The US-based National Gay and Lesbian Journalists’ Association (NLGJA) descended upon La Belle Province this past weekend for its annual conference.
Held at the Hyatt in downtown Montreal, NLGJA attendees boozed it up on the terrace before settling in for a weekend of panels, schmoozing and discussions. President David Steinberg reports that attendance was down, but he suggests morale was up.
“Unfortunately, we had fewer than 200 people attend,” says Steinberg, “which is quite a bit below previous conferences. That said, it was pretty much in line with what we were expecting, given the horrible economic conditions, both overall and in the media industry in particular. And while financially it would have been great to have more people there, without exception, the response I got back from attendees… was very, very positive.”
It was indicated earlier this year that the Canadian gay press would not be heavily involved in planning this year’s conference. That didn’t stop the “bienvenue” wagon from showing some Canuck hospitality.
Tourisme Montréal president and CEO Charles Lapointe gave a warm welcome address, warning the largely US-based contingent to listen carefully for the nuances of the French-language before tops find themselves suddenly on the bottom at one of Montreal’s bathhouses. Others extending a hand included Press Pass Q editor Fred Kuhr, Pink Triangle Press publisher and editor at large David Walberg, 2B and Être editor in chief André Gagnon and CBC’s David Blair. Richard Burnett, Three Dollar Bill columnist and editor at large of Montreal’s Hour, added some comic relief to seminar on a Canadian queer media.
“I welcomed the plenary with my usual line,” laughs Burnett. “Bienvenue à Montreal! Welcome to Montreal! Montreal is the slut capital of Canada and if you can’t get laid five minutes after getting off your plane, train or automobile in Montreal, then there’s something wrong with you!”
As Steinberg stresses, “there was more Canadian participation that previous conferences, which makes a lot of sense. There were several panels and plenaries, both at the LGBT Media Summit and the main conference that examined things from a Canadian perspective, or were designed to compare US and Canadian views on issues.”
Conference highlights, he adds, included a luncheon panel on the entertainment industry moderated by Jeff Trudell, and a morning plenary he co-hosted with NLGJA managing director Michael Tune, at which time the pair fielded questions about the future direction of NLGJA.
“Probably because of the intimate nature of the event,” Steinberg notes, “there was a much greater opportunity to network, meet people, engage with fellow attendees…. It was the first time we’ve really had a such a frank discussion, and given the tremendous pressures facing us all, folks really seemed to appreciate it.”
Next year’s annual conference, a 20th anniversary event for NLJGA, will take place in San Francisco from Sep 2-5. For more info, visit nlgja.org.