Posted in Conferences & Conventions, journalism

10 Things I Learned At #ONA17


I thought I’d go ahead and get this down on the blog while it’s still fresh in my mind. If you didn’t attend this year’s Online News Association conference in D.C., you missed one of the best events of the year.  Here are 10 things I learned — and start getting ready for #ONA18 in Austin, Texas!

The ONA HBCU Digital Fellows with Instructor Michael Grant and Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times.

1. I’m excited about the new generation of digital journalists of color. Between the HBUC Digital Fellows, the CNN Diversity Fellows, the MJ Bear Fellows and the ladies I met at the ProPublica Diversity Breakfast, I think we’re pretty well covered as they all move ahead in their careers.

2. Michelle Johnson of Boston University and Katia Hetter of CNN kick ass! These women, along with their team of mentors, ran this year’s Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab. Not only did they oversee the stories written by students, but they also focused on innovations including new tools and creative storytelling. Check out their stories and innovation here.


3. #MediaDiversity is alive!! I saw it in what was a record number of overall and diverse attendees in D.C., and NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NLGJA were all represented. This is impressive because it wasn’t so long ago that there were conferences where I could physically count the diverse attendee. I also saw it on the panels and at the sold-out diversity reception.

Doug-Mitchell4. There are employers who want to do better. We had more than 20 hiring managers attend year three of “Workshop for Inclusive Recruitment, Hiring and Retention.” Led by Doug Mitchell, speakers (including me) discussed trends and tips on creating and maintaining diverse newsrooms.

Amy jpg

5. Amy Webb STILL rocks with her “10 Tech Trends For Journalists” session. We all know that you need to get there early if you want a seat. This year, Amy handed out free copies of her book, “The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream” and Google set up their coffee bar to have us caffeinated for her talk. If you saw her presentation at NABJ Philly in 2011, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Click here for access to a Dropbox with all her data for the trends. And click here to watch the one-hour presentation.

Sketch jpg
Tiffany Lew, me and Ayumi Fukuda Bennett, left. Ayumi’s sketchnote of the #ONA17 opening keynote address.

6. Sketchnoting is a thing. For real! I was a mentor at the ProPublica Diversity Breakfast and I was paired with Ayumi Fukuda Bennett and Tiffany Lew (who are both great). When I asked Ayumi what she did, she pulled out a Moleskin notebook and POW — it was an amazing sketchnote of the opening #ONA17 keynote address. She does this live and is done with a sketch 20 minutes after a session is over.  See a video of her doing her thing here. Follow her on Twitter and check out her website on Medium. And seriously — you need to hire her for your next workshop, panel or event. Seriously.

7. Facebook is here to help. They held office hours on the exhibit floor where specialists took appointments to teach skills. I took the CrowdTangle and Instagram consults and I can’t wait to play with them. You can check out some lessons here.

Midway jpg

8. The ONA Midway was a great place to get down and dirty with tools and tech. I’m sad that I only had a few minutes in this cool space.

9. We have another stellar (and diverse) group of ONA board candidates. You can check out the video from the Lighting Round session, where 11 board candidates made their pitches on why they should be one of the five candidates elected.


10. There wasn’t enough coffee!! There was a coffee shop on site and Google had a coffee bar across from registration. But the lines for both were always long, so I got my java fix in the Student Newsroom and the very kind folks at the Knight Foundation Lounge.

Benét J. Wilson is the board secretary for Online News Association. She is the immediate past VP-Digital of NABJ. She is an independent aviation journalist and content writer based in Baltimore. 

Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Education, journalism

Start Preparing for #NABJ18 in Detroit – NOW!

Saving for #NABJ18.pngOK. I know we’re still recovering from the very successful #NABJ17 in New Orleans. For those of you who didn’t make it this year, yes — it was just as great as it appeared on your friends’ myriad social media posts. You can click here for my summary on just what you missed.

