Posted in Conferences & Conventions, journalism, Uncategorized

10 Things I Learned at #NABJ17

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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.

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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

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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