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:



Home of the National Association of Black Journalists's (NABJ's) Digital Journalism Task Force

2 thoughts on “NABJ 2012 Serves Up a Powerful Learning Experience in NOLA

  1. Thank you. We greatly appreciate your comments. Please continue to follow our blog. NABJ12 was amazing! If you come to Orlando for the 2013 convention, please come to some of the DJTF events.

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