Posted in Uncategorized

Start Getting Ready For #NABJ20 in D.C. NOW!

We all know the routine — you try and decide whether you’re going to the NABJ convention or not. Then by the time you decide, pre-registration is over, the airfare is sky high and you don’t have enough to cover everything. So you’re at home with a huge case of FOMO, swearing you won’t miss it again.

And yes, despite some hiccups, you really did miss out by not being in Miami this year. Next year, we’re in Washington, D.C., holding a joint convention with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists on July 8-12, 2020 (note we’re a month early next year). D.C. is where NABJ was founded and we’ll be in the thick of electing our next president, so you know it will be epic.

I do this every year, but here we go again. NOW is the time to start saving to ensure that you’ll be in D.C. And like I do every year, I’m going to give you some great tips on how to have the money ready when it’s time to start paying.

Wardman Park

We’ll be staying at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park. Unlike the Turnberry Isle Miami, Wardman Park’s basic room has two double beds, which is much more attractive for those who need roommates to save costs.

The Cost

Registration – $325. This is for Early Bird. If you belong to a chapter, that drops to $275. Pre-registration is $380 and after that, it’s $550 (but you’re not going to wait that long, right?).

Hotel – NABJ is committed to keeping hotel room prices at under $200 a night, so if I were guessing, we’re looking at $179 a night before taxes. That adds up to $716 for Wednesday through Sunday. Divide this by four if you have roommates.

Airfare –  I checked Southwest Airlines fares from Chicago Midway to Baltimore/Washington in March 2020, since that’s how long their schedule goes right now. it came to $312 round-trip. But because of the location, I’m sure a lot of you can drive, or take the bus or a train. And there’s also carpooling.

Transportation – You need to get from the airport/train/bus station to the hotel, which is in upper Northwest D.C. There is a Metro subway station nearby too. I always budget about $100 for this, including a ride to and from the airport and rides to downtown D.C. A Super Shuttle from BWI Airport to the host hotel will be around $50 round-trip; that same shuttle costs $31 from Washington Dulles Airport.

Convention Prep –  $200. This is anything you need to do to get ready for the convention, such as clothes, business cards, resumes, hair, nails, clothing alterations, etc.

Meals/Bar – You can’t expect to get free meals every day, although I encourage you to take full advantage of breakfasts, lunches and receptions. Don’t forget that NABJ members network and socialize at the bar every day. Give yourself a food/drink budget of about $75 a day.

This all adds up to about $1,400, but your numbers may be different, depending on your travel and roommate costs. The simplest way would be to set up an account that you can’t access easily and put aside $140 a month.

Take advantage of the chapter discount for registration. Or consider volunteering to get a free one. That hotel cost will drop if you have roommates. When it comes to airfares, consider flights to BWI and Dulles airports, which tend to have cheaper fares than Washington National Airport.

Show Me the Money

So how are you going to get the money for D.C.? Start now! Below are 10 tips you can use to help.

  1. Start a savings account. Set one up on auto-pay and walk away. My personal favorite is Smarty Pig because it takes out the money automatically and it’s in an account you can’t see, so you avoid temptation. Others include Digital (but it does cost $2.99 a month) Qapital and Chime.
  2. Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas-Kwanzaa/Graduation. Look for these and other celebratory milestones. Ask friends and family for contributions toward convention costs rather than gifts that can’t offer a return on your career future. Grandma can pay for a hotel night or two. Mom and Dad can spring for airfare. Auntie can give you a gift card you can use for food and drinks. Your Uncle can take on registration.
  3. Early bird registration. As soon as NABJ announces this, register. Aside from the chapter affiliate discount, this is the lowest rate you’re going to get.
  4. Ask your employer. There are companies that have line items in their budgets for professional development. See if you can get some of that money to help pay for NABJ. Come correct; show them the convention schedule and show them the workshops you’re going to take that will help you do your job better. See if they’ll give you the time off without having to use your own PTO.
  5. Buy your flight early. The earlier you book your flight, the cheaper the fares will be. Sign up for either Hopper or Airfarewatchdog, which will tell you the best times to buy that ticket.
  6. NABJ. Check the website and association eBlasts for announcements on scholarships, fellowships and hardship grants that help cover convention costs.
  7. Local organizations. See if your NABJ chapter offers scholarships to help students/young journalists. Check for local businesses and nonprofits that offer grants.
  8. Facebook and Twitter. Follow accounts for convention information, including ways to fund your trip. They are: (NABJ) National Association of Black JournalistsNational Association of Black JournalistsNABJ StudentsMarlon A. Walker, Your NABJ Vice President/Print 2015-2020Benet J. Wilson, Immediate Past VP-Digital, NABJ; @NABJ@NABJDigital; @NABJSTUDENTS; and @Marlon4NABJ.
  9. #SideHustle or part-time job. Use the money you earn and put it into your convention bank account. And leave it alone until it’s time to pay for something.
  10. Carpool. If you are in driving distance of D.C., get a group together and ride together.

Final Thoughts

I have a special message for those of you in college and want to bring your chapter to D.C. My grandmother says closed mouths don’t get fed. Talk to your chapter advisor now and create a plan to pay for your convention trip. Once that’s done, go to your school’s dean and ask for financial help. Host campus fundraisers. Ask for help from professional NABJ chapters and your local community. Please don’t post a GoFundMe in the spring and expect donations. Give yourself time.

I started saving for Miami last June and for D.C. in July.  I belong to a group who helps students and young journalists — who come correct — get to the NABJ convention each year. I can’t speak for my tribe, but be warned: Do NOT contact me for help if you don’t have at least two of these three things paid for — airfare, registration or hotel (I’ll need to see receipts). If you should happen to forget and come to me at the last minute for help, it’s going to be a no — and a link to this post.

