Posted in Conferences & Conventions, multimedia journalist

Freedom Forum To Hold Two Multimedia Boot Camp Sessions

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF chair & freelance aviation/travel journalist and blogger

Back in September 2010, I spent a week down at the Poynter Institute for a week-long course in multimedia storytelling.  As a former old-school print journalist, I needed a course like this.  I had gotten some good training at past NABJ conventions, but it wasn’t enough, so I found this type of intensive training to be quite helpful.

The Freedom Forum will hold two sessions of its Multimedia Boot Camp on  Aug. 15-19 and Nov. 14-18.  The cost is $850, and includes all supplies, use of multimedia equipment and software during training, some meals and step-by-step guides to producing audio, video and other multimedia projects.

In this boot camp, participants will learn the following:

• Produce multimedia on a budget, including cheap ways to record and edit audio.

• Use basic tools in Adobe Photoshop: toning, cropping and text.

• Produce an audio slideshow.

• Use Final Cut for video storytelling and editing.

• Use shotgun, stick and wireless microphones.

• Find and buy the right gear.

• Use smart phones and mobile devices to gather news.

   and will take away:

• Audio, photo and video skills.

• One finished audio slideshow.

• Two finished video projects.

• Production skills in Audacity and Final Cut.

• Smart Phone journalism skills that will help gather and distribute news right from your iPhone, iPod, Android or BlackBerry.

• Step-by-step guides to producing audio, video and other multimedia projects.

This type of training is invaluable.  This course is For more information, click here.  To register, click here.

Posted in journalism

Bucketlist #1: Chase A Dream

Editor’s note: below is blog post from Stephon Dingle, who starts grad school at Columbia University this fall. He discusses how he got to the recent NABJ convention and what he learned while he was there.  This was also posted on his blog, here.  Enjoy!


Pursuing a dream is something I believe everyone should have on their bucket list. The risks that a person takes to go after what they love to do is simply a daily adrenaline rush of satisfaction, geared toward one’s potential success. In pursuit of a dream, you come across so many opportunities.

You also meet so many people who essentially, become a great determining factor of how serious you are or have been about pursuing your dream. I offer my testimony as a form of advice to fellow students and aspiring journalists who want to pursue their dream, and how networking is like working a full-time job.

I was excited about my first package I produced. I was probably more excited to actually be dressed up and in front of a camera, than I was about the actual content, which by the way I felt was decent for my first time. I would gear up for my first NABJ Convention in Philadelphia last summer. I had my resume, my one standup, and was ready to get critiqued, constructively of course.

A recruiter from a media company that will remain unnamed, would sit down with me to critique my one standup I had to show. Before he pressed play to begin the video, I stopped him immediately and gave a disclaimer, “I go to a school that doesn’t have journalism, and this video is from my internship which is my first standup, ever.”

This unnamed man, nodded and said ‘okay’, which I believed was a forewarned agreement. As he watched my video I was smirking, excited and ready to hear what he had to say. The video ended and he said, “That’s it? You have a lot of work to do; you should be producing packages everyday! Do you have a website?! How many other packages do you have?”

I was baffled! I had none of these things. After warning this man of my circumstances, he laid me out! I left the career fair and went back to my room feeling defeated, even disappointed that I wasn’t as prepared, or as good as the other aspiring journalists in the room.

Well, here I sit in New York City, a year later, ready to tell that unnamed man, THANK YOU!

Thank you for helping me realize that:

Attending this year’s convention in New Orleans, I realized how far I truly have come in a year, all motivated by that interaction and feeling of being behind on my journalistic game.

I must say, I felt 10 x’s more confident this year because I met so many great people during my growth of the past several months. The biggest component of this growth is my fellow NABJ students. We are all in pursuit, in different levels, of dreams. I was welcomed into what I believe will be a life long family. I’ve seen them welcome new people into this family with such open arms,  and it says a lot when you were the one asking all the questions and then become the one answering them for other fellow NABJ Babies.

