Attending seminars and conventions is one way that Deseret News staffers improve their abilities as journalists. Meeting with others in our business at trade association conferences is always helpful.

An obvious advantage of such meetings is the reservoir of wisdom and experience that comes together in one place. Tapping into such sources individually would be impossible, but in a convention it becomes highly rewarding.It was recently my privilege to represent the Deseret News at the annual conference of the American Society of Newspaper Editors held in Washington, D.C.

Some 1,000 newspaper executives met in what turned out to be for me one of the most exciting weeks of my life.

I'm not a "name dropper," but let me simply say that during the week I had the opportunity to see "up close and personal" President Ronald Reagan, former President Richard M. Nixon, 1988 presidential candidates George Bush, Pat Robertson, Jesse Jackson and Albert Gore. Governor Michael Dukakis didn't come, sending word that he was too busy campaigning in the New York primary election. Needless to say, there was a lot of talk about why Dukakis chose not to meet with America's editors.

In addition, I also met President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his Central American peace plan; Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, head of state of the Republic of Singapore; Rep. Jim Wright of Texas, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; Mayor W. Wilson Goode of Philadelphia; Mayor Henry Cisneros of San Antonio; Mayor Coleman Young of Detroit; and former New York mayor John Lindsay.

Beyond the political figures, the meetings were filled with presentations by the leaders of the newspaper industry. There were also some television personalities such as Walter Cronkite and Tom Pettit who assured us that newspapers still provide much more news than television. Syndicated columnists whose materials we carry in the Deseret News were there and it was nice to get to know them better so they are not just names and faces in our paper.

The Reverend Jerry Falwell came to discuss televangelism, and A. Bartlett Giametti, former president of Yale University and now president of baseball's National League, told us what he felt was wrong with newspaper's sports pages.

All in all, it was exciting to be involved with such a line-up of people whose lives are very much a part of our daily news reporting.

Permit me a few personal observations.

George Bush in person is quite persuasive. He had some solid things to say, and used humor well. He was very convincing in handling questions asked from the floor.

Pat Robertson acknowledged that Bush will be the Republican nominee, and that he will support the vice president. But he was very sincere in saying that he is hanging on until the convention in order to raise his voice about religious and moral values in America. He said no other candidate seems to be stressing the great need to return to the moral values that seem to have gotten away from us.

I was quite amazed by my feelings about Jesse Jackson not so much with what he had to say, but with his ability to say it. I have seen few orators to equal him. He's a real spellbinder with words. Gore was less than dazzling, to be frank, and it is not hard to see why he has put his campaign "on hold."

But perhaps most impressive of all to me was the presentation by former President Nixon.

I had managed to get a seat on the second row right in front of the podium. Before the meeting began, two workmen came and removed the podium and in its place put a microphone stand on the floor. Mr. Nixon stood in front of that microphone without any notes, and for nearly two hours gave his impressions about the world's trouble spots, about the presidential campaign, and about the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. From an obviously keen mind, the 76-year-old Nixon, made a masterful presentation and then fielded questions from the audience with great skill.

At the end of his presentation he received a standing ovation from the editors who only a few years ago had less than nice things to say about him.

One of his comments, obviously representing the reflective time he has had since leaving the White House, was impressive to me. He said each individual must never quit trying to be better than he is, and then offered this advice: "Only when you're engaged in a cause bigger than yourself can you be true to yourself."