If you’re already preparing for next year’s convention in Detroit, I applaud you, but this post isn’t for you. This one is for the following people:

  • Those with hard-core FOMO, who always vacillate whether to come or not then get mad when they don’t;
  • Those who want to attend the convention but have no idea how to pay for it;
  • Those — PLEASE pay attention — who think throwing up a GoFundMe account a month or less away from convention is a good idea; and
  • Those who email me, NABJ VP-Print Marlon A. Walker and other NABJ members sob stories about how they want to go but have no money (and asking me for “an airline hook up”) one to two weeks before the convention.

There are two journalism conferences I attend every year — NABJ and the Online News Association. I, like you, know that these events happen every year. Back in 2012, DJTF did a TweetChat with Natalie “The Frugalista” McNeal on ways to save. I encourage you to read it because the tips are still pretty good.

I began saving for both in June of the year before the conventions; that means I started saving for #NABJ18 and #ONA18 in June. I use the Smarty Pig website, which automatically takes out a designated amount twice a month (you can choose your own deposit schedule). I never see the money, so there’s no temptation. There are also apps like Digit and Qapital that are designed to help you save.

You need to break down your expenses: airfare, hotel, transportation to/from the airport, city transportation, food/drink, tips and gifts/souvenirs. You also need to save for things like clothing, hair, nails/grooming, business cards and a resume/portfolio website.  Once you get that number, divide it by 10 and start saving — today.

Other ways to raise funds for Detroit include a part-time job or side hustle and using birthdays, Christmas and Kwanzaa (specifically Kujichagulia, Self-Determination) to ask for things like registration, airfare and hotel costs.  And save on costs by sharing a room (I’ve had roommates every year since 2008), attending the free professional breakfasts and lunches (bonus-you’ll learn something) and sharing transportation. Most mentors will also help with a meal or drinks, especially if you are a student.

Don’t get me wrong — I have and will continue to help those who are also working to help themselves. This year I paid to register a professional and a student. I also gave $25 grants to help folks with expenses in New Orleans and did several free resume reviews. And I fully expect to help folks get to Detroit.

You now know what you have to do nearly a year in advance. But be warned — if you email me asking for help, or I see you posting one of those last-minute GoFundMe, my reply to you will be this column. So come correct and start saving now. Only 345 more days until NABJ hits the Motor City!!



Posted in Conferences & Conventions, journalism, Uncategorized

10 Things I Learned at #NABJ17

NABJ17 Convention logo

So. The 42nd Annual NABJ Convention and Career Fair is in the books. After I got home on Sunday night, I shut down my computer, iPad and iPhone and spent the next day in bed sipping tea (the actual drink, people) and watching trashy movies. On Tuesday I caught up on all my email and finished some work projects.

And now I’ve had time to think about the highlights and lowlights of this year’s convention. Overall, it was a great success. We had workshops that were on point, great news making plenaries (despite Omarosa’s best attempts to make them otherwise), wonderful evening events and plenty of time to visit with the NABJ family. Here’s my list of the top 10 things I learned in New Orleans.

