Get your newspaper & yearbook staffs geared up for the best school year yet!


Keynote Address: 9:30 - 10:20 a.m.
The Newsroom of the Future is here!
How a Chicago news company is beating the competition on scoops, incredible neighborhood stories and building a local audience in lightning-quick fashion.

Justin Breen – Senior Editor, 

Jon Hansen – Radio News Director, 

Stephanie Lulay – Reporter/Producer,

Session Tracks
We are offering the option of specialized tracks to help yearbook, newspaper and media advisers and their students sharpen their proficiency in selected areas of interest and skill.

What’s your passion? We have the track!




Reporting, Writing, Editing

Promotions, Marketing

Or throw caution to the wind and go with the flow with any of our 30+ session offerings.

Fall Conference Sessions

Preliminary. Check back often to see additional sessions and expanded descriptions of sessions.

Session I – 10:30 to 11:20 a.m.

Feature Writing – Write off: Must sign up ahead of event (on registration form)

design imageCOVER IT LIVE!
Eric Meyer, University of Illinois.
Be among 20 students who will work as social media reporters and editors covering the IJEA convention live on Twitter, with help from U of I journalism faculty member Eric Meyer, who this summer was visiting professor of social media at the Dallas Morning News. Email ekmeyer [at] by Sept. 11 to sign up.
Twitter team HQ: Illini Room 217.

Stand By! Producing your own Newscast!
NOTE: This is a day-long workshop, limited to 20 students. You must reserve your spot ahead of time!
Please contact Lynn Holley, lholley [at] to do so.

Have you ever wanted to produce your own newscast just to experience the feeling? The excitement? Challenges? and YES the Stress AND Success??!! If your answer is yes, then THIS is the workshop for you! In this workshop titled “Stand By” you’ll get valuable hands-on experience of the ins and outs in producing AND delivering short versions of a television newscast called, Newsbreaks. As you are aware, most professional newsrooms also have an online component so you’ll get a chance to produce and post news stories online! From start to finish we’ll work as a team to make this all happen! It’s going to be an exciting day! Leadership, Management, Production, Writing, Anchoring, Editing, Shooting and Reporting Skills as well as Multimedia competency will all be used to make this COLLABORATIVE effort a success! We’re looking forward to meeting and working with you and having fun with producing your own Newsbreak! Working lunch included. Workshop participants will meet in Green Street lobby of Illini Union.
Workshop participants will meet in the Green Street lobby of the Illini Union.

Immersion Journalism Goes Behind the Human Mask
 - ROOM CHANGE! Now in the Illini Union Ballroom, second floor
Leon Dash, Journalism Professor, U of I, Pulitzer Prize winner for explanatory journalism, Washington Post
The student with an insatiable curiosity about human behavior will be able to extract from willing participants surprising revelations about their needs, desires and motivations. Importantly, you will learn how the personalities, the circumstances, and the choices made by your participants’ parents and forebears still have bearing on the life of your participant today. Often, an individual is unaware of the past’s impact on their present-day life until your interviewing brings it to their attention. When this moment of self-awareness occurs and, if it is not too painful, your participant will likely become fully committed to YOUR project.

Multimedia Journalism; Storytelling Through Photos, Video & Sound
Stretch Ledford, University of Illinois.

Multimedia Journalists find and tell visual stories and distribute them across a variety of screens - a laptop, a smartphone, a television. Ledford has worked as a photojournalist and multimedia producer in 52 countries and 44 US states. This session will introduce you to the beauty and power of non-fiction visual communication.
Illini Room C

The JEA Curriculum: An Adviser's New Best Friend
Carol Smith , JEA, IJEA

An overview of the new JEA curriculum introduced at the 2014 convention in San Diego, this session highlights a few of the 300 lesson plans in the 14 modules including design, editing, multimedia broadcasts and photojournalism. This curriculum will quickly become your new best friend. Smith is a retired newspaper adviser from Lovington, Illinois. She is a member of the IJEA board and a JEA mentor.
Illini Union Room 209

