By Marie Sutton, freelance journalist and member, Birmingham Association of Black Journalists
Many veteran journalists can write a news story in their sleep, but are baffled by how to use social media. “I have colleagues who have no clue what Twitter is or how to use it as a tool of journalism,” said Shaun Chavis, diet editor for Health magazine.
But as journalists across the country fall victim to downsizing and budget, cuts many are having to figure out how to use those Internet tools as they reinvent themselves as bloggers and online reporters. For that reason, the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists (BABJ) recently partnered with the Online News Association (ONA) to present a day of free intensive social media training.
The Parachute Training Initiative was offered on June 5 as part of a $25,000 grant presented by the Gannett Foundation. About 70 journalists from across Alabama participated in the conference that was held in the Hill Alumni Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The sessions were tailored specifically to the needs of independent, community, non-profit, displaced and employed journalists, bloggers and students in the Alabama area.
Workshops included everything from “Free Tools to Kick Your Site Up a Notch” to “Harnessing the Power of Social Media,” and “What You Need to Know about Internet Law” to “Jumping from Print to Multimedia Journalism.” Speakers included social media all-stars like Danny Sanchez, Digital Platform Manager of Tribune Interactive; Josh Hatch, Director of Interactive for USATODAY.com and Robert Hernandez of the University of Southern California, Annenberg.
“It was a great session that opened my eyes to possibilities I didn’t know existed,” said Willie Chriesman, BABJ member and freelance journalist.
“I think so many professional journalists don’t know how to use the emerging technology, don’t often get opportunities to learn about it, and feel uneasy about continuing to do their jobs without knowing how to use these tools,” Chavis said. “This ONA Parachute Training was a huge help.”
Steve Crocker, president of BABJ, said this conference was right in line with what his organization wants to do for the area media professionals. “One of our priorities for BABJ has been to provide opportunities for professional development wherever possible, especially that training is getting harder to come by in many newsrooms.”
This event was the third of its kind presented by ONA. Others were held in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Boca Raton, Fla. The Online News Association is the world’s largest association of digital journalists.
“For ONA to bring so much value with them by doing the heavy lifting in terms of logistics and putting the schedule together makes it a no-brainer to bring them back to Birmingham as soon as they want to come,” Crocker said.
He said BABJ hopes to bring the organization back for another training session within the next 6 to 9 months.