Photo courtesy of Ariel Worthy, Birmingham Times
  1. You missed a really good story at the W.E.B. Dubois plenary. I won’t go into the Omarosa debacle, but thank goodness Birmingham Times reporter Ariel Worthy was able to report the real story from that session. “Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile and Sandra Sterling, aunt of Alton Sterling – both black men who were killed by police officers on video and days apart in 2016– spoke on life after their son and nephew’s slayings.”
  2. board jpg.jpgI’m going to miss my NABJ board members. You all don’t know how hard and rewarding the work is behind the scenes. I’ve been a frequent critic of past boards and I personally apologized to all of them. We were handed a mess and got it cleaned up under the leadership of NABJ President Sarah Glover. My time has ended, but I hope that folks will step up and run for open offices in Detroit.
  3. StephonMy NABJ Babies really are the future. You can click here to learn who they are, but they are really going to rule the media world. I’m not going to name them all here because I would forget someone and feelings would be hurt. I am so proud of how they are negotiating their careers that are difficult in the best of circumstances. Above is my mentee Stephon Anthony with his mentees!
  4. Keith BriannaBlack journalists are doing excellent work. Don’t believe me? Check out our list of Salute to Excellence winners, here. Look at the work done by our student journalists in our official convention site, The Monitor. And I must shout out two of the winners. First is my mentee (and fellow American University alum) Brianna Moné Williams, who won an award for best collegiate newspaper feature reporting for her story “Passing.” The second is my dear friend, Pulitzer Prize winner Keith Alexander of the Washington Post for his story on reclusive black billionaire Robert Smith.
  5. The workshops were great — but it was hard to choose. You’d always rather have too much instead of not enough. But in this case, there were so many competing workshops, it made it hard to choose. For example, my workshop – Content Marketing: A New Career/Freelance Option for Journalists? – conflicted with many others, so I streamed it on Facebook Live. You can see the full video here. The Online News Association conference either livestreams or audio records all of its workshops and keynote speeches (here’s an audio recording and video summary of my workshop, Early-Career Tips From our MJ Bear Fellows, from ONA 16). I’ve been advocating NABJ to do the same since 2012. I hope this can happen in Detroit in 2018.
  6. table-setting-2395450_640.jpgThere is such thing as a free lunch — or breakfast. Admit it — you go to the professional breakfasts and lunches for the free food. But if you stay after eating, you can learn some really interesting things. So next year, go, eat and stay.
  7. There’s never enough time to see everyone you want to see. To folks like Tracie Powell, Sonya Ross, Jamerika Blue, Shauna Stuart, Melanie Eversley, LaSharah Bunting, Leah Uko and the many others I missed — I’m sorry. I was winding down my board duties and time just ran out. But I love you all!!
  8. bedside-table-2425973_640Water and sleep are vital for getting through the convention. Let’s be real. There’s a lot of drinking and partying at NABJ. The lobby bar was THE place to see and be seen (although I preferred the quieter Public Belt bar on the second floor). With all that, you need sleep and hydration. Unfortunately, it took me two days to figure that out. Lesson learned — and I will be fully prepared for Detroit in 2018.
  9. tumblr_m5l3jr9Axb1r43gkjo1_500.jpgI overpacked for New Orleans. Folks who know me know I travel the globe never checking a bag. NABJ is one of the few things that make me break that rule, and I actually checked two for this trip. It was too much. I will check a bag in 2018, but I will remember to use the packing tips that work so well for me when I’m on the job.
  10. Friends.jpgYou’ve gotta have friends. There are people you see at NABJ and then there are people you SEE at NABJ. These folks began embracing me way back at #NABJ09 in Tampa and I can’t imagine going to conferences without them. They are always there with laughs, drinks and those badly needed reality checks. And I must shout out my cousin, DeMornay Harper. It was her first NABJ convention and she took full advantage. She also kept me from going completely off the rails forcing me to drink water and take naps.

The Detroit convention is 350 days away. NOW is the time to start saving your pennies and join us. Even as we were counting down to New Orleans, Detroit was already busy preparing for 2018. See you in the Motor City!!

Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Education, journalism, Uncategorized

Aunt Benet’s Top 10 Student Etiquette Tips for #NABJ17


As a certified (but young at heart) old fogey, I chat with my fellow fogeys (and some who are not quite fogeys) regularly about how the journalism industry has changed — for better or for worse.

But one thing that remains the same is the need for proper manners and etiquette when dealing with more experienced journalists, most of whom will be the people who will either hire you for your next job. And allow me to keep it real — some of you have major issues with interacting with people in real life because you spend too much time looking down and glued to your smartphone

So as the NABJ convention fast approaches next week, please indulge me and read my 10 tips — which I offer with love in my heart — on how to interact with your elders in New Orleans.

