More than 3,000 students, journalists and editors gathered at the Pennsylvania Convention Center this weekend to celebrate the 36th Annual National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair. And while the majority of attendees were African-American, this convention was about much more than just color.
This year’s convention focused on ways to counteract the influx of economy-pressured layoffs and furloughs, as well as the major shift to digital media in the newspaper industry that has impacted journalists of all nationalities.
“Our theme this year – The Power of Change: Claiming Your Destiny – goes to the heart of the challenges we’re facing in our evolving industry,” former NABJ president Kathy Y. Times said in her welcome address. “I am proud of the multimedia training and the digital journalists who are sharing their expertise this year.”
In a bold series of discussions, film screenings and interactive sessions, panelists and attendees took on tough topics, such as cultural tensions in the black community and building wealth in tough times. Guests included many influential professionals and celebrities from media mogul, Arianna Huffington to Philly’s own WBC Lightweight Champion, Bernard Hopkins.
For an aspiring young journalist, like me, attending this convention was the opportunity of a lifetime.
It isn’t everyday that a kid from Germantown gets to shake hands with people like CNN Analyst Roland Martin, engage in intimate conversations with Oscar award winning actors like Cuba Gooding, Jr., or dance the night away with NBC investigative reporter, Harry Hairston. But as a winner of the NABJ student essay contest, I got to do all of the above. My registration fees were paid in full by the NABJ committee, allowing me to attend a host of events that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.
A visit to the Career Fair provided me with a wealth of new job opportunities, and new contacts garnered through networking sessions are sure to be vital to the success of my job hunt after graduation.
Temple University student Jaimee Swift, who also had her convention registration fees sponsored as a winner of the essay contest, acknowledged the importance of attending the convention.
“The NABJ convention was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” she said. “I am so grateful to have been around people who I look up to and aspire to be like. It is a convention that every black journalist should attend.”
As indicated in its theme, this convention was about the power of change; the idea that any one of us journalists could hold the key to the next dimension in news reporting; even a budding African-American student journalist like Swift.
The fact that the majority of news editorial boards lack faces of color, makes organizations like NABJ all the more important.
CNN news anchor Soledad O’Brien said in one session, the fight for diversity and minority inclusion in news organizations across the nation must go on.
“There are glass ceilings across the board, you still wake up everyday and hope to push it an inch further,” O’Brien said.
Next year’s convention is scheduled to take place in New Orleans.
Queen Muse is a freelance journalist, West Oak Lane resident and winner of an award given by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists to college journalists. Comment on her essay below.