Update on #CMANYC20 and the Coronavirus

March 30, 2020 10:30 a.m. ET

CMA NYC20 attendees and speakers, 

College Media Association officials were notified today that a professional speaker at the Spring National College Media Convention received a confirmed positive test for COVID-19. The convention was March 11-13 at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York City.

The local professional speaker tested positive March 23 for COVID-19. He spoke March 13 at the convention. He reports mild symptoms and is expected to make a full recovery.

COVID-19 symptoms can appear within two to 14 days of exposure, and, in some cases, do not appear at all. It is impossible to know whether the speaker contracted the illness at the convention or elsewhere in his daily life. 

We hope for the speaker’s rapid recovery. He and one student who attended the convention are the only confirmed case of COVID-19 we are aware of among event attendees. We will provide updates if any other attendees notify us that they have tested positive within the 14 days following the convention. In the meantime:

  • If you are feeling ill, seek medical attention and call ahead before leaving home.
  • To limit your personal risk, follow the guidance set forth by the CDC and WHO. These guidelines include washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, and avoiding touching your face. The agencies also now recommend social distancing.
  • Individuals do not need to show symptoms to spread the virus. Even if you’re feeling healthy, it is now advised that you stay home and limit contact with others.

We hope you are staying well and following up-to-date guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

College Media Association
_______________________________________

March 28, 2020 5:30 p.m. ET

CMA NYC20 attendees and speakers, 

College Media Association officials were notified today that an attendee at the Spring National College Media Convention received a confirmed positive test for COVID-19. The convention was March 11-13 at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York City.

The female student was in New York City from March 10-14. She tested March 23 for COVID-19 and received her positive results this morning. She is in her home state in self-quarantine and has been since March 18. The student is expected to make a full recovery.

The student is in contact with those she traveled to the convention with, and they are aware of her diagnosis. None of them have COVID-19 symptoms at this time. Symptoms can appear within two to 14 days of exposure, and, in some cases, do not appear at all. It is impossible to know whether the student contracted the illness at the convention, elsewhere in her travels to and from New York, or in the weeks since the event. 

We hope for the student’s rapid recovery. Hers is the only confirmed case of COVID-19 we are aware of among event attendees. We will provide updates if any other attendees notify us that they have tested positive. In the meantime:

  • If you are feeling ill, seek medical attention and call ahead before leaving home.
  • To limit your personal risk, follow the guidance set forth by the CDC and WHO. These guidelines include washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, and avoiding touching your face. The agencies also now recommend social distancing.
  • Individuals do not need to show symptoms to spread the virus. Even if you’re feeling healthy, it is now advised that you stay home and limit contact with others.

We hope you are staying well and following up-to-date guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

College Media Association 

___________________________________________

March 17 12:00 p.m. ET

CMA members,

As promised, here is your follow-up from Spring National College Media Convention, including a full, accurate view of decision-making and convention numbers. I apologize for not being able to give you a full picture during the convention. We focused our communication efforts to necessary onsite concerns. We also didn’t have all of the final information and were in the middle of running the convention. I hope you understand.

The decision

The world looked a lot different when the CMA board and our Kellen leadership staff arrived March 9 in New York City. There were few confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., our universities were still operating, and there were no travel or meeting bans. Despite this, I was speaking daily with our Kellen team in the weeks leading up to the convention as COVID-19 made its way here and a lot of organizations canceled their meetings and events. I updated the board about our conversations. We didn’t want to over- or underreact to the situation, while being good stewards for CMA. During this time, I learned:

  • Most registered attendees still planned to attend the convention and were excited about the event.
  • There were no travel or meeting bans to consider.
  • CMA does not have event insurance. Most organizations do not because it’s expensive, and, even if they do, the insurance does not cover pandemics. Therefore, the organizations that have canceled either 1) don’t have major contracts like ours or 2) are taking the financial hit.
  • CMA could not cancel our hotel contract unless we could prove that 1) the majority of our registered attendees were not allowed to attend the event because of the pandemic, which was not the case at that time, or 2) there was a travel/event ban requiring the event to be canceled, which also was not the case. Without those happening, we would owe the hotel about $300,000 in lost room revenue as a cancellation fee. This fee would be due within a week of being issued. It would have taken CMA’s entire reserve fund.
  • We had no attrition clause with the hotel, meaning that we were not financially responsible for failure to meet a certain percentage of the room block. No matter how many people canceled their hotel reservations, CMA did not have to pay, so long as we did not unilaterally cancel.
  • We could alter our meeting room and food and beverage spends without penalty.
  • We could not allow speakers to use Zoom for their presentations. This would require extra A/V equipment, wired internet and staffing, which would have cost hundreds of additional dollars per session.