That’s what you call networking and mentorship coming full circle. In this past couple months I have had people tell me things I never imagined, such as, I am an inspiration to them! What? Me? I’m just a young man trying to go after something he wants, and doing whatever I can to get there. But nonetheless, I was humbled by these statements.

As you pursue a dream you must realize that you will NEVER get there on your own. It is essentially about who you know and what impression you make. While all the people you meet won’t be your best friend, because they have lives too, and probably don’t want to talk to you 24/7, they become weak ties.

Now you may wonder what that is? Weak Ties are part of the reason why I have accomplished so much in the past year. Weak Ties are those people you don’t talk to everyday, but instead those you have networked well with and left a good impression. According to a book I’m currently reading called, ” The Defining Decade,” by Meg Jay, weak ties will change your life more dramatically than people closest to you. That was all I needed to read to understand how and why I take networking so seriously. I even think networking is somewhat better than having all the money in the world.

What’s cooler than be interconnected organization wide (NABJ), nationwide, and eventually industry-wide(journalism). That is the path I’m on and happy to say it’s going well as opportunities come by the second.

You have to ask yourself:
Is the brand of “ME” on point?
If I weren’t me would I name drop me?
Is my website up to par?
Is my social media appropriate?
How about those business cards?
How do I DREAM the DREAM?

These are seriously only a minimum amount of questions I ask myself, when I look in that mirror. You should do the same and be honest with yourself. Once you do that, then you will be able to go out in this field, which at times I’ve learned is cut throat, especially for African-American journalists, and be able to with stand criticisms and use them as balance points to sharpen your game.

In pursuit of my dream, I can’t elaborate enough how vital networking is. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you what I have accomplished in a year.

I actively volunteered at NABJ events throughout the year which is a great opportunity to get to know your “family.” Knowing my family has led to me being able to meet pioneer journalists, hall of famers to be exact. People in the likes of Gwen Ifill (whose brother is a professor at my undergrad, see how networking works), the hilarious Roland Martin, Soledad O’Brien, Suzanne Malveaux, and even some of the original members of Red Tails.

I also applied to and was accepted to two NABJ sponsored programs that is helping me to DREAM my DREAM. I was a member of the 10th class of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana. There, I networked and got to meet and work with editors and reporters of the New York Times, including the Executive Editor, Jill Abramson. Of course, it was also an extension of another family working with 23 other hard-working student journalists while there.

As Don Hecker, the director of the program stated to us, “Being apart of this family assures us a couch to sleep on across the country.”

The other NABJ sponsored program I was accepted to was their fellowship position at NBC as a part of the Today Show. Need I say more? It’s the TODAY SHOW!

There, I have met Brian Williams, Matt Lauer, Tamron Hall, Joan Rivers, Al Roker, Hoda Kotb, and even Magic Johnson. The list could go on!

I experienced all of this before even stepping foot at the NABJ convention in New Orleans, where I met new students who are in my previous position as a first time convention attendee. I got to see familiar fellow NABJ students who I was so excited to see because of dual growth over the past year. And of course, mentors! The people who have taken me under their wing, and have taken note of my hard work and ambition. These are the people who always put in that honest good word for you and ultimately the people to seek to make proud.

During my time at this year’s convention I met and spoke with, Singer, Marsha Ambrosius (she said I was cute, you know I was pumped), I met and spoke with Spike Lee, who is very down to earth and even inquired about what school I will be attending. Of course, I was eager to tell him, “why yes, I will be attending Columbia University J-School for broadcast journalism.” He nodded, congratulated me and said, “that’s a good school, you must be on the money.”

Was I floored? Hell yea I was, Spike Lee even noticed my pursuit of a dream!? What? More ambitious fuel for the tank.

