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Why Conferences Like NABJ Are Vital to Media Diversity

Guest Post by Polly Irungu

My first National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) conference was three years ago, at the 38th annual convention in Orlando. NABJ is a four-day conference and career fair attended by thousands of journalists, media professionals, executives and recruiters. Being surrounded by thousands of people who look like me — and who aspire to learn more about their craft and are actively pursuing their dreams, as I am — is a surreal feeling. NABJ is a life-changing event for many, many students and professionals. I know I wouldn’t be nearly as confident in my abilities if it were for not the support system and network that NABJ has given me. It is hard to sum up the impact and experience NABJ gives to thousands each year, but I will do my best to break it down.

Why do I keep going back?

As an African woman in America — especially one who lives in Oregon, where the black population is less than 5 percent — I have often been disappointed with the way the media portrays people of color. Not only do we not see enough diversity in media, but when we do, the media portrays only one story, one experience that it suggests is shared by all.

Part of the reason I keep going back to NABJ is my desire to change that narrative. NABJ uses its platform to inspire others to take real action to address the lack of diversity in media. People who care about media diversity go to the conference each year actively seeking new ways to tell those underrepresented stories and tips to bring back to their newsrooms. They are often also there to recruit talented, qualified people of color.

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Being a part of the student newsroom

You always grow more when you are a producer instead of a consumer. It’s one thing to attend a conference, but it’s quite another to help create. For me, being a part of the student newsroom was an opportunity to be more than a participant. When you are in the fold and a part of making something happen, you learn and grow more. Being there alone is great, but it has been more fulfilling to be a part of the team of diverse talent.

I’ve applied the skills that I’ve learned inside and outside the SOJC’s classrooms when I worked in the NABJ student newsroom, in both 2015 and 2016. In 2015, I was selected to be a part of the photo team. We were the fantastic four, responsible for providing photo coverage of the 40th annual convention for the NABJ Monitor. Leading up to the conference, students are paired with a mentor to help them bring the stories they have pitched to life. The mentors pushed us to step out of our comfort zone and take our photo skills to new heights. My responsibilities included pitching stories to cover in Minneapolis (where the conference was held), photographing daily assignments, providing captions for all images captured and taking headshots of each student in the newsroom as well as candidates for the 2016 NABJ elections. In a one-week span, I learned how to use tools like Photoshop and Photo Mechanic in my sleep. Everything I thought I knew about taking pictures was challenged.

My favorite story that I produced was about the rising Somali community in Minnesota. I was able to overcome cultural and language barriers to take intimate photos of residents in the community. This is the moment that I truly felt like a multimedia journalist.

The 2016 student newsroom was a little bit different. This year, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists(NAHJ) joined forces with NABJ to host the largest minority journalism convention (NABJNAHJ16) ever. The newsroom was a collaborative environment where peers and mentors worked together to provide some of the best coverage at the historic conference.

I wrote articles for the website, including “The Ferguson Effect: Social media and its impact from Ferguson to now.” But one of the things that I am most proud of is co-producing a podcast, Reportedly Black, with two other students in the newsroom. Leading up to NABJNAHJ16, we tirelessly worked on scheduling interviews, script writing and editing. In the first episode of Reportedly Black, we asked numerous journalists from across the country: “How do you separate your race from being a journalist?” In our second episode, we had journalists weigh in about the importance of media diversity and the media’s coverage of the 2016 presidential elections. Our podcast featured some prominent names in the industry, such as Wesley Lowery, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Tanzina Vega, Victoria Massie, Gustavo Arellano, Stephen A. Nuño and more.

NABJ and NAHJ gave us a platform to discuss real issues with journalists who are leaders in their respective fields. In the midst of the Democratic and Republican national conventions, these journalists took time out of their hectic schedules to speak with us. Some of these journalists got their start through NABJ and NAHJ, which shows you the influence and impact these organizations can have.

The importance of attending conferences 

One of the best things you can do for personal and career development is attend a conference. These organizations want you to succeed and will give you the tools to do so — all you have to do is get there. It is a chance to pick your favorite person’s brain, network with people who share common interests, gain a mentor and meet future employers. The free swag doesn’t hurt either. I know that each year I will leave with renewed inspiration, priceless mentorship and insight that I can take back and share with others. I am already counting down the days until the 2017 NABJ convention in New Orleans!

