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Are you the next NASH coordinator?

Western Representative

Aug 25, 2021

NASH is Canada’s largest student journalism conference and brings together student journalists from coast-to-coast to connect, network and learn from one another. Each year, the conference is hosted by a CUP member publication, within their home city. The conference includes keynotes, presentations and workshops from industry guest speakers, centering around a main journalistic theme. It’s also where CUP presents their annual JHM Awards for Excellence in Student Journalism. NASH isn’t just the yearly student journalism bash, it also serves as our annual general meeting where member publications can determine the direction CUP will take in the following year. 

Before the pandemic, this all took place in person, and NASH attendees would fly out to the conference from across Canada. This past year, The Varsity held an entirely virtual weekend conference. The upcoming NASH will also take place online as papers recover from the pandemic, but will feature some safe, local get-togethers where we can still party, public health guidelines permitting. 

Either way, NASH84 needs a host, and if you’re interested, here’s what you need to know. And at the bottom of this explainer, a few words from Dina Dong, the lead NASH83 coordinator who gives you her insight on all the challenges and rewarding benefits of hosting!

Who hosts NASH?

In previous years, publications would bid to host next year’s NASH by making a presentation about how they’d do it at the Annual General Meeting (hosted at that year’s NASH). This year, however, CUP board members will team up with one or two publications in order to host NASH, taking on a stronger role of helping to coordinate the event.

Where does the NASH budget come from? 

NASH is primarily funded through ticket sales and sponsorships, as well as funds allocated from your publication. You can also apply for grants to potentially add additional funds to your budget, which our Director of Funding ( could help with.

Are coordinators paid?

NASH coordinators have full control over how they use their budget, including allocating funds to pay themselves. We strongly encourage you to make sure you are compensated for your work.

Do I have to hire extra people on staff to organize it?

No. You may team up with a few editors on your masthead to help coordinate the event.

Will it be virtual or in-person this year?

This year, CUP made the difficult decision of sticking to an online conference, like we did for NASH83, given the limited resources and energy many publications currently have due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on them. However, CUP is excited to have regional reps coordinate some safe, local get-togethers where public health guidelines permit.

How many events will we have to organize?

There is no set number of events mandatory to organize, but last year’s online NASH83 had two keynote speakers per day and 12 smaller events per day, and was a three-day conference. This year, however, we are recommending just two days of events to avoid some of that digital burnout.

How do we find sponsors?

Cold-emailing universities, establishing a rapport with speakers who have connections to potential sponsors, and the CWA is typically a guaranteed sponsor.

How involved will CUP be in the process?

CUP wants to take on a major role of support this year. Depending on what hosts feel is most helpful, we will dedicate a team of CUP-NASH coordinators and support you along the entire way. That could look like reaching out to speakers, attending brainstorming sessions, putting out the small fires that come up, helping to find sponsors, organizing the digital logistics, etc. 

What’s the theme this year? 

This year, CUP is planning “101” webinars throughout the year to cover the basics of journalism lessons, and leave the more in-depth discussions to NASH. That means the theme can be a bit more advanced than previous years with even more in-depth, useful workshops and keynotes! The theme will be discussed with the NASH coordinators and CUP board members.

What would the timeline look like? 

A few words from Dina Dong, the managing NASH83 coordinator! 

In regards to creating a conference, you always want to make sure that you are using your time efficiently and effectively. We divided our time into 4 stages which gave us plenty of leeway to work with our summer schedules, our school schedules, and any major obstacles (*pandemic*) that we encountered:

  1. The first stage consisted primarily of designing our dream conference, answering the questions of “who, what, when, where.”

  2. The second stage consisted of outreach — to speakers, venues, student papers and sponsors. We also started to build our social media presence during this time period as well.

  3. The third stage was our confirmation stage. Here the NASH83 team met with speakers to plan their session, confirmed our sponsors, finalized the budget and started confirming our attendance. The more information we acquired, the easier it was to plan out the nitty-gritty logistical questions. 

  4. The fourth and final stage was really just seeing NASH83 come to life — after many trial and training sessions with volunteers, speakers, sponsors and students as well.

Don’t be fooled, however, the second stage is on-going — reaching out is the toughest part, but many journalists are fond of the student journalism community. In addition, it’s difficult to really make any big decisions until your budget is confirmed or you have a strong sense of what your budget will be. Sometimes it’s a leap of faith and a shot in the dark, but sometimes there’s a jackpot waiting for you at the end of the rainbow. 

What are the benefits of hosting NASH? 

A few words from Dina Dong, the managing NASH83 coordinator! 

This will probably be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life — not just because your favourite journalist (and not to mention Twitter verified) is following you back on Twitter. There’s an unexplainable force of the student journalism and journalism community that NASH puts you in the center of. You learn about the different avenues of journalism in the “real world,” you’re introduced to the diverse yet very well-connected communities, you understand how to navigate the industry, and very quickly, you become a part of it. You’re suddenly in contact with journalists and students who all share a very similar goal to you. 

Many Canadian journalists have been affiliated with NASH in one way or another, it’s almost like a rite of passage to be at the conference, but to be the organizer — you’re on a different tier. You get to play a huge part in cultivating the conversations between baby journos and veteran journos, which includes directing how the new industry will move and how the current industry should change. NASH83 was all about disrupting, and the NASH83 team made sure that our generation of journalists were going to disrupt the industry with the guidance of those who have been disrupting. Imagine being the person who brings all Canadian journalists together! 

Aside from the cool connections you establish, of course you learn a lot about event planning, which in itself is a desired skill. You’re not just planning an event, you’re refining your communication skills (e.g. phone calls and emails), budgeting, marketing and working with VIPs. It’s an experience transferable to all aspects of life. 

Anyways, at the end of the day, watching people have a bombass time and seeing your hard work pay off — there’s nothing like it. Not to mention, it’s really f***ing fun. Nobody knows how to party the way that journalists do. 

What are some common obstacles organizers face?

A few words from Dina Dong, the managing NASH83 coordinator! 

Money and time was one of the most difficult challenges I think all NASH coordinators can agree on. Canadian media is already struggling which equates to lack of external funding, however it also highlights the importance of supporting Canadian media, especially in the early stages (a.k.a. student journalism). Despite this, normally universities, organizations and other student papers are open to supporting students (never shy away from free things!). Despite monetary constraints, however, your team will learn to cut costs, make friends and find new ways to support the conference.

Our team consisted of full-time students who were also working for the student paper/other clubs, which made time precious to all of us. Many of us were confronted with really tough decisions at times in order to meet deadlines, but we managed to limit these through planning in advance. Having a core team is important as well — the NASH83 team was very structured, which made it easy to delegate tasks and for individuals to move at a pace they preferred while still meeting deadlines. The structure also allowed us to hold each other accountable. It’s tough to balance life as a student in general, but NASH83 was 100% worth it, and also really forces you to get your sh*t together. When your favourite journalist is on the other side waiting for a response from you, it’s really hard not to respond. 

NASH83 had a unique challenge, of course, but good planning, a good team, lots of communication and creative problem solving managed to support us through these unprecedented times. There is no denying that we exhausted many of our backup plans, but with every new constraint or obstacle, our team managed to get creative and work within our limits while pushing them. I honestly couldn’t say more without revealing our secret to success.

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