- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2009

ASSOCIATED PRESS

An annual convention of newspaper editors has been canceled for the first time since World War II, undone by the worst economic crisis since that harrowing era.

The American Society of Newspapers Editors’ decision to skip this year’s meeting was announced Friday, coinciding with the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News - the largest daily U.S. newspaper to shut down so far during a steep two-year slide in advertising revenue that’s draining the life out of the industry.

“The industry is in crisis,” said Charlotte Hall, president of the trade group and editor of the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel. “This is a time when editors need to be in their own newsrooms doing everything they can” to help their publications survive.

Until now, 1945 had been the only year that the American Society of Newspaper Editors didn’t meet since the group’s first convention in 1923. The newspaper industry weathered through 10 U.S. recessions since the last cancellation.

If it hadn’t been canceled, this year’s convention - scheduled from April 26-29 in Chicago - probably would have attracted a sparse crowd because so many newspapers are pinching pennies to ease their financial pain.

Newspaper staffs have been gutted, stock dividends have been suspended and, in the most extreme circumstances, bankruptcy petitions have been filed as more readers get their news for free from the Internet and advertisers curtail their spending on the print medium amid the recession.

Canceling the convention will likely result in some penalties to compensate the host hotel, the Fairmont in Chicago. The newspaper group is still negotiating with the hotel, Ms. Hall said.

The adverse economic conditions also prompted Magazine Publishers of America to cancel its convention this year. That decision was announced earlier this week.

Although this year’s convention won’t be held, the American Society of Newspaper Editors will still vote on a proposed name change that would reflect the Internet’s growing importance. Ballots on whether to drop “papers” from the organization’s name and accept online-only news sites will be submitted electronically.

In hopes that things will be improving next year, the group still intends to hold its 2010 convention in Washington.

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