Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Education, journalism

10 Great Ideas for #NABJ17 Workshops


By Benét J. Wilson, NABJ VP-Digital

The Call for Proposals for the 2017 NABJ Convention and Career Fair is now open. The organization relies on volunteers to put on workshops that help members stay relevant in their journalism and communications careers.  As a past program chair (2012 and 2013),

As a past program chair (2012 and 2013), I regularly heard from members who complained about not seeing the workshops they wanted.  I always asked, “did you submit anything?” Nine times out of 10, it was a no.

So ensure that you get the programming you want to see in New Orleans and submit a proposal here by the February 15 deadline. You must be an NABJ member to submit a workshop. Below are 10 panel ideas you may want to consider.  Good luck!!

  1. Ways to search for that next job
  2. Copyediting your stories when there’s no copy desk
  3. Using your journalism skills in non-journalism jobs
  4. How to use the latest data journalism tools
  5. Want to start podcasting? Here’s how
  6. Ways to shoot live video (Facebook Live, Periscope)
  7. How to break into INSERT BEAT HERE
  8. How to develop and produce multiplatform stories
  9. Multimedia training for veteran journalists
  10. Tips for breaking into freelance journalism
Posted in Conferences & Conventions

The Amazing Sarah Smith Offers A Student Primer On How To DO An NABJ Convention – AMENDED

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF chair & freelance aviation/travel journalist and blogger

Editor’s note: the Saturday before the NABJ Convention in New Orleans, I got a Facebook message from Sarah Smith asking for help to get to the convention. I’ll be blunt; I wasn’t inclined to help. I had received pleas from several students and dug into my pocketbook to help (I love the NABJ Babies). But she dropped the name of Kirstin Garriss, one of my absolute favorite mentees, so I bit.  And I’m glad I did. Sarah is an amazing person, and her story is below. Enjoy!

Sarah Smith with Soledad O’Brien

Do I really want to be a journalist anymore? It has been months since I officially graduated college. I landed two major Hollywood internships while in school, but yet they aren’t knocking down my door. I didn’t even get the receptionist position at my local news station because they said I’m over qualified. And lastly I have no reporter reel!”

That was me venting to my godmother on May  28, 2012.  And that was the night she introduced me to her best-kept secret — her niece, Kirstin Garriss.

Sarah Smith with Kevin Frazier of “The Insider”

Kirstin is a NBC Desk Assistant in Washington, D.C. We spoke over the phone and she immediately told me different things I needed to do, such as sending her my resume and cover letter for critiquing.  We emailed, texted, and spoke over the phone for the next few days.  Once my resume was good enough, it was time for that next step.

Kirstin told me about the 2012 NABJ Convention in New Orleans and my first reaction was I would love to but, I don’t have the money. How can I afford to pay to invest in my future when I can’t even pay my rent in the present!  So I gave up on that nice idea — briefly.

A few days later, Kirstin emailed me about a CNN Reception at the convention; they were looking for recent graduates to fill entry-level jobs.  Immediately my eyes lit up! CNN! I must go! I love CNN and  Soledad O’Brien is in my list of favorite people! So I emailed the contact and completed the information that they requested of me.  This was an RSVP-only event and I was now locked in. The only catch was, it was in New Orleans.

Soon after I was confirmed for the job reception I thought to myself “what have you done?  You know you don’t have the money!” But then another thought came over me.  This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten myself into a sticky situation and the way I got out was talking to people and exhausting every resources.

I figured out how much I would need and sent out text message asking people for as little as $10. When doing something like this I say proceed with caution, because you’ll soon realize who’s willing to support you and who’s not. I had people not respond, some lie  and say they would help, and some say they couldn’t help.  Those response didn’t outweigh those who were willing to help though.  But that wasn’t enough; I needed to have more determination and assistance.

After making a lot of calls,  I was lucky that my old boss knew Anita Blanton, a news anchor for KOCO in Oklahoma City.  My boss explained to Anita my financial situation and explained that if I came to New Orleans, I would need somewhere to stay.  Anita contacted some of her journalist friends in the area who were going to NABJ and they agreed to allow me to share a room with them.  Yes! I thought, one thing crossed off my to-do list.

Editor’s note: Sarah asked me to include the paragraph below.

The day before I was flying out to N.O. Kirstin reminded me to bring business cards and my resume. I only had enough money to print my resume but not any business cards. I called a local print shop in Oklahoma City, Joy & Trinity Printing and explained my situation to a Mr. James Bryant.

I asked if he’d be willing to sponsor at least 50 business cards for me. He said he liked that I’m doing something for myself & would be glad to help. I emailed him my information and then an hour later instead of picking up 50 business cards, Mr. Bryant had 100 business cards waiting for me!

