This post was written by Peter Sessum, an AAJA Seattle student member. Sessum recently was one of 20 students to participate in AAJA Voices. He received training and mentoring on a variety of media platforms to cover the AAJA National Convention, which was held last month in Los Angeles. Sessum, a three-time recipient of the Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship, last wrote about the chapter’s recent innovation salon on Twitter for the AAJA Seattle website.
I have benefited from AAJA more than anyone else I know. Workshops, scholarships and of course the mentorships. There is one thing that wraps it all up in one neat little package: The AAJA Voices Convention News Project (CNP). For a week in Los Angeles, students benefited from everything AAJA has to offer. I was lucky enough to be one of them.
If the convention is a sprint for most convention goers, for the Voices staff, it is a marathon that started long before registration.Twenty students were selected to be part of CNP. Once selected, we got to work. There were webinars that needed to be completed and story assignment ideas. We were paired with a professional mentor. Mine was William Wan from the Washington Post. I couldn’t have asked for one better.
By the time I arrived in LA, I already had one story in the can. I had written my column about how I came to be a journalist. After that, I just needed two more in two different media. This is what separated the journalists from the writers. You have to do research to know what story ideas to pitch. There were still a lot of unknowns heading to the airport, but excitement was high.
There is a saying among Navy SEALs, â€œThe only easy day was yesterday.â€ For the convention, the only easy day was Monday. After all the students trickled in, introductions were made and we headed out to dinner. It would be the last time everyone would eat together outside the newsroom until after the convention.
Voices Director Marian Liu quickly laid down the law. Three students failed to complete the assigned tasks prior to the convention and were told not to come. From the start, Liu kept the group on task. Every day was full. If we weren’t working on a story, there were tours, guest speakers or some form of training or networking. One day was spent at The Los Angeles Times.
With so many moving parts I have no idea how Liu kept it all straight. It was more coordinated than most military operations. Nothing got past our leader. As soon as a student would finish a task, Liu would be calling their name with something new to do.
When the convention started on Wednesday I felt like I was in the eye of the storm. Despite furiously working against an ever impending deadline, tweeting updates for AAJA and Voices and trying to work on future stories, I felt calm. For me, it was not my most stressful newsroom.
The days were filled. Something was scheduled just about every minute. Fortunately, one of my stories was about Katelin Chow, an AAJA Seattle student member, NJC scholarship recipient and a first-time convention goer. Following her got me out of the newsroom and into a couple workshops.
When recruiters talk about elevator speeches, they mean it literally. When heading to my next event, I found myself in an elevator with a person from USA Today. I had missed her at the job fair. In the six-floor ride down, I was able to give her my pitch and we exchanged cards.
I was one of the lucky few who not only got out of the newsroom, but also had some time at night to get some downtime. I was able to spend time with members of AAJA Seattle. And I even found time to make some new friends. My roommate, however, was working far into the night.
National conventions are an Olympics of a conference. While most spring from event to event, the members of the voices project run a week long marathon. By the end of it, I was running like a well-oiled machine. One being operated by a rabid, schizophrenic badger.
Despite all the hard work, the Voices project was one of the most rewarding weeks of my life. I left feeling prepared for next year when I graduate and will be looking for a job. I also picked up some skills to make me a better journalist. As a side bonus, I had some fun.
I would encourage anyone to get involved with the program. Professionals will be able to mentor the next generation of journalists â€” some of who are really impressive. For students, the CNP is a great experience. They select the best AAJA has to offer, but only the best of those who apply.
(Yakima Herald-Republic reporter Mai Hoang, NJC scholarship winner Peter Sessum and Founder’s Scholarship winners Katelin Chow and Mary Pauline Diaz.)
“Back to the Future” was the motto of this year’s AAJA National Convention in Los Angeles.
Aside from being the title of one of my favorite movies as a kid, “Back to the Future” succinctly captures this year’s milieu: We put the awfulness of 2009 behind us and looked ahead to the opportunities of tomorrow. We gave ourselves the space to dream once again — in Hollywood, a place where humans fail hard and often. But we all know that a few of the persistent ones eventually get a lucky break and make their dreams come true!
AAJA today is a dream realized for the journalists who founded it in 1981. You can’t help but feel moved by this awesome promo video marking the occasion of our organization’s 30th anniversary.
Courage. Pride. Passion.
These are words that come to mind when I think of the people who represented our Seattle chapter.
We can all be proud of our AAJA National President Sharon Chan and AAJA National Treasurer Candace Heckman for steering the organization through one of the most difficult years in its history. They made tough decisions, but today the organization has survived a fiscal crisis and is on steadier ground with a new executive director.
Who else was there from our chapter? KING5 anchor Lori Matuskawa; VOICES project director Marian Liu; and several of your chapter board members (Athima Chansanchai, Venice Buhain, Caroline Li and yours truly).
But there were a lot of other faces too! They include:
Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman
KING-TV reporter Owen Lei
Yakima Herald-Republic reporter Mai Hoang
AOL FanHouse producer Sunny Wu
KBCS news director Joaquin Uy (also recipient of an AAJA National award)
KNDO-TV (Yakima) reporter Shawn Chitnis
Public relations executive Christine Chen
Freelance writer Judy Hsu
Founder’s Scholarship recipients Katelin Chow and Mary Pauline Diaz
Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship winner Peter Sessum
Special appearances by Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen and former Executive Editor Mike Fancher
For those of you who didn’t come to the LA convention, I ask you, will we see you in Detroit next year? Should AAJA change the way it holds national conventions?