 

Polly Irungu is a multimedia journalist and social media strategist who plans to graduate from the SOJC with a degree in journalism this fall. She is currently working as a digital content creator for the SOJC’s Communications team, a campus editor-at-large at The Huffington Post and a freelance production assistant for the PAC-12 Networks, and she’s also been published on CNNKVAL and YesJulz. A National Association of Black Journalists fellow in 2015 and 2016, she participated in the NABJ and National Association of Hispanic Journalists student newsroom to provide coverage of their historic joint convention for NABJ Monitor and Latino Reporter. She also worked in the Online News Association’s student newsroom Sept. 15-17, 2016. Previously, she has worked for TrackTown USA, Def Jam Records, Dell and Adobe. She made the 2013 and 2014 Daily Emerald Ducks Who Will Change the World list, and in May 2015, she was named the Women4Africa International Young Achiever of the Year. You can view her work at www.pollyirungu.com and follow her on TwitterInstagram and Snapchat @pollyirungu.

Dogged About Digital?

Join NABJ’s Digital Journalism Task Force

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Interested in being more involved with the National Association of Black Journalists? Ready to lead? Let me know if you’re interested in serving on the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force, and in what capacity. Tweet me @NABJDigital, find me on Facebook, or email me at tracie.powell@gmail.com.

Calendar of Multimedia Training and Events

JUNE

  •  Since 2002, the Society of Professional Journalists has awarded $10,000 to a person, group or organization that works to preserve one or more of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. If you, a person or an organization you know fiercely protects these rights, submit a nomination for the 2014 Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award by June 22. The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation (SPJ’s supporting foundation) dedicates this honor to anyone who upholds this pillar of democracy, not just journalists. Visit SPJ’s website to learn more, see a list of past honorees and submit the nomination materials. Awards Coordinator Chad Hosier, awards@spj.org, can answer any questions you may have. Submit a Pulliam First Amendment Award nomination today.
  • The best in the business will gather for more than 100 panels, hands-on classes and special presentations about covering business, public safety, government, health care, education, the military, the environment and other key beats at the 2014 IRE conference June 26-29, 2014 in San Francisco. Speakers will share strategies for locating documents and gaining access to public records, finding the best stories and managing investigations. Join the discussion about how to practice investigative journalism in print, broadcast, Web and alternative newsroom models.

JULY

  • The Native American Journalists Association will hold the 2014 National Native Media Conference held in Santa Clara, Calif. Join more than 300 Native journalists, media professionals and tribal community representatives from across the country at the 30th annual event commemorating three decades of enhancing Native journalism July 10-13, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. Members of the Native American Journalists Association save $50 on conference registration – become a member to take advantage of the discount.
  • The National Association of Black Journalists will hold its 39th Annual Convention and Career Fair in Boston July 30-Aug. 3, 2014. Thousands of journalists, media executives, public relations professionals, and students are expected to attend to network, participate in professional development sessions and celebrate excellence in journalism.

AUGUST 

  • The National Association of Hispanic Journalists will hold its Annual Multimedia Convention & Career Expo August 7-9, 2014 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is dedicated to the recognition and professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry. NAHJ has approximately 1,500 members, including working journalists, journalism students, other media-related professionals and journalism educators.

SEPTEMBER

  • For the past 7 years, data enthusiasts from all over the globe have come together for the Tableau Conference. They’ve discovered how to leverage their investment in data analytics, hear what’s next in business intelligence, and network with other like-minded individuals. This year you can expect the same. The conference will host more than 240 sessions, 10 super sessions, 4 engaging keynote speakers in Seattle, Washington from September 8 to 12. 
  • The Online News Association 2014 Conference & Awards Banquet is the premier gathering of highly engaged digital journalists shaping media now. Learn about new tools and technologies, network with peers from around the world and celebrate excellence at the Online Journalism Awards. ONA  is looking for your input on sessions for ONA14, Sept. 25-27, in Chicago. Submit your session proposals  from March 20 to April 18. Submit one here

If you have items you wish to include, please email them to me at benet AT aviationqueen DOT COM. Thanks!!

High school journalism camp targets budding storytellers

By Crystal Garner, DJTF Intern

While most college and university journalism programs are drilling the tools and concepts of digital storytelling into the heads of college-aged students, Savannah State University has decided to go for an even younger demographic.

High School Students.

Approximately 20 students will immerse themselves in the campus life of Savannah State University while learning journalism at SSU Media High, a digital magazine and high school journalism camp. The camp, which begins on June 15, will allow students aged 13-17 to spend two weeks producing news and features for a general interest, digital magazine, said Wanda Lloyd, chair of the school’s journalism department and former executive editor of The Montgomery Advertiser.

