Smithsonian Zoo Reception Kicks off ASNE/APME/APPM Conference

Story by Maddie Biertempfel, Katie DeFiore, Emily Kohlman and Alison Kuznitz, Penn State University
Photos by Ryan Shank, Ball State University

Surrounded by barred tiger salamanders, Panamanian golden frogs and Arapaima fish at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, about 150 news editors discussed how they plan to stay afloat in an ever-changing media environment.

“Kind of fitting, isn’t it? A bunch of editors in a zoo,” said Butch Ward, senior faculty and former managing director at The Poynter Institute.

(Story continues below)

The reception, held at the Amazonia Habitat and Amazonia Science Gallery, kicked off the 2017 News Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

“This is the way to network. This is the way you get to know your colleagues, and this is the way you share other experiences,” ASNE Executive Director Teri Hayt said. “It’s not all about war stories, but about things that are working and about ways hopefully you can work together.”

Participants journeyed through rainforest exhibits and exotic aquariums, some stopping to examine rare specimens before sampling pastel-colored macaroons.

Summer Moore, an APME board member, also stressed the importance of networking during the conference.

“The sessions have always been really strong, but I would say that’s only half of it,” said Moore, who’s the digital and audience engagement editor for the Times of Northwest Indiana. “I would say the other half is just getting in a room with each other and figuring out who’s doing what better and how I can do it.”

As editors begin to “talk shop,” Moore said rebuilding trust, combating claims of fake news and localizing national politics are hot button issues.

“We’re transforming at an unbelievable pace,” Michael Anastasi, vice president for USA TODAY in Tennessee, said. “It’s more critical at this time than ever that we’re talking to each other.”

Ward said while technology has given journalists new storytelling devices, it has put journalists in a position to discover the most ethical uses of those tools.

“The only course of action to take is do the right thing,” he said. “Journalism — honestly, ambitiously, establishing up front what your values are going to be.”

The conference was sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP. Amy Ginensky, a senior partner at the firm, praised the work of journalists.

“Last year, it was essential,” she said. “This year, it’s critical.”

Maddie Biertempfel, Katie DeFiore, Emily Kohlman and Alison Kuznitz are students at Penn State.

Ryan Shank is a senior at Ball State University. He graduates in May 2018. His email is


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