Now on to how I would get there. I made a lot of phone calls and even contacted my university about what I was trying to do. After hearing a lot of “no, we can’t help you,” I went to the most valuable thing I have — my friends. I let them know what was wrong and how I was just going to give up on going.  But then without even having to request it, they put their heads together and helped raise the money for me to come to New Orleans.

They asked people they knew and told them about me and my goals. We also attended the Oklahoma Juneteenth Celebration and gave out Blow Pops and Dots candy, asking for donations from the community.

My friends, who were pageant queens, wore their crowns and sashes so we could stand out from the crowd. I myself am a former queen and utilized skills that I learned.  I walked up to people to total strangers and told them who I am, this is what I’m doing, and this is how you can help me so that I can eventually help our community. The more people we spoke with the more I started noticing how us just being out there trying to achieve something, anything that it empowered people and ourselves.

At the end of the day, we counted our hard work and made enough money to get me to New Orleans.  Kirstin’s was thrilled when I told her I made enough to go but then my happily-ever-after moment was over once Kirstin told me I had to register for the convention.  I originally thought I’d go to the CNN reception, then check out NABJ as well.

After voicing my concerns to Kirstin, she told me to contact her Aunt Benet through Facebook and explain my story. I did exactly what she said and contacted Aunt Benet.  To my surprise Benet gave me an immediate response and told me she would handle registration for me but in return I had to be her intern, saying I needed to work for the bigger opportunity that she was trying to give me. I agreed and was re-energized once again!

I then had everything I needed — until I realized the tires on my car needed to be replaced, so I couldn’t drive. If it’s not one thing it’s another! Here I am, 2 days before the conference — now what do I do?

Again I was even more cut throat in finding away there! I had too many people who I couldn’t let down! I had a charge account and could bill a one-way flight. Not knowing how I would get back to Oklahoma, I took the risk. Then I received a phone call the night before I left that my assistant pastor would contribute enough money for me to book a return flight.

I woke up extra early, drove across town, picked up his contribution and then headed to the airport. Once I landed in New Orleans, I booked my return flight the next day! And the rest is history! I made it!

I’m currently writing this on my third day at the convention.  I met With CNN yesterday and blew them away. I did things that not everyone would do to get here.  Some people told me they would be too embarrassed to be out there asking for assistance for the fear of being looked down upon.  But that’s what’s so great about this — I was successful in what people said I couldn’t and shouldn’t do. I got here, I reached a short-term goal to set myself up for my long-term goals.

This conference and the CNN reception have shown me that I have the desire to be a journalist.  But my friends and my community pulling together showed me that they believe in my ability to be a Journalist.  I will never forget capturing this moment and cannot wait until it’s my turn to be the one to believe in someone else.

Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist, Social Media, Uncategorized

The Digital Journalist: ‘It’s Like My Paintbrush’

By Serbino Sandifer-Walker, Multimedia Journalism Professor, DJTF Contributor

Sandra Gonzalez, Serbino Sandifer-Walker, Mara Schiavocampo, Blayne Alexander at NABJ One Man Banning Workshop. Blayne Alexander organized the workshop. Serbino Sandifer-Walker served as the moderator.

Sandra Gonzalez of WGNO-TV in New Orleans, La. knows how to tell a story. The veteran journalist has been at it for two decades and can’t imagine doing anything else. Except one day, her TV boss came to her, gave her a camera and said go find the stories, alone. She was 43-years-old and she hasn’t looked back since because to Sandra being a digital journalist is not any old job. I moderated an NABJ session in New Orleans where Sandra was a panelist. She explained to me her job is like having a paintbrush in hand everyday. And everyday she’s determined to paint a Picasso.

Posted in Conferences & Conventions

NABJ Social Media Checklist #NABJ2012

– NABJ Social Media Team 

For many of you this will be your first NABJ convention on twitter. That means it will be your first time using an NABJ Convention hashtag, your first time retweeting convention tweets, your first time enjoying the “backchannel” that often dominates the digital conversation during major events. Your digital self will be alive during this convention and the NABJ Social media team will do everything to keep you engaged.

This year NABJ has a robust social media program and we want to make sure that everyone knows how they can engage and share what they’re learning, or better yet, how they’re enjoying New Orleans.



NABJ is on twitter and we’d love to hear from you! Tweet us! NABJ has two regularly updated twitter channels, @NABJ and @Nabjdigital. The PR student project team of Christopher Nelson and Bartees Cox will be manning the official @NABJ channel. You can expect announcements, live-tweeting, questions, scavenger hunts and NABJ student articles tweeted from this account. As usual, Benet Wilson will provide her unique and enlightening tweets on the @nabjdigital account.

