When there was a writers’ strike, the Oscars aired. When it rained in London, Wimbledon waited out the storm, then returned to the game. Even the musicians on the Titanic played on until the end.

So you know it’s a bad, bad, bad sign of the times when the American Society of Newspaper Editors…cancels its annual convention.

ASNE President Charlotte Hall made the announcement this morning:

ASNE’s leadership has decided to cancel our 2009 convention because of the challenging times we face. The text of the press release that is going out this morning follows this note.

The Convention Program Committee had put in place an innovative and relevant program, and I am very grateful to them. But it became increasingly clear in recent weeks that our attendance would be low because editors need to be in their own newsrooms during this difficult time. The board of directors will meet soon to deal with the financial implications of canceling the convention and map strategy for the coming year.

In the meantime, we will increase reliance on the Web to help editors share what they are learning as they reshape their news organizations for multiple platforms and operate with fewer resources. We plan to have our new Web site up this spring and we will produce more webinars and ramp up our recently developed newsletter, Editors’ Exchange.

As you know, we had planned votes at the Chicago convention on bylaws changes to drop “paper” from our name and expand our membership to include editors of online-only news Web sites and leading journalism educators. That, and the annual election of new board members, will now occur electronically. We will be touch with you soon on the details.

We will also move ahead with plans for our scheduled 2010 convention in Washington.

I want to thank you for your support and guidance. If you have any questions about the convention or other matters, please let me know.

Sincerely,

Charlotte Hall
President

It’s the right call—spending money on airfare, hotel rooms, and all the rest seems ridiculously extravagant when so many publications are at death’s door—but, still. The declaration that the ASNE’s show, you know, won’t go on this year seems a fitting capper to a day defined by industry defeatism.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.