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Lloyd, who became chair of Savannah State University’s School of Journalism last summer,  said she got the idea about Media High after noticing high school students on campus for several different summer programs and camps, none of which involved journalism.

With a history of working with Howard University’s high school journalism camp, Lloyd understands that camps like this can provide journalism skills to students while helping colleges attract the best and brightest.

“The work produced in the program will give (students) an upper-leg,” Lloyd said. “My goal is to increase the capacity of journalism in the Savannah area and increase awareness of our mass communication program so students will consider Savannah State University when (choosing) a college.”

Benet Wilson, NABJ’s Digital Journalism Task Force Vice Chair of Education, says journalism education should start early. She applauds Savannah State University for training the next generation of journalists.

“Programs like Media High give budding reporters a great foundation for their future careers,” Wilson said. “They also give students a taste of what the industry is like, allowing them to make an informed decision as they consider what college to attend.”

Media High will launch this summer under the direction of camp program director Tina A. Brown.

Brown, a professional journalist with 30 years experience, said she hopes to attract curious learners interested in acquiring newsroom skills quickly.

Candidates will be required to write an essay about themselves and why they would benefit from the program, Brown said. Those selected will produce news on multiple platforms, including video and audio, she added.

“Everything will be done online,” Brown said. “Students will cover events on campus and in the community.” Staff and students at the university will serve as mentors in the program, she said, and field trips to local media outlets and to city council meetings are included in the schedule.

The total cost to operate Media High is about $25,000, with the lion’s share of the money coming from public funding: a $14, 000 federal grant; $4,000 from the Dow Jones News Fund; and $2,000 from student participants themselves. Organizers say students will need assistance covering their share of the costs.

While existing funds will pay for the operation of the program, Media High needs money to cover students’ expenses, including meals and housing. Stipulations for current funding precludes program managers from using any of the $16,000 to purchase meals, which Brown estimates will cost $22 a day per student, she said.  

Contributions are tax deductible  and checks can be made to:

SSU Foundation, Inc.,
In care of: Wanda Lloyd, chair of Mass Communications, SSU Media High,
3219 College Street, Savannah, Ga. 31404.
 

Diving into Data

By Crystal Garner, DJTF Intern

In the ever-changing age of digital media, data visualization is king.

Vitaly Friedman, editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine, an online outlet providing innovative information to Web designers and developers, describes it as a way “to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means.” Simply put, it turns information into something visually appealing.

While one of the most sought after skill sets in newsrooms across the globe is spiking in use by news organizations, marketing firms and internet companies, the number of journalists of color who are capable of producing data visualizations is flatlining. Why is it that journalists of color are not flocking to this type of storytelling? If it’s because many don’t understand what it is, the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force is aiming to change that.

On April 29, 2014 from 11a.m. to noon, NABJ Digital hosts a Twitter chat with Faye Anderson of Tracking Change, an advocacy platform to turn data into action; Zach Seward of Quartz, a digital news outlet for business people; and Samantha Sunne of Hacks and Hackers, a grassroots journalism organization. The panelists will answer your questions about diving into data visualization.

Tracking Change's Faye Anderson, Hacks and Hackers' Samantha Sunne and Quartz' Zach Seward

The task force decided to put this Twitter chat together as part of its mission to ensure that NABJ’s members have all the skills they need to be the best digital journalists they can be, said Tracie Powell, DJTF co-chair. Since big data is changing the way journalists tell stories, making sure they have the tools and the know-how to use them is important, she said.

“Being able to process data, understand it, extract value from it and communicate it is increasingly a hugely important skill for journalists in helping citizens understand pressing issues using charts, graphics, maps and more,” she said. “Data visualization is not only important because it helps journalists tell better stories, it is important in terms of career advancement.”

To follow the Data Visualization Twitter Chat, use hashtag #nabjdata.

