International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors 2022 Conference

Detailed schedule at bottom.

By Al Cross
Director and professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

Editorial critique session at an ISWNE conference
The annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, July 20-23 at the University of Kentucky, will have programs on national politics becoming local, dealing with the evils of social media, new business models for weeklies, governments’ role in the news business, university help for community newspapers, a visit from a news-media leader from Mongolia, newspapers’ and libraries’ common interests, and the hallmark of the conference: editors' critiques of other members' editorials and editorial pages.

Those sessions are on the schedule for Friday and Saturday, July 22 and 23. As usual, the professional-development programming will be preceded by two days of tours in the area; the itinerary includes a historic newspaper, an iconic horse farm, a bourbon distillery, and a community that is headquarters to a big cannabis company and for 14 years was home to a newspaper created by UK students and their professor (this writer).

Attendees will stay in a university dormitory, and private rooms are available. The conference fee is $600 per person, and there's a three-day, $300 option. ISWNE membership is $50 a year. The registration form is here. The deadline is Wednesday, June 15. Questions? Email

Friday’s opening session will examine the common interests of newspapers and public libraries. “Libraries and newspapers share the front lines in the battle for intellectual freedom,” says AnnaMarie Cornett, chief of staff at the Lexington Public Library, who will join with other leaders of the library to talk about their approaches to neutrality and challenged materials, and how libraries and newspapers can work together in the fight against censorship.

Next up will be a session on navigating the increasingly contentious political landscape. My informal survey of ISWNE members last year found that editors are becoming more cautious because the national divisiveness has made local public discourse more contentious, and I have heard likewise from other editors. I’ll present what I have heard, then lead a group discussion so we can learn more and help guide paths forward.

Allison Frisch of Ithaca College and Gina Gayle of Emerson College will discuss their research paper about the ways higher-education journalism programs can help community newspapers. They found that such partnerships can increase civic engagement, create new local media channels, and strengthen civic literacy, engagement, and democracy. They also can give students real-world experience covering a wide range of issues, and help newspapers in need of more resources.

After lunch and ISWNE's annual Associated Press Stylebook quiz, we will have a discussion with Bradley Martin, editor and publisher of the Hickman County Times in Centerville, Tenn., about dealing with the evils of social media, and when it’s necessary to dip into the cesspool. Brad has an object example of a social media mess that had a serious impact on a school, a student and his family. I’ll be you have some examples to discuss, too.

Should government help the news media, and if so, how? Canada has taken steps to help newspapers that would be off-limits in the U.S., where the newspaper industry is fighting battles in Congress and state legislatures. Gordon Cameron, group managing editor of Hamilton Community News in Ontario, will give a report from Canada, where government help hasn’t set well with some rural editors. I will discuss battles in the states over public-notice advertising, and efforts in Congress to help news media recover some of the revenue they have lost to digital platforms – efforts that are better suited to community papers than they were at the start, but U.S. editors and publishers are still debating what role government should play in sustaining local journalism. I’ll also discuss newspapers’ biggest victory in Congress lately, the great expansion of the ability to send sample copies to non-subscribers in their home counties.

What are the ethics of seeking public-notice ads and other support for local journalism from public officials whom you may have to cover and comment on? That will be the point of departure for a roundtable session about tough ethical calls, often a challenge in rural communities.

To wrap up Friday's discussions, we will have a session looking at new business models for community newspapers, drawing in part on our recent National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, where speakers talked about taking their newspapers into nonprofit status, working with a local community foundation to put philanthropy into their business model, and using e-newsletters and membership models to raise more revenue from readers. (For another Summit story, on the state of rural journalism, click here.)

On Saturday, after the editorial critiques, we plan to hear from a very special visitor: Enkhbat Tsend, chairman of the Press Institute of Mongolia and CEO of Control Media LLC. Mongolia ranks 90th on the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, but that is higher than most nations near it. The index says Mongolia “broadly respects the principles of freedom and media pluralism, though its regulation still lacks basic legal protection for the confidentiality of sources and imperfect defamation laws encourage abusive lawsuits against journalists, stirring self-censorship.”

So, the conference will reach from your county courthouse and city hall to state legislatures and Congress and to other nations, just as an ISWNE conference should do. Please join us.

Here is the detailed schedule:

Wednesday, July 20: Bourbon and cannabis
9 a.m. ISWNE Board of Directors meeting, Gatton Student Center
12:30 Depart campus for field trip to Frankfort and Midway
1:30 Tour Buffalo Trace Distillery and make other, briefer stops in the state capital of Frankfort
5:00 Arrive in Midway (free time for shopping and drinking downtown)
6:00 Dinner, Kentucky Cannabis Co.; discussion of hemp industry and local journalism project

Thursday, July 21: Thoroughbred horses, local newspapers and local food
9 a.m. Depart campus for field trip
10:00 Tour Claiborne Farm, Paris, home of Secretariat and other famous racehorses
Noon Lunch in Paris with Becky Barnes, editor of The Cynthiana Democrat and sample-copy maven
2 p.m. Visit the weekly Bourbon County Citizen, oldest newspaper west of the Alleghenies, and Publisher Becca Lawyer
5:00 Drinks and dinner at Windy Corner Market owned by Ouita Michel, nationally famous chef and local-food maven

Friday, July 22: Professional development programming: Bill Gatton Student Center
9 a.m. Newspapers and libraries share the front lines for intellectual freedom: presentation by the Lexington Public Library
10:00 Navigating an increasingly contentious political landscape, as all politics becomes national: roundtable led by Al Cross and ISWNE President Mike Buffington of Mainstreet Newspapers
11:00 “Funding, the Teaching Hospital Model and Educational Community Collaborative,” research presentation by Allison Frisch, Ithaca College, and Gina Gayle, Emerson College
12:00 Lunch in Student Center cafeteria
1 p.m. Associated Press Stylebook Quiz by Andy Schotz
1:30 Dealing with evils of social media: when and how to report and comment: Brad Martin, editor and publisher, Hickman County Times, Centerville, Tenn.
2:15 Government’s role in the news business: Views from U.S. and Canada: Discussion with Al Cross and Gordon Cameron of Hamilton Community News in Ontario
3:00 Tough ethical calls, including lobbying for public notices from people whom you may cover: roundtable discussion
3:45 New business models for weekly papers: Al Cross reports from the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America
( Dinner as you like it, with meal tickets in Student Center cafeteria or on your own in Lexington)

Saturday, July 23: The big day
9 a.m. Editorial critiques, various study rooms in Jewell Hall dormitory
11:15 Reflections on the conference and a report on journalism in Mongolia: Enkhbat Tsend, chairman, Press Institute of Mongolia
12:00 ISWNE annual membership meeting, Gatton Student Center
12:30 Lunch and free time to explore Lexington and the Bluegrass
6 p.m. Awards banquet, Gatton Student Center ballroom

Sunday, July 24: Departures

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