As a member of the fourth estate for a quarter-century, I've always been of the opinion that you can't adequately cover an industry glued to your desk armed with only a pleasant but thorough phone manner, and a strong Internet connection.

Instead, I count myself among the traditionalists who hold steadfast in the belief that you have to get out in the field, connecting with sources and putting faces together with names.

While I laud the incredible advancements in technology which inarguably have accelerated our access to information and imbued us with the ability to speed up the delivery of news and related content, I feel those innovations are slowly writing an epitaph - if they haven't already - to that critical personal connection.

It's sort of like when you see a couple sitting at a restaurant, texting instead of talking.

Our family has a strict ordinance whereupon all cell phones and similar communication devices are to be powered down for the duration of dinner.

But I digress.

Over the past several years, I've noticed that the trend of winnowing personal interaction has subtly wafted into the accounting profession.

As an example, consider the annual line-up of state and regional CPA shows.

While some are certainly larger than others in attendance and scope, most operate from a basic template - that of offering a wide range of CPE courses accompanied by a large expanse of exhibitor booths and an opportunity to network.

But after attending those in New York, New Jersey and, most recently, Chicago, attendee traffic and pace was noticeably lighter than in previous years. And it was not just a journalistic conjecture, but a refrain heard from a number of folks including vendors whose livelihood is contingent on the quantity and quality of booth visits by prospects that hopefully lead to follow-up sales.

Having written a number of features on the evolution of new delivery methods for CPE, it struck me that in a wobbly economy with personal and firm-wide cost concerns at a premium, the ease of taking CPE either online or in-house would preclude many from taking time off to fight traffic and pay exorbitant parking rates in some of the nation's largest cities in order to obtain six or so credits.

I hope it's a short-term trend - fueled largely by the economy - but the skeptic in me feels that perhaps many of the live events have had their time and, because of technology in the learning arena, are potentially headed the way of typewriter repair shops or Blockbuster Video.

But I'll always contend that nothing beats that face-to-face contact and customary exchange of cards.

But I have to go now... I just got a text from my daughter and need to answer it before dinner.


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