By Ashleigh Atwell, Student Journalist/Blogger and PR Co-Chair of Atlanta Association of Black Journalists Student Consortium, Georgia State University
As 2012 progresses and it gets closer and closer to June, journalists, students and scores of other people are preparing for the 2012 NABJ Convention and Career Fair. The convention is a highly anticipated event and rightfully so. Last year, I fundraised to attend the convention and blogged about my efforts, and is something I plan to do again this year. It was a huge risk but it paid off in the end (you can see Ashleigh’s NABJDigital blog post about her efforts to get to Philly here).
Attending the convention gave me a chance to fellowship with media professional s of all levels from fellow students to high-profile names. To me, the NABJ convention embodies everything NABJ stands for: advocacy for and the
education of Black journalists. But don’t take my word for it. There are scores of my peers that share my sentiments.
Since my fundraising campaign, I have talked to several students about the convention and one phrase I hear a lot is “I want to go but it’s so expensive!” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase, I might be able to buy my plane ticket to New Orleans. Students, I get it. After all, I am a broke college
However, after attending the convention last year, I have been determined to set aside some time, money and effort to ensure that I make to each one from now one and you should consider doing the same.
Going to NABJ conventions gives you access to hundreds of potential mentors. NABJ professionals are always willing to help students and this willingness is magnified at the convention. I met people sitting in the lobby of the hotel, walking in the street and even on the way to my hotel from the airport.
As soon as they saw my NABJ badge, a connection was formed.
NABJ professionals love and care about NABJ babies and have no problem showing it. Student member Stephon Dingle can attest to this experience. “I embraced the title NABJ baby, believe it or not it has many perks like free meals and sympathy when you look googly-eyed seeing an idol of yours,” said Dingle. “All in all it is an experience that launches you and your career forward.”
One of the biggest displays of mentorship is the annual NABJ Student Multimedia Project that takes place at every convention. The student project allows students to work side-by-side with professionals to use their skills to produce a convention newspaper and website. The project allows students to
develop their skills in different areas including reporting, video editing, editing and as of this year, public relations. It is a very popular program among students.
“It’s real, hands on experience in a field that is always moving and changing. I made some great friends and I was able to step outside of my comfort zones,” said Stacie Bailey, another student member and two-time student projects alum. “I’m primarily a writer, but I gained experience in shooting and editing video, photography and laying out pages. “
In addition to the student projects, there are a host of workshops and events that allow students to develop skills that imperative in a burgeoning media career. There is a lot of planning and preparing that comes with making it to the convention but it is definitely worth it.
Graduate student Naomi Prioleau considers the convention a great career move. “You learn so much from the workshops and the job fair that they hold simply by listening and asking questions,” she said. “I have already recommended it to
graduating high school students and other students at my alma mater, because it’s the best thing you can do for yourself if you’re an African-American college student.”
Even though the convention is great for professional development, the familial atmosphere is pronounced. As Bailey put it, “Going to an NABJ Convention is like a big family reunion.”