A Society of Professional Journalists sign hangs behind David Yepsen of The Des Moines Register as he speaks at the Midwinter Conference in Ames, Iowa.

Six members of the Society of Professional Journalists and University of Iowa SPJ advisor Dick Johns traveled to Ames, Iowa, in February to attend the Midwinter Conference co-sponsored by Iowa State University. The conference covered editorial, opinion and column writing.

“Most students don’t think of being a columnist,” said SPJ president Nickkita Lau, a senior from Hong Kong.

Approximately 70 people, mostly students, attended the first annual conference.

“It was surprising to see such a high student to professional ratio,” Lau said.

Attendees included a sparse number of professionals, college students from around the Midwest and high school students.

Speakers included David Yepsen from The Des Moines Register and Al Lewis of the Denver Post.

One speaker told the crowd that he receives hate e-mails everyday and that potential columnists ought to “get used to it,” Lau said.

During the conference, ISU’s SPJ chapter presented a lifetime achievement award to Johns.

“It was very nice for them to recognize somebody from another campus,” Johns said. He has been involved in SPJ in different functions since his undergraduate work at Ball State University during the 1960s.

Other SPJ events during the semester included speakers, a judges panel and trips to regional and national conferences.

Speakers for the semester:
Jessica Dibble Market Wire, Chicago, IL

Jim Welch, Deputy managing editor for USA Today.

Beth Milicki KCRG TV-9

Dave Toplikar Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World

Jon Yates Chicago Tribune “What’s your Problem?”