  1. Please address your elders properly. If you don’t personally know someone, it is not cool to informally email them or call them by their first name in person. Even at my advanced age, I do not refer to anyone I don’t know personally by their first name. Once they give permission, then have at it. Remember to start the email with hello or some other greeting and their name, and end it with regards/best/sincerely and your name. And you get bonus points if you have a signature line with all your contact information. Wise Stamp offers a free one here.
  2. Check out the NABJ exhibitors lists. Now is the time to download the convention’s Guidebook app, see who will be there and who’s on your must-see list. Once you’ve done that, start reaching out and asking – politely – for times to meet. And don’t rule out early breakfasts or late evening coffee or drinks (if you’re old enough).
  3. Ditch your friends.  You can see them anytime.  Did you spend all this money to get to New Orleans just to spend time with the same people you see every day? This is your golden opportunity to meet new people and build your networks, so take advantage of that and hang with your friends when you get home.
  4. Dress for the job you want. You will be attending a conference with nearly 3,000 professionals from across the country. Some may be dressed casually, but that does not apply to you. Think of this conference as one big job interview and networking opportunity, so dress accordingly. Skip the colored hair, concert/political t-shirts, ripped jeans, wrinkled clothes, those cool new kicks, crop tops and too-short skirts and shorts. Think tailored and professional, with stylish but appropriate suits and dresses and no tennis shoes or flip flops.
  5. Stop texting and start speaking to people, damn it! Conference attendees will be wearing name badges, so put down the smartphone and look up. You need to walk up to someone, introduce yourself and start a conversation. You never know where it might lead (click here to read where it led for Brionna Jimerson at #NABJ13).
  6. Make eye contact. While you’re doing the speaking thing, don’t be afraid to look people in the eye. It shows that you’re interested and engaged.
  7. Say thank you and offer a firm handshake after speaking with people. This is the best way to make that final good impression before you part ways with someone who could have a major effect on your career.
  8. Ask for a business card or contact information. It may be old-fashioned, but you are building your network. So you need to collect information from people who may be able to help you with things like scholarships, internships, references and even jobs. And have yours ready to hand over too.
  9. Write and snail mail a thank-you card to everyone you meet at #NABJ17. The art of writing is becoming a lost one. Stand out from the crowd by sending a handwritten thank-you card to people who made an impression. Trust me — this goes a long way. Bring pre-stamped cards and mail them on the day you leave New Orleans.
  10. Have fun — but not too much fun. There will be time built in for fun activities, but remember where you are. People will remember the one who got sloppy drunk in the hotel lobby bar. This is not the impression you want to leave in New Orleans.

The NABJ convention is a great opportunity to meet and interact with the people who will help you navigate your journalism/communications career. Come correct and take full advtange of it! Love, Aunt Benét

Posted in journalism

NABJ VP-Broadcast Candidates Answer Your Question

The NABJ Elections Committee held a webinar on July 10 for the board candidates for VP-Broadcast and Student Representative. You can listen to the recording here. The hour went quickly, but there were still questions being asked.  The candidates — Region III Director Gayle Hurd and incumbent VP-Broadcast Dorothy Tucker — took time to answer them, below.

ghurd_86x95pxGAYLE HURD

QUESTION: diversity seems to be falling by the wayside in broadcast newsrooms. What can you do to keep it on the front burner?

It seems Diversity isn’t the buzzword it once was, which is unfortunate because the need for it remains. In order to keep the conversation and the actions associated with bringing about diversity in the newsroom or any room, going, we have to increase our advocacy with news directors and managers. Something that has not been a priority recently.  We must Inform those who are in hiring positions that NABJ has a wealth of candidates for these jobs and how making these hires will benefit their company.  More importantly we need to secure ways to bring more journalists of color into positions of power – management, news directors, editors, owners  – so that the playing field will be made more even.  And by the same token, we must motivate and encourage our members to seek out management positions. NABJ can do that by continuing to prepare our members for roles beyond their current jobs and continuing to provide professional development and information on job openings.  And on that note, The NABJ Jobline could stand some improvements to make it more user-friendly, We need to increase the number of jobs by including in the convention sponsor package an opportunity for our corporate partners list their jobs on the Jobline on a regular basis, not just during convention time.  Knowing where we stand is part of the solution.  Perhaps another media diversity census is due.

