With my sophomore year coming to an end, it is only natural that the realization of being two years away from adulthood, job search, and opportunity seeking settles in. As an aspiring media professional that focuses on discussing race as a pivotal issue, one of the main challenges of this realization is that there is a lot of difficulty in trying to do “the work”: not many people are receptive to critical conversations on racism in America. So a highlight of my sophomore year was representing my chapter among other aspiring black journalists at the Northwestern University NABJ Midwest Conference.
During this weekend, I met other journalists who are doing the work and pushing against the dominant narrative through their studies and skill acquisition.On the first day of the conference, I was greeted by Charles Whitaker, the adult advisor of the program, with pizza and great conversation. After meeting a few of the other NABJ chapters at the Black House, we all prepared for the next day.
As day 2 of the conference rolled around, I was amazed at the guest speakers’ knowledge of media, and the honesty in which they answered personal questions about problems they face being black media professionals. Robert Samuels, one of the panelists and a writer at the Washington Post, discussed his own troubles being a black writer at a white publication. I left that panel discussion with a wallet full of business cards and a heightened understanding of the troubles and rewards of being a black media professional.
The workshops that followed also heightened my understanding of my own competition for jobs and the skills I’ll need to be able to compete with media professionals. The Adobe workshop that I attended gave me an entirely new set of skills that I have access to and didn’t know existed. The workshop on pitching stories that I attended was also nothing short of eye-opening. During that workshop, I learned a lot regarding freelance journalism, and pitching ideas for a story.
On the last day of the conference, I once again had the opportunity to hear a star-studded panelist – the Editor in Chief of Ebony Magazine – give wonderful advice on proceeding forward in journalism and finding your niche. The major takeaways from the conference, beyond the skills and tips that I learned, were that NABJ Northwestern deserves a round of applause for orchestrating the conference, that there is a need for more frequent cross collaboration among NABJ chapters of the Midwest, and that the road to becoming a black media professional isn’t as gloomy as I thought before.