Hashtags Hashtags!
The OFFICIAL hashtag of the conference is #NABJ12 (not #NABJ2012). To promote engagement among members who are at the conference and who aren’t able to attend, please tweet all panels and events with the official hashtag. Each workshop will also have it’s own hashtag which you should also include. This will aid people who want to go back and seek information from the panels.


Twitter Scavenger Hunt
Starting on Thursday, the @NABJ will be running a twitter scavenger hunt at NOON on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Prizes include the following:

  • VIP Ticket to the Sports Task Force Jam
  • Tickets to the Gospel Brunch
  • Meet & Greet opportunity with Cedric The Entertainer, Niecy Nash, Rosie Perez, and Viola Davis

Follow the @NABJ account for clues to find Bartees Cox, who will be within a half mile of the Hilton. Once you find him, you’ll have to answer some trivia questions.

Join us on Facebook!

Stay up to date with NABJ news and connect to other attendees!

Facebook Page – Look out for the day’s best picture as well as photo albums from each day’s events.

Facebook Group – The Facebook group continues to be a place for community around the 2012 NABJ conference. We encourage you to continue to post announcements, photos and questions on the group during the conference.


Create a Storify from Your Panel!

Storify is one of the best ways to create stories and archive social media content from your panels. We’re really pushing for NABJ conference panelists and members to create a storify for EVERY PANEL. Please tag ALL of your stories with #NABJ12. We’re aiming to create at least 30 storify stories from the convention. Afterwards we’ll compile this media into a Storination.

New Social Media Site – Instagram!

NABJ has a new social media account on Instagram – NABJofficial. Please follow us and look out for the best pictures from this week’s convention.

Check in on Foursquare

Follow NABJ and check into the 2012 NABJ Convention and Career Fair. If the check in doesn’t immediately pop up then do a search. Please also add photos to your check in.


Do you plan on blogging the NABJ Conference? Don’t forget to tweet us the link so we can tweet it or facebook it!

Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Education, multimedia journalist

NABJ and ONA Show The Love To New Orleans Journalists

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF chair & freelance aviation/travel journalist and blogger

As we prepare to attend the  National Association of Black Journalists‘ (NABJ) 37th Annual Convention & Career Fair, we arrive with heavy hearts.

In an ironic twist, it will be a week to the day that Advance Publications, parent of the iconic Times-Picayune newspaper, announced that 84 of its 173 people in the newsroom were losing their jobs, effective Sept. 30.  On the same day in Alabama, three major daily newspapers laid off approximately 400 employees, many of them in the newsrooms at The Birmingham News, the Press-Register in Mobile and The Huntsville Times.

Among those losing their jobs were Birmingham chapter founding member Eddie Lard — the newspaper’s lone African-American editorial voice — along with former chapter president Sherrel Stewart and current officer Roy Williams.

NABJ this year partnered with the Online News Association to bring their popular ONA Camp to New Orleans.  ONA Camp brings one day of world-class digital journalism training to those trying to beef up their skills.  Courses available include Mobile Newsgathering, (Mostly) Free Tools and Google Fusion 101.

In light of what has happened in Alabama and Louisiana, we are opening up registration in ONA Camp to anyone affected by the layoffs. So whether you are an NABJ member or not, you can pay $10 and attend this great training.  Click HERE to register.  We hope many of you will take advantage of this offer, and look forward to seeing you!!

Posted in Conferences & Conventions

#NABJ12PREP Chat Part II – Ask ANY Question!

The Digital Journalist Task Force is back at it again. Due to the overwhelming success of the first #NABJ12prep twitter chat two weeks ago, we’re doing another twitter chat THIS Wednesday, June 6.

NABJ DJTF OPEN Twitter Chat – Wednesday, June 6, 8pm EST–9pm EST #NABJ12PREP

This time, we’re handing over the choice of twitter chat questions all to you. It will be an entirely open forum in which you will be able to tweet ANY question that you have about the NABJ conference.

We’ve invited all different types of journalists to this twitter chat to insure that everyone’s question is answered.

Below are the people who will be on our twitter chat on Wednesday –

The Entrepreneur Kelly Virella (@kvirella) – Longtime print journalist Kelly Virella recently emerged as a new media entrepreneur with her new website, Dominion of New York.

The Longtime NABJ Conference Attendee  – Kathy Chaney (@kathychaney) – Kathy Chaney is the managing editor of the Chicago Defender and has attended the NABJ conference for seven years straight.

The Recruiter – Stacy Williamson – (@recruiterstacy) She recruits journalists for ESPN and can be found on twitter dispelling the best advice on landing that dream job.