So there you have it — a financial map that will help you pay for #NABJ20 in Washington, D.C. If you start now, you’ll be ready to go by July 8. Only 324 more days to go!

Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Education, journalism, Uncategorized

Members Share Their #NABJ19 Experiences

I spend a lot of time encouraging NABJ members, especially our younger ones, to attend the association’s annual convention. I always want to hear back from them to see how their experience was. Some of our members were kind enough to share their experiences, below.

Elijah Baker

The 2019 National Association of Black Journalists in Miami was my best convention by far. I can’t explain it. I prayed that God would allow me to be intentional with my behavior and words. Leading to the conference, I did my best to prepare our students and younger journalists on expectations and budgeting via social media. They said, “Are you the guy who did that video on Twitter?” I said, “Yep!” I did it for us.
In return, the family looked after me. I’ve been struggling these past 20 months in my personal life, at church and at work. It got to the point where I felt like I was slipping away. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I felt paralyzed.
For the first time, I believe, NABJ had a managing your mental health while on the job. You have no idea how much I needed the support of my brothers and sisters in that workshop. I was able to release the pain I buried on the inside. Black men hugged me. Black women encouraged me. NABJ was the first time I asked for professional mental health advice.
I see clearly how NABJ changes lives. When we stop merely seeing our conventions as the come-up, we’ll start to see our gathering as a space to heal. We’re really good at hiding our pain until it overcomes us. I am refreshed now. New Orleans was my first NABJ experience. Detroit was my second. Miami was therapeutic.

Janay Reece


This year, NABJ was different for me. It was my first convention as a working television
reporter/MMJ. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish: Get a TON of feedback on my reel, meet new friends, and take the first steps toward becoming an investigative reporter. Little did I know, hardly any of that would happen.

Instead, I learned more about myself and connected with people in a different way. I went to a session about mental health and it made me realize that I need help. Our health as media professionals is beyond skin deep. Listening to the panelists made me realize the journey we take in the media industry can’t be done alone, and I was trying to do that. It was draining me and I didn’t even know.

Hearing my peers and other experienced journalists discuss what they have been through, made me see I am not alone and my support system is right in front of me. This year at NABJ —- yes —- I still got my reel critiques, gained new skills, and had a good time, but I saw the village of people here to support me. Before my first reporting job, I had no idea how draining things would get. Every single person I spoke to during the convention breathed life back into me and it was an experience I needed.

Nicholas Lawrence Vaughn

Vaughn is a rising senior at Morehouse College and an intern at the Atlanta Voice.
My experience at my first NABJ convention was magical. It was great being around so many people who want to go into the same profession. It was similar to being at Morehouse, where the competition makes you work that much harder to get what you want — but increased by 100 percent, with so many people there from all over the country.
The convention was inspirational and motivating. I not only saw local reporters and writers, but also the ones I see on TV every day. They were all nice and willing to help the next of us because at the end of the day, everyone wanted to help each other make it to the top and be the best that they can be.
Note: While attending the convention, Vaughn learned he had been selected as one of five Online News Association HBCU Digital Fellows. He will attend the ONA conference in New Orleans next month, where he will write for the Student Newsroom and receive digital skills training.

Royal Thomas II

This year’s NABJ conference in Miami was honestly an eye-opener for me.  On several different fronts, I learned so much about the field and its inner workings. The most obvious takeaway is networking; meeting so many fresh, successful, BLACK faces is an experience unparalleled to anything I have come across. I also received great tips and guidance at the conference.  Seeing what others are working on and how they go about their craft was great food for thought. I have identified several areas to which I can make improvements in my own work.
I thank all the people who shared their NABJ Miami stories. It’s always good to have a reminder of the true power our organization has to change lives. Watch this space for tips to save money for Washington, D.C.!
Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Education, journalism

10 Things I Learned At #NABJ19


1. NABJ changes perceptions.  I posted the above photo on my Facebook page. It is still racking up views. I thought all my friends should see a different view of black men, including my mentee Avery Braxton (far left).

2. NABJ’s next generation came to slay. I was SO proud to see so many of my mentees, who are all doing SO well in their careers. And they were all prepared when it came time to go to the exhibit hall.


3. I value my time with founders. I had the chance to spend almost two hours with Founder Sandra Long Weaver. We talked about everything from teaching the next generation to the history of Jack Daniels.


4. There were too many workshops to choose from. Did you see this year’s schedule? It was chock-a-block full of sessions that competed, making it hard to choose. I was happy to see that some panels were live-streamed, and I hope that will be a trend that continues in D.C. next year.

5. Black people *want* their washcloths. There was a situation for those of us staying at the host hotel where the Turnberry Isle ran out of washcloths. So much so that it was the runner-up in this year’s Overheard at #NABJ19.


6. The Young Black Journalists Task Force rocks! As task force co-chairs Chelsea Fuller and Walter Randolph-Smith wind down their tenure, I want to give them a shout out for all their hard work representing the future leaders of NABJ.


7. Suite talks are really cool. The Visual Task Force always has great programming. But this year, VP-Print Marlon A. Walker also hosted two days of suite talks for the NABJ Freelancers Task Force. Roy Wood missed his talk because he was sent to Iowa, but the other talks were intimate and informative.

8. We worked it out when it came to the bar. Yes, the bar was small. Yes, the drinks were expensive. But there was a very reasonably priced happy hour at Corsair Kitchen and Bar from 3-6 p.m. every day that helped.

9. Bring back the spa booth. The person who set that up outside of registration is a genius! That definitely needs to return next year in D.C.


10. You *must* have your tribe! Every year, we end NABJ with brunch. And it was doubly good because we were celebrating Aprill Turner’s birthday. See you all in D.C.!