial lagoon set in the middle of the dessert was simply more insanity. Unfortunately, the water was off limits while I was there because of what the lifeguard said was a “biohazard” situation — some kid had pooped during a swim and cleanup would take a while.  :(

Still, the change of scenery offered by Vegas is refreshing. All told, being here is costing me about $1,400 (airfare was $495, plus hotel and convention registration) but at least I can write it off on my taxes as a professional expense. So to make this a worthwhile business trip, I need to run out now for a night of socializing. There are a couple of cocktail mixers sponsored by different organizations, and then an informal dinner with some convention players. After tomorrow night’s awards dinner, I’ll catch a red-eye back home.

My luggage will contain the fortune cookie message from dessert during today’s Maynard Institute luncheon panel on politics and covering  communities of color. The fortune strikes me as very appropriate for those of us who spend our lives running around asking questions.  :)

 

 

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian August 3, 2012 at 10:03 am

Betty,
What is fun is when you go to check in the hotel and they already know your name and ask you how long your going to stay. Or they don’t have a room available so they give you a two bedroom suite and charge you for a single. Or they don’t have any rooms so they bump someone else from their reservation eventhough you didn’t have a reservation. The second time I stayed in South Carolina I wanted to try the cool looking Hilton that looked like a big cylinder. Then I got to my room and it was shaped like a slice of pie. My boss, Chris Or, called and I told him the room sucked. Next thing I know he is calling me back to tell me that he got my reservation cancled and there was a room in the Mariott where he was staying. Turns out the manergers of both hotels went to school together so they worked out the whole deal. Chris was in the same hotel room for almost a whole year, all of the staff knew which room he was in.

Las Vegas, which means “the meadows” in spanish was always a oasis in the desert. There are some very cheap places to eat there , the cheapist in the country. The same goes for hotels. But if you want to “go with style” then they are happy to take your money. It looks like every racial and social group is welcome except myself. Hopefully this is not what they are all uniting against.

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betty ming liu August 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

Brian, getting treated like a V.I.P. customer is delicious for all the reasons that you mention! I esp like it when there are room price discounts involved — and we did indeed get a break on our rooms here. As for inclusion, I don’t know how you identify yourself demographically, but EVERYONE is here. Plenty of white folks too, if that’s what you mean! The various groups that are gathered here exist for specific historical reasons. The American newsroom has been a very white, straight, male environment — a factor in the decline in readership and viewership in media properties. The effort to bring more diversity to newsrooms helps the media to better reflect and serve the communities we cover. It’s not a slam against white folks, who are here in abundance too. :)

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Yvonne Latty August 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

I’m here! Hope to see you!

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betty ming liu August 3, 2012 at 10:54 am

Yvonne! I saw your name on one of the panel discussions….will try to find you today!! Btw, during last night’s round of fun schmoozing, I met great people but had the worst meal of my life at Wolfgang Puck’s Lupo. Here’s my Yelp review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/lupo-las-vegas#hrid:8Q5kf6OSVmlDEQwAStqAsg

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betty ming liu August 5, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Want to know more about the future of UNITY and the issues facing the various groups? There was a good article recently in the New York Times. It covered the National Association of Black Journalists’ decision to go its own way in the future: http://nyti.ms/NdjlXj

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Skye August 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Hi Betty! Glad to hear you are having a great time!
I laughed so much when I read ”this city was built on steroids!”

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betty ming liu August 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Skye, always happy to be here to amuse you! :)

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