The Broadcaster – Andrew Humphrey – (@andrewhumphrey) Andrew Humphrey founded the Digital Journalist Task Force and is a Meteorologist & Reporter at WDIV-TV Local 4. He’ll join the chat for the first 30 minutes.

The Blogger & Social Media Expert – Natalie McNeal (@frugalista) Former Miami Herald reporter Natalie McNeal turned her Frugalista blog into a successful book and brand.

The Board Member Cindy George (@cindylgeorge)– Cindy is the current parliamentarian of the NABJ and reports on health issues for the Houston Chronicle.

 The Educator – Serbino Sandifer-Walker (@sswalker) – As a multimedia journalism professor and social media scholar at Texas Southern University, Serbino has developed new social media tools for journalists, including the #twitternewschat, and the social media correspondents daily and website

The Student – Ashleigh Atwell – (@ashjournaliste) As a Georgia State University student,  Ashleigh is the Atlanta student NABJ chapter PR rep and last year launched the successful blog about her road to the Philly NABJ conference.

Posted in Conferences & Conventions

How the NABJ Conference Helped Me Land My Job

Multimedia journalist John W. Davis tell us how the 2011 NABJ conference helped him to land his reporting job in Orlando. Don’t forget that the deadline for early registration to the NABJ conference ends midnight EST on May 15. 

When I arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport for the NABJ Convention & Career Fair in August 2011, I quickly boarded a SEPTA train headed for Downtown Philadelphia.

John W. Davis succeeded in finding another job after the NABJ 2011 conference.

As I took my seat, I ran into a friend who was also headed downtown to pick up his registration for the conference.

During our 30 minute ride to the Convention Center, we discussed our current work situations, and I joked with him, “I’m going to walk away from the career fair with a new job.”

He laughed at me, and I laughed at myself because I knew I still had three months left on my employment contract.

Realistically, I knew I would not leave Philadelphia with my next job lined up.

However, I was certain I would meet my employer at the career fair.

I had spent the days before the conference printing out extra resumes, and burning and labeling dozens of video resume reel DVD’s.

It was my first NABJ conference and I was ready to go.

My contract as a News Reporter/Multimedia Journalist in Fort Wayne, Indiana would be up in the three months and I was ready to ‘wow’ someone at the career fair and begin the process of landing my next job.

Over the next two days, I spent most of my time at the career fair, sat through about a dozen resume reel critiques and at the end of the conference I did not have a solid lead on my next job.

John came dressed for success at the NABJ Career Fair

At the time, I wish I had spent more time attending more of the seminars that I had circled in my conference schedule booklet.

When I went back to work, I took about a week to reflect and as I was looking over my notes, I realized all the managers who critiqued my work practically told me the same thing… “your standups should be more active, and your stories should be centered around people.”

Those were two tips I already knew from Journalism school.

However, those ideals did not translate onto my video resume reel because I had gotten away from that style in the grind and hustle of daily reporting.

So I went back to work with a renewed focus, centered on the tips and advice I learned specifically at the NABJ Career Fair.

I did my best to implement what I learned into my daily reporting.

In mid-September 2011, I was ready to make another job push.

I made sure my resume was concise and I re-edited my video resume reel with a focus on active stand ups in my standup montage and stories centered around people that displayed my reporting style and skills.

In early October 2011, I was already hearing back from potential employers and by mid-October, I accepted a new job as a Reporter/Video Journalist at Central Florida News 13 in Orlando, Florida.

In my short time in Orlando, I have had the opportunity to cover several national stories including the FAMU hazing investigation regarding the death of Drum Major Robert Champion and the Trayvon Martin Death Investigation / George Zimmerman legal case.

Now, the way I found my current job did not come from any direct connections to the NABJ Career Fair.

I saw an online job posting and I applied for my current position.

However, I believe I was qualified and able to get this job because I translated the tips and advice from NABJ Conference & Career Fair.

I also networked during the conference and before I began sending out my updated video resume reel, I asked several experienced NABJ members to give my video resume reel a second look.

Those final suggestions of what order my stories should appear on my video resume reel were exactly the final touches I needed to land my current job.

So here’s my final advice about the NABJ Career Fair, have an open mind, take notes, meet as many people as you can and don’t be discouraged if you do not land your next job during the conference.

In my opinion, the advice you can learn from discussing your work with a plethora of hiring managers is worth the price of NABJ registration, your hotel stay and your airfare, twice over.

I’m also a proponent of attending the annual conference when you’re not looking for a job, so I’ll see you in June in New Orleans for 2012 NABJ Convention and Career Fair.

John W. Davis can be reached via email at You can also follow John W. Davis on Twitter @johnwdavis.