I am currently blogging from the Austin International Airport, leaving my 6-day trip from Humboldt State, California to Austin, Texas! I came here on behalf of the Humboldt State Journalism Club, in hope to hear more on how the media works in today’s society, to hear experience in the field, and to meet new people and professionals from all over the U.S. It was an INCREDIBLE opportunity, and I was lucky enough to have the support and encouragement to go from my parents.
On Thursday Oct. 29, my first workshop I attended was called “Graphics for Word People”, and was presented by Charles Apple from the Houston Chronicle. In this workshop, he spoke to us about how a graphic can tell a story without the words. He did this by giving us multiple graphic examples and asked us to name what caught our attention, and what we thought the graphic was saying. For me, I benefited from this because I want to learn more on photography and story telling through my photos. I am definitely a word person, as you can tell, but I love the art and beauty that can come from a single graphic.
My next workshop for the day was “Cut the Crap: Eliminating Errors” and was presented by Lola Burnham who works as a professor at Eastern Illinois University. She came in with a PowerPoint presentations with examples from her own campus newspaper, showing the easy, small errors that can be made on both a bold title and within the text itself. I found this beneficial, because I know in my own work, I am very focused on editing my work, and always offering to read over my peers’ work for grammar and spelling mistakes.
My third workshop of the day was probably my favorite speaker of the day. Aaron Brown, director of his own Onion Creek Productions, came in to talk to us about how to direct, what you need to successfully direct, and how to treat the people you worked with. His vibe was very happy, mellow, and far from what the “stereo typical” director is known to be: snotty, rude, demanding, or more or less, someone you don’t necessarily like. I haven’t really considered going into directing film, but I found it to be helpful in leadership skills, responsibility and how to take charge if needed.
“If You Can’t Text, It Doesn’t Exist: Campus Media ABC’s for Generation XYZ’s” was presented by three speakers, M.E Yancosek Gamble and Dr. Mort Gamble from Bethany College in West Virginia, and George Manahan, founder of The Manahan Group. What I enjoyed about this session was the fact that these speakers were all older adults (mid 50’s-mid 60’s) and they could understand how this current “Millennial” generation functions. They understood why we see and do things differently than the previous generation, such as the fact we like to lounge and get comfortable when working, rather than when M.E. says she preferred a desk setup and chair when she was younger and worked. Many adults judge our generation for the way we function, so I found this to be very calming and helpful to better help adults understand us.
My last session for Thursday was “Covering Racism”. This was quite an interesting workshop, for it involved students from a university that had recently covered major racist events that had happened in this past year. Judy Gibbs Robinson and Blayklee Buchanan, adviser and student at Oklahoma City University, both work for the Oklahoma Daily. In this session, Gibbs discussed the issues that their university had been having on the racism for black students. Buchanan then went on to talk about how long their night was when covering a OU fraternity in December 2014. A video was posted of two fraternity boys from Sigma Alpha Epsilon yelling out racist comments on the public bus. Through this event, a new group was started on campus called Unheard, and on the beginning day, all black students and supporting students taped over their mouths with the word “unheard” written.
The next day, Friday, I started my morning off with a workshop related to where I want to begin in my journalist career: MAGAZINES. Andy Dehnart, who has been a journalist and TV critic for many publications such as BuzzFeed, Playboy, NPR, The New York Times and more, gave us some tips on how to get our pitches out in the publication world. He told us to bug them, but keep it short and sweet. Or send a few different pitches to see if maybe the publication is more interested in one than the other. In my opinion, I LOVED this session. It was very helpful in teaching me how to get my publications started for even small publications in the beginning. What? How? Why you? Tell them a little bit about you and your access you can provide.
After my morning workshop, the convention had a keynote speaker for everyone to attend: Anthony Graves, a journalist who survived 18 and half years in prison, being convicted for something he was innocent for all because someone gave his name to receive their freedom. Throughout these years he witnessed hundreds of deaths, was sentenced death row twice, and in the end, a journalist saved his life. With him, he had Lisa Falkenberg on his panel, who as an investigative journalist, saved his life through her work. Not only was this presentation emotional, powerful, and painful to hear, but it also gave to the student journalists hope in their careers. Repeatedly he stated “Journalists save lives. YOU can save lives. Your job is more important than you realize”. One of my top favorites out of this entire convention BY FAR.
