Books

The Imperfectionists

Meetings and conferences are also part of the world of make-believe, including the new novel The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman, which is a wry look at an English-language international newspaper based in Rome.

At one point, the paper’s editor-in-chief, Kathleen Solson, she participates in a panel discussion at a media conference that will sound familiar to any meeting planner who has created “the future of our industry”-style programming:

The subject of the panel discussion is “How the International Press Views Italy,” an enduring preoccupation in the country. She resents having to attend — it’s clearly a task for their young publisher, Oliver Ott. But he has gone missing again and ignores her phone calls. So the conference is left to Kathleen and the paper must manage in her absence. It is not managing well, if the constant stream of text messages on her BlackBerry is any indication.

“Will the newspaper industry survive?” the mediator asks her.

“Absolutely,” she tells the audience. “We’ll keep going, I assure you of that. Obviously, we’re living in an era when technology is moving at an unheralded pace. I can’t tell you if in fifty years we’ll be publishing in the same format. Actually, I can probably tell you we won’t be publishing in the same way,  that we’ll be innovating then, just as we are now. But I assure you of this: news will survive, and quality coverage will always earn a premium. Whatever you want to call it — news, text, content — someone has to report it, someone has to write it, someone has to edit it. And I intend for us to do it better, no matter the medium.”

Is it me, or do Kathleen’s remarks work equally well as a stirring defense of face-to-face meetings?

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.