By Jonathan Franklin, Freelance Writer & Digital Content Producer
If you had told me this time last year that I would be surrounded by hundreds of black, intelligent journalists at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention conversing and learning more about world issues that have and continue to impact journalists of color, I would have not believed you.
I would have simply stopped listening; becoming closed minded about how much of an impact this organization continues to have on strong, eager black journalists hungry for success in this industry. And after attending this year’s national convention, I am truly thankful for being able to experience first hand the black excellence that took place over the course of five days.
In the beginning, I was overwhelmed at the cost of attendance – airfare, lodging, and convention registration – and how much of a financial worry it would be for me; seeing as though the transition from graduate student to seeking employment is no joke. But, after speaking with my mentors and doing research/networking, I quickly learned that there is a way to attend the annual conference at little to no cost – knowing that you have to be at the right place at the right time.
I came across a tweet from a well-known, established journalist — Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley (who is now one of two of my adopted NABJ aunties) — advertising that she would sponsor two students to attend this year’s convention at no cost.
As I looked at the time stamp of the tweet, I eagerly told my boss that I just had to use her computer to submit my resume to Riley to secure this sponsorship to attend this year’s convention. Fingers going at rapid speed, I was anxious that I wouldn’t be selected for this wonderful opportunity. An hour and a half later, I received the email that I was one of the two selected to have registration paid in full for this year’s convention.
And the same happened for getting my flight paid for, as well; being at the right place at the right time. I opened my laptop to submit a few emails for the evening but beforehand, I checked my Facebook to get rid of the dozens of notifications that were sitting.
Within the Facebook group ‘NABJ Students’, I noticed that another prominent journalist (Benét Wilson, now another one of my NABJ aunties) was sponsoring flights for students to go to Detroit. After quick deliberation and taking the leap of faith, I ‘shot my shot’ and submitted a politely, detailed email (aka, coming correctly in the words of Auntie) to Wilson with the necessary materials and eventually, was blessed to receive airfare paid for to attend the convention. Now, the real task at hand: going to Detroit.
I will admit, I was a little skeptical about attending this year’s convention – surely because I was worried about what was in store and how I should market myself at the career fair to land the perfect ‘entry-level job’. However, once I stepped foot in the convention for the first day, my anxiety and jitters went out of the window as I felt like I was at homecoming or a family reunion; feeling comfortable and secure knowing that this was indeed a good decision that I made.
Throughout the course of the week, it was non-stop networking, learning, and growing as a journalist. Between the career fair, networking mixers and receptions, and the sessions that took place, I learned a lot about not only myself as a journalist, but also about NABJ and why folks are continuously passionate about it.
Prior to the convention, I eagerly marked the workshops and sessions that I wanted to attend and while unfortunately I did not get a chance to attend some, the ones that I did sit in on I am truly glad that I not miss them, due to the depth of knowledge that was shared throughout the course of the session. One session that I found to be the most beneficial was the “You Know Those Millennials!’ session that took place on Friday afternoon of the convention.
Being a 24-year-old, millennial journalist, I found value within this session simply because majority of the topics that were discussed within this panel applied to me in some way shape or form. From discussion salary negotiations, to navigating the newsroom as a millennial, to using social media as a pivotal tool as a millennial journalist, the little nuggets that were constantly shared during the hour and twenty minutes made the whole room, including myself, go ‘Yasssss!’ – along with other forms of happy expression.
Knowing that other black-millennial journalists are constantly facing the same battles as myself in the newsroom makes me feel comfortable that the struggle is indeed too real in this sense and that there are others who can be used a resource or someone to vent or talk to makes the transition into the journalism industry much easier than what I initially expected.
It is safe to say that journalism is best at detecting changes that need to be made in humanity, which is what I am passionate about doing in every single story that I choose to take on to report. Within this industry, one must possess the qualities of thoroughness, quality, and criticism because journalism addresses issues of serious concern and draws attention to the economic, social, political, and the cultural trends happening in our society.
By attending this year’s national convention, I was able to learn from the best of the best in this industry while absorbing all of the knowledge, critiques, skills, and tricks on how to navigate this industry as a storyteller. To create change in the world, what better way to do so than to surround myself with those who are just as passionate about doing so and are already taking on this challenge as storytellers in this day and age; and for that, I am forever thankful for NABJ.