I say all this to say, I am realizing that when you are serious about your dream and pursue it with such ambition, people notice and you run into figures you never imagined you would run into. People that can change your life in seconds. But to get to that point you must ask one defining question, “have I positioned thy self to receive the blessings that shall come my way? Am I really ready to DREAM the DREAM?”

What will you do from now until next year at the NABJ 2013 Convention in Orlando?

Network. Take a risk. and DREAM.
You got this!


A dreamer, living the dream.

Stephon Dingle

Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Innovation, journalism, multimedia journalist, News

NABJ 2012 Serves Up a Powerful Learning Experience in NOLA

By Serbino Sandifer-Walker, Multimedia Journalism Professor, DJTF Past V.P., Contributor

Left to Right: Nakia Cooper, Mark Luckie, Serbino Sandifer-Walker, Misha Leybovich

NABJ stepped up in a big way at the 2012 convention in New Orleans to show its members journalism today and of the future. There were so many terrific sessions featured June 20-24. I think the learning labs were brilliant and gave members the opportunity to go into depth on topics and experience hands-on training.  This year, I had the opportunity to facilitate a learning lab titled Free Tools for Journalists and moderate a workshop titled One Man BanningFree Tools for Journalists showed members tools they could use to add depth, context and breadth to stories. I worked with some amazing people including Mark Luckie, the former Washington Post social media and innovations editor, now Twitter’s creative content manger of journalism; Nakia Cooper, digital content producer for KHOU-TV in Houston, Texas, one of a few African-American women in a position like this, and Misha Leybovich, the CEO of Meograph, a startup designed to make digital storytelling a breeze.

Free Tools for Journalists was loaded with impressive multi and social media tools journalists could use to powerup their stories. From Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Storify, Pinterest and Instagram, we showed step-by-step how journalists are using these tools to bring greater context to storytelling. For instance, Twitter is much more than a social networking site for journalists; we showed how it’s being used as a newsfeed, source aggregation network and breaking news hub.  I showed how I developed a newsfeed with the hashtag #TwitterNewsChat and how to properly write a power tweet to generate reader/viewer engagement.  I explained that a hashtag is a user generated term on a topic used in a social media post, preferenced with a hash (#) symbol and adds layered context.  We created a hashtag specially for the session titled #NABJPowerUp.  We had all of the members to tweet about what they were learning and I showed participants how to write a journalistic tweet. The best tweets are written like news headlines, brief and to the point. I also showed how mobiles and tablets are revolutionizing how we report the news. The multiple apps give reporters flexibility to produce stories on the devices and post instantaneously to the news organization’s websites and blogs.  Luckie made the session magical with a presentation that had everyone in awe. He showed why Twitter Lists are a must use tool for journalists. Lists can be crafted around beats, community leaders and experts in many fields; there were social media analytics tools like Topsy and Social Mention; data graphic tools like Infogram; mapping tools like Umapper; photo tools like PhotoShop Express for mobiles; 360 Panorama and Pano for panoramic photos. There was even a tool; although it was not free, that provided a teleprompter for your iPad.  It was called Best Prompter Pro. This tool could be very useful for field reports in both radio and TV and radio newscasts. I really loved the Google Voice tool and how Mark used it. He developed a story that allowed Washington Post viewers to go interactive and play train conductor.  The story took reader engagement to the next level and had everyone jumping on the train.  See the Google Voice tool in action here .  Nakia helped attendees understand the power of Facebook as a reporting tool and its Subscribe feature. The feature allows a person to subscribe to your Facebook feed and not necessarily the photos you post. She also explained Facebook’s algorithm and how it affects viewer/reader engagement.  Misha brought great excitement with his presentation, which focused on his new startup, Meograph. This is a four dimensional Internet tool that lets users incorporate Google Maps, video, audio and photos into a presentation. So far, journalists have tested the tool.  The most popular story on Meograph was on the Trayvon Martin case


The Free Tools for Journalists learning lab showed members multiple ways to add greater context to their stories by using the tools that maximized effective storytelling.  This session helped to arm members with tools for today, tomorrow and the future. It was a powerful session that drove home the importance of the digital evolution in newsrooms across the nation. I advised participants to only use tools that added value and context to their stories.

