For NSPA Attendees, Disney is Magical


Photo I. Hanewicz

NHSJC drew over 6,143 attendees to the Walt Disney World Dolphin.

Isabel Hanewicz and Michelle Santacreu

With 52.5 million visitors a year, an extra 6,100 bodies does not make a huge dent to Walt Disney World, located in Orlando, Fla. But to the students, advisers and other media professionals packing the Walt Disney Dolphin hotel Nov. 12-15, the location is like a cherry on top of their journalism pie.

The JEA/NSPA Fall National Journalism Convention is hosted every year in a city in the Midwest, South or East. For the first time since its start in 1923, the convention was held in the state of Florida.

“[Disney] has the most experiences available to all of the students from not only the theme parks but being centrally located in Florida, which gives you an opportunity to reach out to other things,” said Christina Porcelli, a yearbook adviser from Plant High School in Tampa, Fla. and a member of the local convention planning committee. “It makes it easier access for other people to attend from other places.”

Disney is not just for young children, it is also for the young at heart, said Porcelli, who took her students to Magic Kingdom Wednesday.

“Even if you know it’s fake, it’s still magical,” Porcelli said. “There’s so many different things to do and see and they have the ability to suspend your disbelief enough to where you still enjoy it no matter what age you are.”

For students who traveled from across the country to attend NSPA, the proximity to Disney was an added benefit.

Map: Attendees on the Convention and Disney by Hometown

Student attendee Madison Russel traveled to Orlando from Kansas City, MO. Although she had been to California’s Disney Land before, she had never been to Florida or Disney World.

“It was just one of those things where it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Russel said. “My two favorite things in the world are beaches and journalism. I’m trying to meet all of the princesses, which is my goal for tonight.”

Katie Judd of Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, Missouri, takes a break from sessions for lunch on the boardwalk.
Katie Judd of Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, Missouri, takes a break from sessions for lunch on the boardwalk.

Disney factored in to the convention’s appeal for many, like Florida residents like Molly Briett, to whom the location held a fun, yet cheaper appeal than other out-of-state conventions. To those not living in the Sunshine State, Disney also held a novel appeal.

“I was really excited,” said Chelsey McGowan, a student from Texas. “On Saturday night we are going to Disney World. I went to Disney and Universal when I was in the sixth grade and I’m a junior now so it’s pretty cool to come back.”

Like the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s most popular theme park, journalism too is magical.

“[Journalism] takes kids out of their comfort zone and makes them do things that they might not necessarily do any other way,” Porcelli said. “It makes them reach out and look for resources and look for people that they might be sheltered to.”

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