Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp, leader of the Governor's Commission to Rebuild Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, will speak at the final function of the 2018 Midwinter Conference and Trade Show Jan. 18-20 at the Moody Gardens Hotel, Convention Center and Spa in Galveston.
The annual midwinter conference is themed “Come Hell or High Water” to honor Texas newspapers’ response to natural disasters ranging from wildfires to Hurricane Harvey. It features topical programs by guest speakers, member-led discussions, the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony and banquet and a 60-booth trade show, as well as the annual silent auction benefiting the Texas Newspaper Foundation.
Registration forms are available online at http://texaspress.com/midwinter-conference. Deadline for registration is Jan. 3.
As the speaker for the Saturday, Jan. 20, closing brunch at 10:30 a.m., Sharp will update TPA members on the rebuilding effort funded in large part by state and federal resources. Over the past two months, commission members have held listening tours of the areas hardest hit by the storm to assess needs and monitor progress. Sharp accompanied Abbott to Washington, D.C., for meetings with the Office of Budget and Management and the Texas Congressional delegation to discuss the state’s request for more and faster federal funding. The commission's website, https://www.rebuildtexas.today/, provides links and information for people and businesses seeking relief, such as texasrebuilds.com, where property owners can find information about registering for federal disaster aid and find information about short-term and long-term housing. Regular updates and the recovery plan are also available on the site.
Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Sharp to chair the newly-formed Governor's Commission to Rebuild Texas on Sept. 7, shortly after the category 4 hurricane ravaged the Texas coast starting Aug. 25 in Rockport, decimating the Texas coast and spawning record-breaking floods through Houston and other areas before making second landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 28. Gov. Abbott's disaster declaration covers 54 counties, including areas directly impacted by the hurricane's landfall and those flooded by heavy rain and rising rivers in the following week. Those 54 counties are served by 121 TPA member newspapers.
Abbott said he created the commission to organize state resources to help Hurricane Harvey-struck communities assess their needs and to advocate for them at the state and federal levels. In addition to Sharp, the commission is expected to draw on the expertise of the state's top emergency management officials.
In selecting Sharp to lead the commission, Abbott said he was looking for someone who knows how to work with officials at all levels, has knowledge of the affected communities, and understands the state budget as well as state agencies.
Sharp has served as chancellor of the A&M system since 2011. He was a longtime Democratic elected official in the 1980s and '90s, serving as state comptroller, in both houses of the state Legislature and on the Railroad Commission.
When he served in the state Senate in the 1980s, Sharp's Victoria-based district included communities that were hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey.
Other conference speakers include Mike Blinder, president and founder of The Blinder Group, who will discuss the latest research and data proving the newspaper industry is still viable with a great future based on products that are proven to work; Eric Buskirk of Verican, who will speak on how to monetize a newspaper’s print, web and social media products; Legislative Committee Chairman Bill Patterson, who will give members a review of the 2017 legislative session and discuss what’s coming up in 2019; and Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky, keynote speaker for the Hall of Fame Awards banquet.
In addition, publishers Laurie Brown, The Canadian Record, and Mary Judson, Port Aransas South Jetty, will share their experiences in dealing with wildfires and hurricane devastation in a panel discussion. In another panel discussion to be moderated by The Galveston County Daily News Publisher Leonard Woolsey, The (Clute) Facts Publisher Yvonne Mintz and a representative from the Victoria Advocate will share how they covered their communities, utilizing website and social media resources to share information with readers and how they continued producing print editions in the storm's wake.
On Thursday, Jan. 18, the registration desk opens at 10 a.m. Board and officer meetings, the past presidents’ dinner and other events will fill the afternoon and evening.
The trade show opening reception, sponsored by eType Services, begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The trade show features booths and exhibits by vendors and industry professionals showing off the latest technology and new products.
The annual silent auction benefiting the Texas Newspaper Foundation will be on display with the trade show. The auction features items donated by member newspapers, associate members and friends of TPA, with proceeds going to the foundation’s work supporting the Texas Center for Community Journalism at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
The Thursday night hospitality reception is sponsored by Shweiki Media.
On Friday, Jan. 19, the trade show and silent auction will be open in the Moody Gardens Convention Center until noon, when winning bidders will be announced and items may be purchased.
Following the Friday luncheon sponsored by Explore Branson, the general session opens at 1:45 p.m. A hospitality event sponsored by Jackson Walker LLP follows the general session and the Hall of Fame dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. The president’s reception at 9 p.m. closes the day’s activities. Southern Newspapers and the Galveston County Daily News are sponsors of the event.
On Saturday, Jan. 20, the general session reopens at 8 a.m. with member-led discussions. The closing brunch on Saturday is sponsored by Century Link.