By Sacha DeVroomen Bellman
In March, Michael Koretzky will direct his second New York CMA conference after being hired by the board to take over the conferences after the retirement of CMA executive director Ron Spielberger.
Koretzky also will direct the next three college media conferences, Chicago in the fall of 2012; New York again in the spring of 2013 and New Orleans in the fall of 2013.
Many of use know Koretzky from his flamboyant style: a cigar in his mouth, wearing army fatigues with a riding crop in hand -- presenting his latest, greatest motivation idea to the students at every convention. His journalism experience is just as eclectic. He’s worked at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fla. as a reporter; at tabloid newspapers (Globe, Examiner, Star and National Enquirer) as a designer/copy editor; at music magazines as an editor; and now has entered the realm of online journalism as editor for a personal finance website called moneytalksnews.com.
We also know him as the deposed adviser from Florida Atlantic University who continues to advise the student newspaper there as a volunteer. He has been a mainstay at many college media conventions. And now he runs them.
Although the early bird deadline for registration has passed, Koretzky said more than 200 people registered last year after the deadline and he’s hopeful about a good turnout at the conference March 17-20. The hotel rooms are sold out, but you can still book a hotel called the Wellington, which is two blocks away from the Sheraton and cheaper.
The conference itself will be different, which Koretzky addresses below, with fewer of the “regular” sessions and no College Broadcasters Inc. sessions. (Koretzky said CBI amicably withdrew in January.)
I talked to Koretzky by phone last week.
B: What’s your take on this year’s CMA NYC – What do you have for us?
K: A big thing was an edict from the board of directors that they wanted more professional speakers. Just adding up the numbers from 2010, we had 260 sessions and 54 were led by professionals – non-advisers . The first year in New York (2011) we had 68. This year, 109 of the sessions will be led by professionals.
It’s the one thing we focused on. We wanted to double that number from 2010. We have professionals from the New York Times and Daily News, but also National Geographic, Time and Newsweek. Even Sports Illustrated and ESPN. For new media, we have the COO of Mashable.
That ‘s the biggest change. Last year, we got a lot of attention for our keynote speakers -- both good and bad. We had the folks from Westboro Baptist Church and Helen Thomas. What we wanted to spend time on this year is improving the most basic unit -- the 50-minute sessions -- and not worry about the bells and whistles. We sent session descriptions back and advisers had to rewrite them, and we made sure we got better sessions.
B: Do you have any big names for keynote speakers?
K: We’re going to announce keynotes -- we are still trying to nail them down.
If last year was Helen Thomas and Westboro, this year we’re going in a totally opposite direction. We hope to announce this week. (First one was announced Sunday -- check NYC12 webpage)
B: You have been a great presenter at many conferences. Will you present at NYC?
K: I’m cutting my own stuff back to work with other presenters.
My favorite things we’re doing – a session on natural sound radio – in the dark.
Talked to play by play guy from Major League Baseball – he’s going to teach play by play and then the student will read scripts and who does best gets a gift certificate.
I used to get crap from CMAers: “All your sessions are bells and whistles.” But there has to be a lesson in it. Anyone can be a clown for five minutes. I don’t think it is a problem to go to a convention and have some fun.
There are lots of professional want to do something a little different and I think we have a good range of sessions. People want to to go to the ones that are a little more interesting. We have dedicated rooms just for Christians, sports, media law…
We have taken our time with they keynotes --- I’d rather have average keynotes and kick-ass sessions.
B: Tell me about your team this year?
K: Michelle Boyet is assistant director – she’s great at this because she works at a hotel. She is the social media director at Breakers… That means marketing is easier because she used to do it for a living. Negotiating also is easier at hotel because she knows what services we do and do not need to pay for.
The rest of the team: We have six women who are former students who help and we don’t pay them. They have been to this convention before -- I give them a room and they pay their own air fare.
B: Looking forward to Chicago for those of us who can’t make it to New York – what can we expect there?
K: I went there in January to check out hotel (Sheraton Chicago). It’s a really cool hotel – the way the space is laid out. One thing I’m trying to do there…. We usually have something called midnight snack – they have hamburger stand in their basement. I’m negotiating to do free hamburgers at midnight.
The hotel is really close to a lot to things – it’s next to bar, bowling alley and gourmet organic market.
One of the things I keep hearing … that in these tough economic time (people) have to chose between conventions. I want to make conventions very different. My goal is to make Chicago a little different. My goal is people who go to both, will notice a difference.
B: What kind of work have you been doing since being fired from FAU?
K: I’m the editor for personal finance website moneytalksnews.com… it gets a million hits. … I work from home. I still volunteer at FAU go there a couple of times a week. Actually it is more fun because don’t have to worry about a dress code and no meetings with deans…
B: What job in media is there still left for you to do? What’s your next venture?
K: I love volunteering. I work more with student media now than I did when at FAU. I’m on the SPJ national board and I go to all these other Florida schools and do programming there. The “Will Work for Food” we’re taking to a national level.
I’m doing more with college journalists, because not all in one place. It works for me.
I’m lucky. I have no kids, no pets, no hobbies. I have a very understanding wife works for the state and provides us with benefits.