Sandra Gonzales, Serbino Sandifer-Walker Mara Schiavocampo, Blayne Alexander

The One Man Banning session was excellent.  It featured these extraordinary digital journalists who do it all.  They included Sandra Gonzalez, WGNO-TV in New Orleans; Blayne Alexander of WXIA-TV in Atlanta, Ga. and Mara Schiavocampo, NBC’s first digital journalist. Each one of these journalists had a powerful story. Blayne is the fierce young reporter who embraces the power and freedom of telling stories as a solo journalist; Mara was a global backpack solo journalist who produced stories with great depth before joining NBC and Sandra produced these gritty stories of the Crescent City that made everyone ask for more.

Blayne Alexander, Multimedia Journalist (One Man Banning Panel Organizer)

This session showed how in news markets across the nation, some reporters are shooting video, writing, and editing stories, essentially doing it all.  The ideal situation would be to have a photojournalist to shoot, edit and take stills of the story; however, the multimedia journalist is a one (wo) man operation.  We wanted members to know that they shouldn’t limit themselves in anyway and to embrace multimedia journalism.

NABJ12 Audience – One Man Banning

What I loved about this session was the generational representation of the journalists and the precision in which they told stories. You had reporters from 24 to 50 sharing how they searched daily for authentic stories about the communities they cover.  Sandra became a multimedia journalist at 43 and she loves what she does. The message here is that you can be a digital journalist at any age as long as you have the skills. You also need to be disciplined at multitasking, timeliness and not easily distracted. This type of reporting may not work for everyone or every situation because there are times when a photojournalist is a must.  The breaking news story is the perfect example of when a photographer is a must.  Also, if you find multitasking overwhelming, this may not be for you.  Overall, this was an inspiring session.  We helped members understand that there is a trend happening in American newsrooms and they need to be ready to fill the position of multimedia journalist (MJ), digital journalists (DJ), video journalist (VJ), solo journalist (SOJO), blogger, tweeter and the list just keeps growing.  What an exciting time to be a journalists; a little exhausting too.

And this was only the beginning of NABJ 2012.  See some other events below.

-#NABJ12 Storination

-NABJ Monitor

-Republicans Spurn NABJ

-NABJ conference arrives in N.O. amid tough times for local journalism

-See all of the Learning Labs:

-See all of the workshops:

Posted in multimedia journalist, Social Media

Top Four Things Jalen Rose Can Teach YOU About Branding

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF chair & freelance aviation/travel journalist and blogger

I am addicted to the Jalen Rose Podcast on the Grantland Network.  With an hour-long commute each way to work every day, I need my podcasts to break up the monotony of random song searches and NPR.

I can’t even remember how I found out about the podcast, but I love it.  Back in the day, I was a HUGE NBA fan, even buying partial season tickets for the team that was the Washington Bullets.  But something happened and all desire for anything NBA was killed — until the Jalen Rose podcast.  But it’s not all about basketball. Jalen gives us the lowdown on what athletes really think and do, his thoughts on football (which are sharp and spot-on) and a healthy dose of celebrity dish (he loves Bossip).

Regular readers know I’m a BIG proponent of journalists branding themselves (I’m the Aviation Queen). So I’m in the car, and I start thinking about how effective Rose has been in developing and nurturing his brand and what we all can learn from him. So here’s what I’ve learned and what you can use as you develop your own brand.

