By Ameena Rasheed
Aspiring student journalists gathered together at the Houston Chronicle recently to engage with local media professionals for a mentor breakfast to discuss how to progress in the evolving world of journalism.
The event, hosted by the Houston Association of Black Journalists, included three panel discussions and a breakout session where students got to network with local media personalities in the city.
In the first session, “Opportunities for Journalists in a Newspaper Newsroom,” the importance of conveying your stories on multiple platforms was quickly addressed.
“Well, first of all there is no such thing as a print newsroom, it’s just a newsroom these days,” Houston Chronicle Senior News Editor George Haj said. “There is hardly anyone who just works on the print side of journalism.”
Many of the journalists in his Chronicle newsroom use a myriad of resources, such as Twitter, Facebook and Storify to share their stories, but quickly mentioned that they make sure to not rely solely on social media.
Haj further explained that the foundation of great journalism is storytelling.
“It’s all about finding a great story and telling it,” he said. “A boring story on the web is still boring, there’s nothing magical about the web.”
Journalism has vastly changed in the last decade due to the advent of the Internet, but the fundamentals of journalism still hold true.
“The most important thing in journalism is for you to learn how to write,” Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle Sports writer said. “Once you do that, for me anyway, things fall into place.”
Solomon, who took an untraditional route to being a journalist, majored in Civil Engineering while he was an undergraduate student and was a flight attendant for 10 years, urged students to be aggressive.
“Just being there everyday and putting forth the effort to do the little things makes a difference,” Solomon said.
Chief Meteorologist Gene Norman who sat in on “The Changing Landscape of Broadcast Media” shared the same sentiments.
“Be a sponge, learn about everything,” Norman said. “Make yourself indispensable.”
With numerous job cuts throughout the industry, KHOU Web Producer Nakia Cooper told students to use social media to their advantage to gain a following and brand themselves to help them gain employment in the newsroom.
“They are looking to hire young people,” Cooper said. “They’re looking to see how many Twitter followers you have.”
Cooper ended the session by warning students to watch what they post on social media to be taken seriously by potential reporters.
“Work hard now and control your image,” she said. “You can play around later.”
Texas Southern University journalism professor Serbino Sandifer-Walker shared how she’s preparing a new generation of journalists to meet needs of a 21st century media culture.
“I created the first and only social media correspondents team on a college campus that uses social media to tell under told stories in under served communities,” said Sandifer-Walker. “We have a global reach because social media is ubiquitous.”
HABJ members also had another chance to engage with students once again at the HABJ Holiday Toy Drive and Social that was held at the House of Blues on November 30.