Combining this knowledge made the question of whether to cancel the event easy to make. Canceling the event would have bankrupted CMA. We decided that, even if most of our expected attendees decided not to attend, we couldn’t cancel.

The experience

More people were being diagnosed with COVID-19 and many schools were canceling travel by the time the board met in person March 10 in New York City. We reassessed the situation because attendees and speakers were beginning to cancel. During this time, we:

  • Voted to provide 50% registration refunds to attendees who could not attend the convention because of collegewide travel cancellations, if the cancellation occured by 5 p.m. PST March 10. This decision was unprecedented because we knew we still were hosting our convention and typically have a no-refund policy. We considered upholding our no-refund policy or giving everyone full refunds. The 50% refunds will require us to go into our limited reserve funds, but the majority of the board agreed that this is an unusual time and the cancellations were out of our members’ control. We made the decision that allowed us to consider the extraordinary situation we were all facing while also being good financial stewards for CMA.
  • Worked to document canceled sessions and replace the speakers, if possible. All board members took extra sessions, as did many advisers and pros. Thank you to all of those registrants who stepped up and helped out.
  • Decided to allow anyone who entered the Apple Awards to qualify for honors, even if they were not present on site, as typically is required. 
  • Consolidated two meeting rooms and lowered our food and beverage order to save money. The hotel allowed us to do this with no penalty. 
  • Did our best to monitor the situation and quickly communicate with all attendees and speakers about our plans.

It was wonderful when attendees began to arrive. We were so excited to see everyone and thought the worst of our planning concerns were behind us. We were beginning to get into a somewhat regular convention presentation flow when New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo decided March 12 to ban gatherings of more than 500 people. CMA did not have 500 people at the convention, but we thought it was best to adhere to the ban. We had two hours of programming and a keynote planned for March 14. We quickly moved multiple individual sessions and the keynote to March 13, and communicated that we would end the convention at 5 p.m. that day. We also canceled Meet in the Suite for advisers. This resulted in us again lowering our food and beverage order and altering schedules, but it seemed most responsible, given the developments since we’d arrived.

The numbers

There were 787 attendees registered for the convention. To put this in perspective, we had 932 attendees at last year’s convention. Attendance at the spring convention has trended down since 2016. We ended up with 318 attendees at the convention, including 11 people who registered on site.

We planned 182 breakout sessions for the convention. We also had special programming planned including keynotes, precons, affinity luncheons, Iron Reporter, the Student Newsroom, Photo Shoot-Out, critiques and media tours. We had 96 regular sessions, with 25 of those including professionals. This number includes two new sessions we added at the convention, one of those being a session on Covering COVID-19. We had 66 speakers, with many speakers picking up additional sessions on site. The special programming, with the exception of Iron Reporter and two precons, continued on site. 

We don’t have formal feedback from the convention yet. Convention surveys go out after the convention. My impression is that the students enjoyed the convention. They learned a lot and were understanding of the unique situation. And, of course, they had a great time being in NYC. I spoke with two students who had been to other conventions and said they appreciated that this convention was smaller because they were getting more one-on-one feedback. Allison Bennett Dyche and Bryce McNeil led new adviser certification sessions. They said the advisers were understanding of the unique situation and happy with the education they received. One adviser emailed them: “Thanks for all of your hard work at CMA and for your great presentations!” I heard from one adviser who was, justifiably, disappointed that Iron Reporter was canceled. I spoke to one adviser who was vocally disappointed in the convention overall. My experience was that, overall, the advisers who were there were supportive, understanding and willing to jump in and do anything to help. Professionals did the same. We called in A LOT of favors to make this convention happen, and no one said no to any request.

The aftermath

We don’t know the full financial impact of this convention on CMA at this time. We will not make money off of this year’s convention, but we also didn’t allow it to bankrupt the organization. We will go into our reserves, in part to refund registrants who meet the criteria, which is not ideal, but felt responsible to do for our membership. Overall, I wouldn’t change a single decision we made at this convention. I think the leadership team did the best we could in the unprecedented situation we were in. 

I want to especially thank our Kellen team, Meredith Taylor, Nora Keller and Brittany Marinovich. Their advice and their relationships with the hotel staff proved invaluable to the board at this convention. They advised us on pretty much every decision, then let us quickly make them and helped us communicate to event stakeholders. Most importantly, their ability to negotiate amazingly flexible hotel contracts without attrition clauses saved CMA. Without that carefully negotiated contract, this convention likely would have meant the end of our organization.