And last, but not least, our talent as journalists should be used in telling the story of the lack of diversity in newsrooms and boardrooms, every chance we get.

QUESTION: We see veteran broadcast journalists being laid off or asked to take big pay cuts. How will you work to help these people who may not have the same options as younger broadcasters?
This is one of the issues I have made a priority, since we have a wealth of mid-level career journalists, and job opportunities that are shrinking and changing, or being given to younger colleagues who can work for lower salaries.  NABJ needs to provide training and help identify opportunities for these seasoned journalists who want to stay in their chosen career field but may need help navigating the digital landscape.  I propose a Mid-Career Mentoring Initiative where journalists who are thriving in their careers help train and mentor those who are struggling or facing changes brought on by increasing technology and changing newsroom procedures. This could even be a partnership with the Digital Taskforce and other organizations such as IRE, with which I have a close partnership. They have provided their Watchdog Workshop for Region III’s conferences for a few years for free and have pledged to return in 2018.
QUESTION: NABJ released its strategic plan this spring. What do you think are the most important recommendations that are most relevant to broadcast journalists?
I am proud to have served on the Taskforce that created this important document. I feel the entire plan is relevant, and The guiding portions the Vision and Mission which I worked on set the tone for our movement as an organization going forward. All of the recommendations are necessary.  Having said that the ones that stand out at this time for NABJ have to include Financial sustainability for the organization, which also needs to be maintained; providing jobs and opportunities for our members; and Advocacy within the media that helps create more diversity and re-establishes NABJ as the voice of  Black Journalists.
QUESTION: As members lose jobs, more and more are going onto the entrepreneurial track. What will you do at VP-Broadcast to help these members who want to produce news but not in a traditional newsroom?
I have a number of colleagues who have taken the entrepreneurial road after leaving the newsroom. Many are photographers and producers. I would first communicate with these entrepreneurs and ascertain what areas they need assistance.  Finding contracts, funding for business needs, marketing, networking, etc.  Then propose NABJ create an initiative that would bring these journalists together to help them with professional development, and serve as a clearing house for finding contracts.  One of the sponsors I partnered with in Region III, FedEx is very committed to entrepreneurship and would make an excellent sponsor for this project.
QUESTION: If you lose this election, how will you still help NABJ?
Of course!  I love NABJ and I have a heart to serve, so I will continue to work on the committees and task forces I am a member of on a local, regional and national level.  I am on the Strategic Planning Taskforce, the Founder’s Taskforce and the Arts and Entertainment Taskforce. I’m head the Region III Conference Committee but will continue to serve on it when I step down as Regional Director. And I chair the Media Access Workshop for my local chapter, the Triangle ABJ.   I have a number of ideas for NABJ.  I think one of the most important things we need to do is change the perception that NABJ is not inclusive.  I will work to engage new members in or out of office as I have done in my present capacity.   And for a long time, I have thought NABJ needs to be more creative in our fundraising efforts and not rely on the convention alone as our big funder.  I have had great success in this area in my region and have a few ideas for NABJ. 
QUESTION: Do you support Los Angeles for a convention in 2019?
I would love to see a convention in Los Angeles. It’s an exciting city which would allow NABJ access to some amazing venues, speakers and activities for your members.  I have talked with some chapter leaders from LA in the past about the possibility of holding a convention in LA because they were very interested in bringing NABJ to their city.
The issue for this city is the cost of living. It’s an expensive town to live in and visit.  If we can get a hotel rate comparable to those we have had in other convention cities, secure strong sponsors and partners and have the support of the members then we can make it happen in Hollywood!