With only four months left in 2010, our chapter continues to offer great programs and events!
Sept. 11, afternoon: AAJA Seattle annual summer picnic. Golden Gardens. FREE. Bring your spouse, kids and anyone else who’s special.
Sept. 21, 11 am-4:30 pm: AAJA members get the SPJ discount to their Freelancer’s Survival Guide conference at REI. $30 members, $40 non-members.
Oct. 16, all day: Northwest Video Workshop at KING TV. $35 registration. First 10 AAJA members to register get in for $20. (You must send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org after you register to confirm the stipend is still available.)
Late October: Elections for chapter board. Stay tuned for details.
Early November: Our second Innovation Salon: Monetize Your Digital Content.
AAJA Seattle student member Katelin Chow with AAJA Seattle founder Lori Matsukawa at the 2010 AAJA National Convention in Los Angeles
The following post was written by Katelin Chow. Katelin will be a junior at the University of Washington this fall. A 2010 recipient of the Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship, Katelin also earned the Founders’ Scholarship, which provided funding for her to attend the 2010 National Convention of AAJA in Los Angeles.
As the airplane carried me from Seattle to Los Angeles for my first AAJA convention, I could feel the strangest sensation bubbling in my stomach. And it wasnâ€™t from the can of ginger ale that I had knocked back. I was getting nervous about the convention. I thought that because I was a student, I might not have much to contribute to the AAJA conversation. Luckily, I was wrong. These eight tips helped me walk away from the convention feeling more excited about my future with journalism than I had ever felt.
Always have business cards and resumes on hand at a conference. Be sure to have your â€œresumeâ€ site finished, as well. If youâ€™re a multimedia journalist, have a demo-reel edited and accessible online. When I was walking through the career fair, I was shocked at how many cards I was handing out. As Mai Hoang tweeted, â€œA good sign you met lots of great people atÂ #aaja? You need to reorder your biz cards. I have 12 left.â€
When networking, be natural. The point of networking is to form lasting relationshipsâ€”not to collect or give as many business cards as possible. Itâ€™s important to understand that almost everybody feels nervous and a little bit awkward when networking, so smile, breathe and let your passion for journalism shine through.
Always ask questions. Youâ€™re a journalist, right? So you might as well let your inquisitive nature take over you at conferences. Asking questions helps show youâ€™re interested, that you care and well, that youâ€™re articulate.
Use social media. Everybody wants to stay connected, so stay in the loop by keeping up with your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and FourSquare accounts. All these networks might seem intimidating and overwhelming at first, but no fear. Even the least technology-inclined (yours truly) are able to spring into action when it comes to social media. Plus, I learned that journalists can use social media to brainstorm and execute stories.
Repetition. If youâ€™ve found a producer, editor or human resources generalist who youâ€™ve bonded with (at the career fair or around the conference), donâ€™t be afraid to say hi to them again. Repetition builds recognition, which leads to them remembering your face. So that after the conference, when you follow up with all the people who were gracious enough to speak with you, youâ€™re not just another e-mail that floods their already-crammed Inbox.
Follow up within three days. Donâ€™t be a slow-poke when it comes to writing thank-you e-mails (or letters)! My mentor, Owen Lei, insisted I send my e-mails out within three days, otherwise anyone who I had spoken with might not remember me. Which brings me to the next pointâ€¦
Find good mentors, and donâ€™t be afraid to seek advice from them. Journalism is a scary business, so itâ€™s important to have people who you can trust to give you solid advice. Youâ€™re not limited to having just one mentorâ€”the more perspectives on your career, the better.
Donâ€™t forget about meeting other students. Itâ€™s easy to feel overwhelmed by the hoards of adults you meet, so make sure you also hang out with students, too. While youâ€™re most likely at the convention to learn more about the journalism industry, remember that your peers are also the future!
UPDATE: The AAJA Convention Blog is on Tumblr. Check it out for regular updates.
The 21st Annual AAJA Convention: Back to the Future begins inÂ Los Angeles this week.
Here’s some tips to help you get the most out of the experience.
A cheap way from LAX to the Convention hotel
Here’s a handy tip from Kevin Leung of the Los Angeles Times:
Consider taking the FlyAway bus to Union Station in downtown and then
taking the Red Line subway to the Renaissance (Hollywood & Highland
station). It’s cheaper ($7 for bus + $1.50 for subway) than taking a
shuttle and probably faster (you are not being driven all over L.A. to
drop off other passengers).
The bus stops are just outside the baggage area. Make sure you take the
one to Union Station; there are separate buses to UCLA, Van Nuys and
Irvine. They run 24 hours.
Check out the highlights of this year’s silent auction. A bottle of champagne from Robin Leach’s collection? Oh yeah!
Get connected with social media
Mark your AAJA Convention posts with the hashtag #aaja.
Here are some Twitter users to follow while you’re at convention:
@aajajcamp â€” J Camp, a multicultural high school journalism workshop, is currently in session through Wednesday at Loyola Marymount University. Athima Chansanchai (@TimaMedia), AAJA Seattle’s National Board Representative, is J Camp trainer this year.
@aajavoices â€” Check out AAJA Voices, the convention’s student news project, directed by AAJA Seattle member and Seattle Times reporter Marian Liu (@marianliu).Â AAJA Seattle student member Peter Sessum (@petersessum) is on this year’s Voices Staff.