Again, thanks for your understanding and thank you to all of you who helped make this convention happen. If you have any additional questions about the convention’s impact on CMA or the decision we made during the convention, please don’t hesitate to email me. 

Kenna Griffin, CMA President


March 12 3:30 p.m. ET

CMANYC20 Attendees,

The CMA leadership is responding to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s decision today to ban gatherings of more than 500 people due to COVID-19.

We are moving all Saturday sessions to Friday, officially ending the convention at 5 p.m. ET Friday, despite having fewer than 500 attendees. 

We are updating the convention app with all the latest changes. We are canceling Meet in the Suite, which was scheduled for 8 p.m. ET Friday. We also are moving Saturday’s keynote, Beth Karas, to Friday. Our last event of the convention will be the Apple Awards, which will begin at 4:30 p.m. ET Friday. 

If you need medical care during your stay in New York, the hotel planning staff recommends you visit Mount Sinai South Hospital at 58th Street and 10th Avenue if you become ill for any reason during your stay. Symptoms of COVID-19 look like those of the flu. They include fever, fatigue, body aches and cough, but with the added symptom of shortness of breath. You are encouraged to seek medical care if you have any of those symptoms.

CMA leadership continues to monitor the rapidly changing situation related to the spread of COVID-19. We understand that concerns for health and safety, among other issues, are affecting our members. The health and safety of the CMA community is our priority. 

Please do not hesitate to contact CMA at info@collegemedia.org with specific questions.

Kenna Griffin

CMA President

___________________________

CMANYC20 attendees,

In light of the continued spread of COVID-19, we would like to provide you with some medical information, should it become necessary during your stay in New York for College Media Association Spring National College Media Convention. 

The hotel planning staff recommends you visit Mount Sinai South Hospital at 58th Street and 10th Avenue if you become ill for any reason during your stay. Symptoms of COVID-19 look like those of the flu. They include fever, fatigue, body aches and cough, but with the added symptom of shortness of breath. You are encouraged to seek medical care if you have any of those symptoms.

CMA leadership continues to monitor the rapidly changing situation related to the spread of COVID-19. We understand that concerns for health and safety, among other issues, are affecting our members. The health and safety of the CMA community is our priority. 

At this time, there are no advisories against hosting public events in New York City. Guidance offered regarding attendance at large gatherings is limited to those at highest risk—the elderly and those with underlying health issues, according to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

As the situation develops, we will continue to update and provide necessary information to our members. Please do not hesitate to contact CMA at info@collegemedia.org with specific questions.

Kenna Griffin

CMA President

March 11, 2020:

CMANYC20 attendees,

We understand your continued concern about the College Media Association Spring National College Media Convention in light of COVID-19. We are moving forward with the event, which begins today, but we understand many attendees and speakers are unable to attend. 

CMA leadership continues to monitor the rapidly changing situation related to the spread of COVID-19. We understand that concerns for health and safety, among other issues, are affecting our members. The health and safety of the CMA community is our priority. 

At this time, there are no advisories against hosting public events in New York City. Guidance offered regarding attendance at large gatherings is limited to those at highest risk—the elderly and those with underlying health issues, according to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

For those of you who will still be here, we aim to offer you a quality educational experience. Despite cancellations, we have a fabulous lineup of professional and adviser speakers planned, including some new sessions one of which is “Covering COVID-19 — Guide to careful coverage of the outbreak.” You can find the updated schedule here

If you do not want to attend, we understand that your health and safety must remain your priority. If you chose to cancel your convention attendance independently, CMA’s standard cancellation refund policy remains in place.

We also are sensitive to the fact that travel bans at some of your colleges resulted in your conference plans being canceled, sometimes without your input. We will provide 50% registration refunds to attendees who could not attend the convention because of collegewide travel cancellations as a result of the coronavirus. The refunds will be given to those planned attendees whose colleges announced the cancellation by 5 p.m. PST March 10. To receive the refund, you will need to provide official college documentation (a letter on school letterhead) that states a domestic travel ban is in place and when it was implemented. To be eligible for the reimbursement, you must submit the documentation to this form by 5 p.m. PST March 31.

We understand that an attendee at Investigative Reporters and Editors’ NICAR event last week in New Orleans tested positive for the virus. In the interest of precaution, we would prefer you to cancel attendance at CMA NYC 20 if you were at NICAR or if you know you were exposed to another person with COVID-19 elsewhere. 

