August 2, 2012

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.  :)