Leave it in or take it out?
Jennifer Follis, Lecturer, University of Illinois
We produce so many versions of a story — from a tweet to a printed story to online to a yearbook caption. How much background is needed? How much explaining? How about a footnote in the news? Using some science stories as examples, we'll try techniques for writing and editing for various outlets. Jennifer Follis teaches journalism at the University of Illinois. She focuses on editing, science writing, and introducing large numbers of students to journalism in the Introduction to Journalism class. She enjoys the IJEA conference in part because she got her start in journalism during high school as editor of the "Superstition" yearbook at Mesa High School in Arizona.
Illini Union Room 210

IHSA State Journalism Competition; Rules and Procedures
Matt Troha, IHSA Asst. Executive Director (ADVISERS ONLY)
Troha will navigate through the procedures and rules in place for the IHSA State Journalism Competition. This session will provide helpful information to both new and seasoned advisers regarding the IHSA contest. What should a school do if they are interested in entering? How does the IHSA interpret the rules? What is the format of the contest? The session will facilitate discussion about the specific rules and procedures annual IHSA State Journalism Contest.
Illini Union Room 211

Editorial image101 Journalism Laughs
Randy Swikle, retired adviser, District 12, Johnsburg and former National Teacher of the Year (Dow Jones)
This session offers a list of 101 classroom activities, projects, special assignments, national and regional convention activities and practical jokes my students and I have done during my 36 years of teaching. We will tap your sense of humor and inspire you to maximize your efforts to achieve exemplary journalism. Be prepared to participate in some fun activities and to try for some interesting prizes. You will also learn how my students got to do amazing journalism outside the classroom, such as talking with a president at the steps of Air Force One, photographing a president in the Oval Office and covering a president's final State Dinner with the prime minister of Great Britain at the White House.
Illini Union Room 407

From the Pros
Liz Cox, Representative, Herff Jones
Forget “blah” coverage—make the story of your school come alive! Take a cue from the professional press and add interactive elements, infographics and great design to take your book to a new level. We'll look at what's fresh and new as well as how to put it to use in your yearbook.  Cox is a former yearbook adviser and English teacher whose publications received numerous state, national and local awards. As a representative for Herff Jones, Liz enjoys working with the advisers and students to develop their yearbooks. She speaks at camps and workshops across the United States, teaching journalism, design, Photoshop and InDesign.
Illini Union Room 314A

New Marketing Media
Mike Budak and Conor O’Brien – Jostens Publishing
Social media offers yearbook staffs a free and convenient way to generate interest in the yearbook. It has never been easier to share information, gather content, broaden coverage and market the yearbook to students. We will share some tips on setting up or expanding your social media presence and helpful tools to interact with your audience. Come join Mike Budak and Conor O’Brien of Jostens Yearbooks. We have a combined 30 years of experience in the yearbook industry.
Illini Union Room 314B

Coaching your Sports Staff – Advisers Only
Joe Gisondi – EIU, Author, Field Guide to Covering Sports
Like athletes, sports writers need to develop basic skills before they can advance to the next level. That means these rookies need to learn how to properly evaluate games, to take comprehensive notes, to interact with coaches and athletes, and to, ultimately, write solid, basic stories – sans cliches, personal opinion and snark. Learn how to coach fledgling sports journalists, even if you know very little about athletics.
Illini Union Room 405

Community Journalism 101: Reporting on Diverse Issues
Brian Dolinar, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, Truthout
Come to this workshop to find out how to write about diverse communities, often underrepresented in the media. Brian Dolinar is editor/facilitator of The Public i, newspaper of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. His articles have also appeared nationally in Truthout, Counterpunch, and Prison Legal News. He writes about the major civil rights issues of our day―racial profiling, police abuse, mass incarceration, immigration, and the Black Lives Matter movement. He will provide students with a tool kit for how to reach out to diverse communities―African Americans, Latinos, the poor, those incarcerated, LGBTQ people, and youth. Also a scholar of black writers during the Depression, he has taught African American studies and history at the University of Illinois.
Illini Union Room 406


Session II – 11:35 to 12:25 p.m.