My next workshop after was presented by a local from University of Texas Arlington. Beth Francesco came to talk to us students about how to critically think when being a journalist, because not all journalists know how to critically think. She emphasized to us that there IS a difference between “journalism” and “critical thinking” and good journalists need to know how to be both. Critical thinking is the difference between journalism and public relations, journalism and serious journalism, and journalism and infotainment. Francesco said “It’s something you do, something you develop over time”, unlike journalism that just comes out as soon as you collect the information. For me I found this interesting, because I am leaning more towards research journalism, not necessarily immediate news. Think independently. Define problems accurately. Analyze data. Synthesize. Resist over-generalization.
Now my next session was interesting. When I chose to attend, I wasn’t sure how I would react to it, but I chose to go because I wanted to get more patient with POLITICS. Yes I capitalized politics because I am not politics biggest fan. In fact, I get quite annoyed quite quickly. I promise I am trying to be better about it, that’s why I’m glad I went to Simpson University’s presentation. Mark Siebert from Iowa’s Simpson University told us straight up that Iowa is a big politics state, people LOVE their politics, and politicians love visiting. He gave us many tips on how to cover the 2016 Presidential Election such as tracking down the politicians, knowing their history, reach out to your potential sources to gain access, follow the campaign and beat the reporters getting there. He also tipped us to not ask questions that the entire nation is going to ask the candidate, be original and specific with your questions. With this workshop, I learned to like politics a little bit more.
Covering Trauma definitely touched my heart in a breaking way. Kenna Griffin from Oklahoma City University was a magnificent speaker, and I actually ended up attending a second workshop of her’s. In this session, she spoke with such tone that you could feel the pain and heartbreak of these stories that many journalists had covered. What blew my mind and made me realize that I need to prepare myself for covering trauma was when Griffin told us that out of 900 journalists, 88% had covered or witnessed trauma in their time. When dealing with victims or the families of, always ask for questions, don’t ever shove them in their faces, and also if they say no, that means NO. You always have to keep in mind what they have gone through, and that the media isn’t always that important if it means traumatizing a victim even more. Your mood and tone also needs to change to be more sympathetic towards the tragedy. With all this in mind, don’t ever forget to BE ETHICAL. And also: never jeopardize your own safety.
“Stop Waiting, Get Moving” presented by Tom Cheredar, a freelance journalist, gave us advice on how to move yourself closer to your dream job or goals. He told us that for his first journalist job he got at Geeks of Doom, he had to prove himself to his boss in order to get paid, until then he was more like an intern. That WILL happen as a journalist all throughout the beginning of your career. He gave us two tips at the beginning: 1. Make a list of ALL the publications you read or have come across as interesting and 2. Figure out what they should know about you; what will help you score at their publication? He also told us what to keep in mind throughout your journey as a journalist: 1. Ignore the professor voice– be yourself, but know what the boss will say, not what the professor will “teach” 2. It is impossible to say “Damn that was good, I am good, I am satisfied” NOT GOING TO HAPPEN and 3. End most of your days doing something that will get you closer to your career goals and happiness. Lastly, “networking is key”, he told us to make sure you are following those editors of the publications you want to pitch for, and keep your options open. And remember, you don’t have to tie yourself down to be successful.
My very last workshop of the convention was the second session lead by Kenna Griffin was very relaxed, and a great ending to my experience. She lead a workshop called “Editor Therapy” which was a place for editors and even staff to come in and tell her their problems with their publications, and let me tell you, her advice was sassy, smart, funny, and more real than any other person would tell you. What I loved most about her workshops was seeing how passionate she was to her students, but also to other students who may not have the best team or advisers. Her heart was so full of love and passion, I chose to speak to her in person after the session, and she was just as kind-hearted as I saw her as.
The memories made, lessons learned, people met, and overall experience in Austin, Texas was way worth the stress, lack of sleep, jet lag, and long days. Coming out of this convention, I learned more about my major, my career options and how to better myself. I also realized that I made the right choice in changing my major to journalism, and that this career is where I belong. From using my social media(Twitter), I gained followers from university editors, publication editors, speakers from the convention, and more than I ever imagined. All I wanted by making a Twitter just for journalism use, was to gain followers who can connect me to the right path, and I got that from this convention.
#CollegeMedia15 YOU WERE AMAZING! OFF TO WASHINGTON D.C. NEXT FALL 2016!
If you read this whole thing, thank you 🙂 I know it was long!