Dorothy_Tucker_115x150DOROTHY TUCKER

QUESTION: diversity seems to be falling by the wayside in broadcast newsrooms. What can you do to keep it on the front burner?
Diversity in our newsrooms is critical. Along with our diversity committee, I have already met with representatives from NBC, CBS, CNN, NBC Boston, Tribune Media and a number of other local stations.  When we meet with executives and newsroom managers our discussions center on hiring, promotion, retention and diversity initiatives like our producer database.   We are not just thinking about what needs to be done. We are already doing it and will continue to advocate on behalf of our members.
QUESTION: We see veteran broadcast journalists being laid off or asked to take big pay cuts. How will you work to help these people who may not have the same options as younger broadcasters? 
This is a great opportunity for us to utilize our conventions, regional and media institutes to create programming that help our veterans acquire the technical skills to compliment their exceptional journalistic skills. Veterans armed with social media skills, photography and editing skills will help level the playing field for employers looking for candidates with those critical skills.
QUESTION: NABJ released its strategic plan this spring. What do you think are the most important recommendations that are most relevant to broadcast journalists? 
Many of recommendations in the strategic plan focus on increasing job opportunities. The NABJ Producer Database I created will help. It’s a directory where producers working at broadcast, print or digital companies can upload their reels and resumes and be connected to news managers looking to fill positions.  As the plan recommends, we must also continue to stabilize our finances. A strong NABJ allows us to fund programming to help our broadcasts journalists acquire and sharpen their skills and puts us in a better position to advocate for our members.
QUESTION: As members lose jobs, more and more are going onto the entrepreneurial track. What will you do at VP-Broadcast to help these members who want to produce news but not in a traditional newsroom? 
You will notice that we are doing more programming around entrepreneurship. Our journalists have lots of untapped skills and current workshops focus on how to start, grow, fund and market your business. It is important we continue to develop programming that encourages, educates and supports our budding broadcast entrepreneurs.
QUESTION: If you lose this election, how will you still help NABJ?
I’ve devoted nearly 40 years to this organization and win or lose I won’t stop.
The NABJ Producer Database is just my latest project. It will not only provide jobs for members but it has the potential to provide revenue for our organization. My goal is to make it one of the most sought-after directories in the country.  In addition to the database, I will continue mentoring young journalists, remain active in my local Chicago chapter, help raise money and produce programming for our next regional conference and host more webinars that focus on jobs and training for our members.
QUESTION: Do you support Los Angeles for a convention in 2019?
I believe LA is a viable option. To be fair, all competing chapters must meet the criteria that will produce a successful convention. However, I think that because of all that LA has to offer culturally and professionally it will be a strong contender. And I know the local support and enthusiasm is strong, which is a huge factor in the competitive process.
Posted in Conferences & Conventions, journalism

Good Eats In New Orleans: Clover Grill

tumblr_lsx72bvTnh1r15wahPhoto by Benét J. Wilson

My mother’s family is from New Orleans and my grandmother’s family is from the Gulfport/Biloxi region, so I have a natural love for the food of my people.   And I’ve had the pleasure of spending many good times in the Crescent City, so I plan on passing along some of my favorite places to eat.

I discovered Clover Grill after a great night of partying in the French Quarter, back in my younger days.  When you’ve played that hard, you need good food to restore you, and Clover Grill fits the bill.  I had a delicious chicken-fried steak breakfast, but the star attraction is the hamburgers.  The hamburgers are cooked under a hubcap (yes, rims), and they are NOT to be missed.  And enjoy the “show” put on by the waitstaff.  Make this a late-night eating spot during the NABJ Annual Convention and Career Fair in the Big Easy! Preregistration ends on June 30, so register TODAY!!