  1. “Got To Give The People, Give The People What They Want.” This is the song that Rose sings at the beginning of each show, and this is what he delivers on during each episode. Great brands give the people (their audience) what they want.
  2. Mix the expertise with personality. Rose uses his unique personality to deliver news, analysis and observations using a healthy mix of his own experiences and pop culture references.
  3. Find your niche, but don’t be afraid to expand. Rose’s niche is basketball — college and professional. But he’s a man with many interests and because we already trust him as a great basketball analyst, it’s not too far of a stretch to trust him with topics like football, entertainment and even education (he founded and runs the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy , a public charter high school in Detroit).
  4. Promote yourself! The Jalen Rose Podcast has quietly become one of the most popular on iTunes — achieving this strictly by word of mouth. He’s on Twitter, has a great website, has a Facebook Page, a YouTube channel and you can watch him live on Ustream as he records the podcast. He uses all his social media platforms to promote the podcast and his other activities — but without being pushy about it.
Posted in Conferences & Conventions

The Amazing Sarah Smith Offers A Student Primer On How To DO An NABJ Convention – AMENDED

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF chair & freelance aviation/travel journalist and blogger

Editor’s note: the Saturday before the NABJ Convention in New Orleans, I got a Facebook message from Sarah Smith asking for help to get to the convention. I’ll be blunt; I wasn’t inclined to help. I had received pleas from several students and dug into my pocketbook to help (I love the NABJ Babies). But she dropped the name of Kirstin Garriss, one of my absolute favorite mentees, so I bit.  And I’m glad I did. Sarah is an amazing person, and her story is below. Enjoy!

Sarah Smith with Soledad O’Brien

Do I really want to be a journalist anymore? It has been months since I officially graduated college. I landed two major Hollywood internships while in school, but yet they aren’t knocking down my door. I didn’t even get the receptionist position at my local news station because they said I’m over qualified. And lastly I have no reporter reel!”

That was me venting to my godmother on May  28, 2012.  And that was the night she introduced me to her best-kept secret — her niece, Kirstin Garriss.

Sarah Smith with Kevin Frazier of “The Insider”

Kirstin is a NBC Desk Assistant in Washington, D.C. We spoke over the phone and she immediately told me different things I needed to do, such as sending her my resume and cover letter for critiquing.  We emailed, texted, and spoke over the phone for the next few days.  Once my resume was good enough, it was time for that next step.

Kirstin told me about the 2012 NABJ Convention in New Orleans and my first reaction was I would love to but, I don’t have the money. How can I afford to pay to invest in my future when I can’t even pay my rent in the present!  So I gave up on that nice idea — briefly.

A few days later, Kirstin emailed me about a CNN Reception at the convention; they were looking for recent graduates to fill entry-level jobs.  Immediately my eyes lit up! CNN! I must go! I love CNN and  Soledad O’Brien is in my list of favorite people! So I emailed the contact and completed the information that they requested of me.  This was an RSVP-only event and I was now locked in. The only catch was, it was in New Orleans.

Soon after I was confirmed for the job reception I thought to myself “what have you done?  You know you don’t have the money!” But then another thought came over me.  This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten myself into a sticky situation and the way I got out was talking to people and exhausting every resources.

I figured out how much I would need and sent out text message asking people for as little as $10. When doing something like this I say proceed with caution, because you’ll soon realize who’s willing to support you and who’s not. I had people not respond, some lie  and say they would help, and some say they couldn’t help.  Those response didn’t outweigh those who were willing to help though.  But that wasn’t enough; I needed to have more determination and assistance.

After making a lot of calls,  I was lucky that my old boss knew Anita Blanton, a news anchor for KOCO in Oklahoma City.  My boss explained to Anita my financial situation and explained that if I came to New Orleans, I would need somewhere to stay.  Anita contacted some of her journalist friends in the area who were going to NABJ and they agreed to allow me to share a room with them.  Yes! I thought, one thing crossed off my to-do list.

Editor’s note: Sarah asked me to include the paragraph below.

The day before I was flying out to N.O. Kirstin reminded me to bring business cards and my resume. I only had enough money to print my resume but not any business cards. I called a local print shop in Oklahoma City, Joy & Trinity Printing and explained my situation to a Mr. James Bryant.