Feature Writing – Write off: Must sign up ahead of event (on registration form)

Slice of Life Stories: How to Think, Report & Write
 - ROOM CHANGE! Now in the Illini Union Ballroom - second floor
Walt Harrington, University of Illinois

Fine writing requires special reporting aimed at gathering the vivid details that bring stories to life. Harrington will provide tips for the aspiring feature writer. Harrington is a journalism professor at U of I, a former staff writer for the Washington Post Magazine and the author or editor of six books.

editorial imageCreate Your Own Podcast
Emily Siner, Nashville Public Radio
The success of Serial last year, a show that sought to solve the real-life murder of a teenager, pulled podcasting into the national spotlight. And that's good news for student journalists who want to experiment with a new, creative medium. In this session, you'll learn how podcasting is making exciting things happen in the journalism world, hear snippets of podcasts you should follow, and leave with a blueprint of how to make your own. Siner is an award-winning enterprise reporter, but her journalism work began in print and online: She interned for the SouthtownStar, the Los Angeles Times and NPR's digital desk. As a result, she thrives at the intersection of online and radio journalism. She recently spoke at TEDxNashville about bringing radio into the digital age, and she launched a podcast this spring called Movers & Thinkers. Emily is also a proud graduate of the University of Illinois.
Illini Room C

editorial imageNot Your Mother's Yearbook: Show Stopping Yearbook Trends
Sarah Durham, representative, Balfour-Taylor Yearbooks
Break the repetitive yearbook curse at your school and add the wow factor. This session showcases schools that took their yearbook design to another level. Gather design ideas and jumpstart your 2016 yearbook. Sarah Durham is the local representative for Balfour-Taylor Yearbooks. She was the yearbook adviser at the University of Illinois, Illio Yearbook, for eight years and a yearbook judge for the Columbia Scholastic Press Association for four years.
Illini Union Room 209

editorial imageeditorial imagepromotions imageMajoring in Journalism at the University of Illinois
Department Head, Rich Martin, Professor Stephanie Craft, Professor Alecia Swasy, Lecturer John Paul and Assistant Dean for Admissions Megan Tucker-Zwilling
Here is your opportunity to talk directly to faculty in the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois about getting your degree at one of the most prestigious public university’s in the country. Martin, Craft, Swasy, Paul and Tucker-Zwilling will answer your questions about the journalism curriculum at U of I and what it takes to get admitted to the program.
Illini Union Room 210

Bring your production to life-merging digital and print media!  Easy ways to include video and extra content in your pages for free
Joelle Sexton, Representative, Herff Jones
Sexton is a former yearbook adviser and English teacher whose publications received All KEMPA awards. As a representative for Herff Jones, Joelle enjoys working with the advisers and students to develop their yearbooks. She speaks at camps and workshops across the United States, teaching journalism, design, InDesign and Photoshop.
Illini Union Room 314A

editorial imageKeeping Score: Developing a Game Plan
Joe Gisondi, Assoc. Professor of Journalism, Eastern Illinois University
Good sports stories start with solid reporting. After that, sports writers need to take comprehensive and precise notes in order to find the best angles and to formulate informed questions. In this session, learn how to develop an effective game plan that allows you to learn more than the final score. Gisondi covered sports and worked as a sports copy editor for more than 20 years at several newspapers in Florida, including the Fort Myers News-Press, Clearwater Sun, Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. His book, The Field to Covering Sports, was published by Congressional Quarterly Press last spring. It will be available for sale at the conference.
Illini Union Room 314B

design imageSchool Newspapers 2.0 – New Technology in Cloud Design, Printing & Publishing
Kevin Baker, CTO and Patrick Carson, CEO of, Inc.
Have you ever wondered if design software could ever truly be in the cloud, available from any computer device, nothing to download--with easy sharing and collaboration--and preferably free? Have you endlessly dreamed of color newspaper printing that was dramatically more affordable, and cleaner, maybe with a little glossy sheen that helps the color jump off the newsprint the way normal newspapers never have? Have you always wanted to post your digital paper in exactly the same format as your printed newspaper, without having to share it with five billion other online newspapers? Come join Mr. Baker and Mr. Carson as they introduce your school, students and staff to a new generation of school newspaper production.
Illini Union Room 405

