It’s healthy for a journalist to be on the other side of the notebook once in a while.

That’s where I found myself on Friday – in San Sebastian, Spain, of all places.

This beautiful city in the Basque Country, and on the Atlantic Ocean, is where the 2016 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy will take place Nov. 16-19. (Brief ad: the event is open to all, and you can pre-register now at

I had flown in for a day to finalize contracts for the forum, inspect venues, and make a public announcement of the forum. That public announcement came during a press conference, which found yours truly – and the Swiss-Swedish journalist who is my partner in the forum (all credit to Mr. Fox of this web site for introducing us 10 years ago) – sitting next to San Sebastian’s mayor and the local city councilwoman who is the forum’s host.

We got a few questions about the event and direct democracy, and things seemed to be going smoothly. San Sebastian is doing big and new things in developing direct and participatory democracy – after years of dictatorship (Franco) and terrorist violence, and I fell into easy praise of its efforts.

But then a journalist asked insistently, in Basque, about the first big petition drive on a local initiative – to ban bullfighting. And the scene turned tense – the mayor and councilwoman answered briefly. I’ve always thought the practice a bit cruel, but I didn’t answer—a voice in my head said I shouldn’t be pronouncing on culture on my first day in the Basque Country.

And so the press conference ended—and I snuck away.