She’s The Boss: Female Media Entrepreneurs of Color Share Their Stories

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The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education recently hosted a Twitter Chat with a group of female journalists of color who took their entrepreneurial dreams and turned them into reality. This panel of journalistic businesswomen included: Bobbi Bowman, (left) a former editor for The Washington Post and USA Today, who made the leap into entrepreneurship when she launched the hyperlocal news site, The McLean Ear, which later became McLean Patch; Kelly Virella, a former investigative reporter and editor who is about to start a long form digital magazine called The Urban Thinker, (right); Tomoko Hosaka, Chief Operating Officer at Plympton  (parent company of Rooster, a reading app that picks books for users and delivers them in installments to mobile devices; Karen Lincoln Michel, who blogs at A Digital Native American and is former president of Unity Journalists; and Marisa Trevino, creator of LatinaLista, a news portal for the Latino community. Here are their insights via storify.– Staff Reports

 

 

Success in journalism, according to my mother

By Crystal Garner, DJTF Intern

No one knows the ups and downs of my journalism journey quite like my mother, Mary.

Granted, she isn’t a news veteran or a tech mogul, but the things she’s told me as I’ve walked this path have helped me achieve a lot as a young journalist.

Like many of you, I had people in my life who tried to discourage me from becoming a journalist. For example, one high school official made years of confidence in my decision to study journalism vanished like magic with a short conversation.

I was young and fragile, and my aspirations were met with laughter.

It was Mom To The Rescue with the encouragement I needed. She said I would excel as a journalist. Not to sound like The Waterboy’s Bobby Boucher, but “mama’s right.”

Because I think that Mom’s wisdom can help you too, I’d like to share some of it. Here is some of her best advice:

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1.  Be assertive or aggressive or aggressively assertive.

Contrary to what people  say, I don’t believe that journalistic opportunities  knock. You have to do the knocking and open the door. Sometimes you even have to pick the lock or kick the door down. Or slide someone on the other side a fiver.

I say all that to say this: You have to be persistently assertive. When I was a freshman in college, I was offered an internship opportunity at Voice of America in Washington, but my academic advisor told me to turn it down.

I took it anyway. I believed that if the employer who selected you believed I was capable of doing this, then I was. It was unpaid, but I learned a lot and made life-long contacts. I even turned the experience into an article for USA TODAY College, highlighting the struggles of not being paid.

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During my sophomore year, I was offered a generously paid summer internship with NASA in their communication office. My advisor told me to turn it down and wait until my junior year. Once again, I took the opportunity and it opened many doors for me.

Now I’m not saying that you should ignore your advisers, and neither is Mom, but if you’re going to make it in journalism, you have to be assertive…and the internship market is where it starts.

(And on another note, I don’t understand why advisers discourage freshmen and sophomores from taking internships anyway. Have they seen the business lately? Don’t they know that you need as much experience as possible in this market?!)

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2.  Say “yes,” man!

If you are familiar with the film Yes Man, you know where I’m going with this. Up until now, I’ve said yes to every opportunity that could positively affect my journalism career, no matter how big or small. As a result, my resume does not come close to covering all of  the experiences I’ve had.

I would never encourage anyone to overload themselves, but having a substantial amount of experience and experiences at an early stage in your career catches the attention of recruiters’ and employers’ and shows your determination.

The tricky part is getting yourself plugged into early opportunities. It is like the catch 22 of establishing credit:  You can’t get credit without a credit history, but you need credit to establish one.

From starting a blog or a magazine to pitching stories to  student media outlets, If no opportunity presents itself, create one  and say “yes” to yourself,

Patience is also important.

In high school, I interned at the local newspaper in my hometown. Most days, I was asked to take on the tasks of writing obits and lunch menus. It wasn’t the most exciting thing, but I seized the opportunity and patiently waited for other assignments, which did come.

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3. Use “No” to grow.

Whenever I apply for a development opportunity and I’m not selected, I like to find out why and make the necessary adjustments. I then re-apply.

For example, I applied for The Society for Professionals Journalists’ “Will Write for Food” program, and I was rejected. I was accepted the following year. I applied for the Online News Association’s Student Newsroom and got rejected, but I was welcomed into the program the next year.  I submitted an application to be involved with NABJ’s Multimedia Student Project…you get what I mean.

Many opportunities are offered annually or bi-annually, so you have ample  time to prepare. I like to say resumes, cover letters and personal statements are like wine. They get better with time.

You know NPR, The Washington Post and NBC open their internship applications during the same time period each year, so take your time and do your research early on. Perfect your application materials ahead of time. There is no greater satisfaction than turning in an impressive application. Recruiters and employers do notice.

It’s not so much about hearing a “no,” it’s how you use that “no” to your advantage.

There is no perfect path, and there is always room to grow as a journalist. You just have to put your best foot forward. Or as Mom says, “You just have to believe that you can do it!”