As the situation develops, we will continue to update and provide necessary information to our members. Please do not hesitate to contact CMA at info@collegemedia.org with specific questions.



March 10, 2020:

Convention attendees,

College Media Association’s Spring National College Media Convention will begin tomorrow in New York City. We look forward to seeing those of you who are attending. We have a fabulous lineup of professional and adviser speakers planned for you. You can find the updated schedule here.

There currently is no government ban restricting travel to New York City. We chose to move forward with the convention because of the financial implications related to cancellation and because we wanted to serve those members who still are able to attend.

We are disappointed that some of you who were planning to attend the convention had to cancel because of coronavirus-related concerns, but we understand. The CMA board met this morning to discuss how best to handle your concerns about registration reimbursement. We are sensitive to the fact that travel bans at some of your colleges resulted in your conference plans being canceled, sometimes without your input. We also are sensitive to how these decisions may negatively impact your already limited student media budgets. The board simultaneously considered these bans as well as the overall financial health of our organization. 

As a result, the board voted to provide 50% registration refunds to attendees who could not attend the convention because of collegewide travel cancellations as a result of the coronavirus. The refunds will be given to those planned attendees whose colleges announced the cancellation by 5 p.m. PST March 10. To receive the refund, you will need to provide official college documentation (a letter on school letterhead) that states a domestic travel ban is in place and when it was implemented. To be eligible for the reimbursement, you must submit the documentation to this form by 5 p.m. PST March 31.

If you chose to cancel your convention attendance independently, we understand that your health and safety must remain your priority. CMA’s standard cancellation refund policy remains in place for attendees who cancel due to personal concerns about traveling. 

We’re looking forward to having a valuable educational experience for those in attendance. We’re excited to see you soon. We will miss those of you who cannot attend. Please let me know if you have questions or concerns.


March 9, 2020:

Registered CMA convention attendees,

We know you are concerned about the coronavirus in relation to your plans to attend CMA’s Spring National Media Convention. We’re monitoring the ever-changing situation closely. As of this March 9 writing, no federal restrictions prevent meetings and travel within the U.S. Therefore, we are moving forward with the March 11-14 convention in New York City.

We are aware that the coronavirus has spread to the U.S., including multiple confirmed cases in New York City. The state instituted new cleaning protocols for crowded places, including public transport. The CDC encourages people to wash their hands frequently to protect themselves and combat spreading the virus. Practicing good personal hygiene is the best way to keep yourself safe from the virus. Read more about the CDC’s recommendations at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.

CMA leadership has added hand sanitizer dispensers to all meeting floors and on most water stations on conference floors. The hotel has placed hand sanitizer dispensers at every elevator bank. We will distribute convention badges as usual, but already planned not to distribute convention bags. It is up to attendees whether they would like to take convention programs or other trade show materials. We discourage you from attending the convention if you are ill, especially if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

CMA’s standard cancellation refund policy remains in place for attendees who cancel due to personal concerns about traveling. However, we are sensitive to the fact that some of you would like to attend the convention, but your university will no longer allow the travel. The CMA board meets Tuesday and will discuss options related to university banned travel. They will communicate with those parties as soon as possible, but it likely will be after the convention ends.

Please let staff know if you have any questions or concerns. We will miss those of you who cannot attend this year. We can’t wait to see those of you who will be in attendance.


March 3, 2020:

We are so excited to see you next week in New York City for CMA’s Spring National College Media Convention. We know some of you are concerned about the coronavirus, so we wanted to inform you of steps we’re taking to help you maintain your health.

CMA leadership is continually monitoring the situation surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. We are aware that the coronavirus has spread to the U.S., including a documented case in New York City. The patient was diagnosed with the virus after traveling from Iran to New York. She, like many people diagnosed with the virus, has respiratory symptoms, but is not in critical condition, according to The New York Times. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state is instituting new cleaning protocols for crowded places, including public transport. The CDC is encouraging people to wash their hands frequently to protect themselves and combat spreading the virus. Read more about the CDC’s recommendations at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.

CMA plans to continue with our March 11-14 convention in New York City unless a health emergency results in a travel ban being issued in that area before the convention. CMA leadership has added hand sanitizer dispensers to all meeting floors and on most water stations on conference floors. We will distribute convention badges as usual, but already planned not to distribute convention bags. It is up to attendees whether they would like to take convention programs or other trade show materials. 

CMA’s standard cancellation refund policy remains in place for attendees who cancel due to personal concerns about traveling.

Please contact info@collegemedia.org if you have any further questions.