I asked if he’d be willing to sponsor at least 50 business cards for me. He said he liked that I’m doing something for myself & would be glad to help. I emailed him my information and then an hour later instead of picking up 50 business cards, Mr. Bryant had 100 business cards waiting for me!

Now on to how I would get there. I made a lot of phone calls and even contacted my university about what I was trying to do. After hearing a lot of “no, we can’t help you,” I went to the most valuable thing I have — my friends. I let them know what was wrong and how I was just going to give up on going.  But then without even having to request it, they put their heads together and helped raise the money for me to come to New Orleans.

They asked people they knew and told them about me and my goals. We also attended the Oklahoma Juneteenth Celebration and gave out Blow Pops and Dots candy, asking for donations from the community.

My friends, who were pageant queens, wore their crowns and sashes so we could stand out from the crowd. I myself am a former queen and utilized skills that I learned.  I walked up to people to total strangers and told them who I am, this is what I’m doing, and this is how you can help me so that I can eventually help our community. The more people we spoke with the more I started noticing how us just being out there trying to achieve something, anything that it empowered people and ourselves.

At the end of the day, we counted our hard work and made enough money to get me to New Orleans.  Kirstin’s was thrilled when I told her I made enough to go but then my happily-ever-after moment was over once Kirstin told me I had to register for the convention.  I originally thought I’d go to the CNN reception, then check out NABJ as well.

After voicing my concerns to Kirstin, she told me to contact her Aunt Benet through Facebook and explain my story. I did exactly what she said and contacted Aunt Benet.  To my surprise Benet gave me an immediate response and told me she would handle registration for me but in return I had to be her intern, saying I needed to work for the bigger opportunity that she was trying to give me. I agreed and was re-energized once again!

I then had everything I needed — until I realized the tires on my car needed to be replaced, so I couldn’t drive. If it’s not one thing it’s another! Here I am, 2 days before the conference — now what do I do?

Again I was even more cut throat in finding away there! I had too many people who I couldn’t let down! I had a charge account and could bill a one-way flight. Not knowing how I would get back to Oklahoma, I took the risk. Then I received a phone call the night before I left that my assistant pastor would contribute enough money for me to book a return flight.

I woke up extra early, drove across town, picked up his contribution and then headed to the airport. Once I landed in New Orleans, I booked my return flight the next day! And the rest is history! I made it!

I’m currently writing this on my third day at the convention.  I met With CNN yesterday and blew them away. I did things that not everyone would do to get here.  Some people told me they would be too embarrassed to be out there asking for assistance for the fear of being looked down upon.  But that’s what’s so great about this — I was successful in what people said I couldn’t and shouldn’t do. I got here, I reached a short-term goal to set myself up for my long-term goals.

This conference and the CNN reception have shown me that I have the desire to be a journalist.  But my friends and my community pulling together showed me that they believe in my ability to be a Journalist.  I will never forget capturing this moment and cannot wait until it’s my turn to be the one to believe in someone else.

Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist, Social Media, Uncategorized

The Digital Journalist: ‘It’s Like My Paintbrush’

By Serbino Sandifer-Walker, Multimedia Journalism Professor, DJTF Contributor

Sandra Gonzalez, Serbino Sandifer-Walker, Mara Schiavocampo, Blayne Alexander at NABJ One Man Banning Workshop. Blayne Alexander organized the workshop. Serbino Sandifer-Walker served as the moderator.

Sandra Gonzalez of WGNO-TV in New Orleans, La. knows how to tell a story. The veteran journalist has been at it for two decades and can’t imagine doing anything else. Except one day, her TV boss came to her, gave her a camera and said go find the stories, alone. She was 43-years-old and she hasn’t looked back since because to Sandra being a digital journalist is not any old job. I moderated an NABJ session in New Orleans where Sandra was a panelist. She explained to me her job is like having a paintbrush in hand everyday. And everyday she’s determined to paint a Picasso.