Going Beyond; Cutting Through the Spin of Political Campaigns
Bernard Schoenburg, Springfield Journal-Register
Covering politics involves announcements, speeches, debates, interviews, advertising and press releases. Most often, candidates deliver messages with a planned spin. It’s up to the reporter to keep asking questions to go deeper into the subject, because simple spin often isn’t an accurate way to tell a more subtle or complex story. Schoenburg, political writer and columnist for The State Journal-Register in Springfield (and a U of I grad) talks about how to check on some of the basics so the spin doesn't dominate what you write.
Illini Union Room 406

Editor’s Confab (discussing issues related to being an editor or future editor with the experts)
Jean McDonald, Lecturer, University of Illinois

Being part of a newspaper or yearbook team involves lots of critical decision making on many fronts. How do you handle controversial stories? Who do you send to cover what? Matching reporters and editors strengths to assignments. How to inspire your team to do its’ best work. The art of constructive criticism. This is an opportunity to problem solve and bounce ideas off of University of Illinois journalists who have been in your shoes and are likely in the shoes you would like to fill someday.
Illini Union Room 407


Session III – 1:30 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.

Tour of Illini Media
Staff of Daily Illini

See how you could get real-world experience while attending the university. Illini Media is a student-run media company where students produce all the content — from reporting, to photography, to design, to ad sales, to DJ’ing. Our facility in the heart of Campustown includes a multimedia newsroom where print, broadcast and online journalists work side-by-side. Illini Media staff will lead the tour and will be on hand to answer your questions and show you our facility.

Social media: The horrible-beautiful time-space continuum
Mike Howie, Online Editor, Champaign News-Gazette and Miranda Holloway, Managing Editor, Daily Illini 
Howie and Holloway will discuss the rewards and risks of social media.  Howie has been a reporter and editor for the News-Gazette for 36 years.  He sees social media playing an increasing role in the gathering and spreading of news.  At her summer internship with The News-Gazette Holloway reported as well as developed social media platforms. As a managing editor for The Daily Illini she oversees web content including social media.
Illini Room C

design imageDesign in Mind
Jennifer Freeman Thompson, Picaboo Yearbooks
Your content may be brilliant, but no one will look at it if it's not visually pleasing. Learn how to entice your readers to stay with you until the end with these tips, trends and industry secrets. Ideal for yearbook and news magazine. Freeman Thompson has never met a play on words or an ultra thin san serif she didn’t like. A design veteran for regional and national publications including the Oxford American and AY Magazine, Jennifer is currently the director of marketing for Picaboo Yearbooks. She is also a former award-winning college yearbook editor.
Illini Union Room 209

How to Win Readers & Influence Editors
Jeff Unger, University of Illinois News Bureau, Retired

Accuracy, creativity, conciseness, originality, clarity, fairness, completeness and honesty. Unger will discuss how keeping these few simple ideas in mind will help you not only get along better with the people who edit your copy, but connect with your audience as well. Unger is a veteran of several of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers.
Illini Union Room 210

Searching the Web and Using Databases for Every Kind of Story
Brant Houston, Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting, University of Illinois

This session will cover how to do better research on the Internet, including best search techniques and online tutorials that help with background issues and people through Web sites and social media.
Illini Union Room 405


How to Interview a Celebrity
Dann Gire, film critic, Daily Herald film and president of the Chicago Film Critics Association
An anecdote-stuffed cursory survey of the tricks and secrets to successfully interview movie stars, authors and TV personalities. Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire reveals some of his best and worst moments confronting Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ben Kingsley, Jerry Lewis , Josh Hutcherson, 007 Daniel Craig and many others.
Illini Union Room 314B