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AAJA Seattle student member: AAJA Convention gave feeling of “renewed hope” in journalism

NJC Scholars with Bill Dinh

[Mary Pauline Diaz, far left, with fellow Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship winners Katelin Chow and Peter Sessum and AAJA co-founder Bill Sing during the 2010 AAJA National Convention in Los Angeles.]

Mary Pauline Diaz, a 2010 Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship winner, spent her summer writing for the Seattle Weekly. As a recipient of AAJA Seattle’s Founders Scholarship, Diaz she also was able to attend the 2010 AAJA National Convention in Los Angeles in August. As AAJA Seattle’s student members return to school, Diaz, a junior at Seattle University, shares why she returns with a renewed confidence in her career path.

It’s easy to feel daunted and overwhelmed by the changing state of the journalism, especially at this point in time. But at the AAJA National Convention, the language and the feeling definitely exuded a renewed hope. As a nervous convention first-timer and forward-minded student, it was refreshing to be around so many journalists who were  excited about the future of journalism, who had enough passion to propel themselves past hurdles or who were gearing up for the hurdles they were facing: unemployment for seasoned vets, first forays into a fickle field for students and recent grads and the utter volatility of the industry for everyone.

And that’s not the only good news. The good news (and I think this is good news) is that journalism as we know it is being turned on its head. I jotted down a few quotes from some convention workshops that totally threw me for a loop, but they indicate exactly how journalism itself is being redefined and regenerated.

Get excited. The time in front of us is the perfect time to experiment, reexamine our roles and position yourself for the upper hand in the market.

“New media, digital media, perhaps even journalism don’t really apply as terms for what I do.” – John Bracken, Director of New Media at The Knight Foundation
Let go of those traditional conceptions of your job description. Regardless of what Bracken himself does, every journalist has to face the transitioning ambiguity of what journalism is, what media is and what audiences consider their sources of information.

“Audio is really a visual medium.” – Sora Newman, Senior Trainer at NPR
Though every format and every story is unique, the richest part of a converging media market is indeed the convergence. It’s not just about the parts sitting beside each other but the way they meld and speak to each other. Newman and the others on the Audio Storytelling for Print Journalists panel challenged participants to look beyond the verbal portion of audio stories and to capture the ambient sounds and bits that paint that “picture” for the listener.

“Content is king, but collaboration is queen. If you think of a chessboard, the king is the most important, but, let’s be honest, the queen is most powerful.” – David Cohn, Spot.us
The most hopeful thing to hear over and over again at the convention was the call to collaborate, a particular theme of the hyperlocal news panel featuring Cohn. Especially as citizen journalism grows and culture’s demand for transparency and immediacy grows, the spirit of collaboration not only grows in importance but in creativity. Spot.us, for instance, uses a unique model of collaborative funding — freelancers can pitch stories, and community members can pitch in the cash.

“It’s not about what the staff is doing. It’s about what the reader is experiencing.” – Wasim Ahmad, Multimedia Journalist and Assistant Professor at Stonybrook University
So often we get caught up in what all of this change means for our jobs and our futures, but journalists should really be mindful of what the changing media landscape means for the audience — not only in how it will change the way people receive information but also the way people interact with information and what they choose to do with it.

“The business of journalism is the business of relationships.” – Raja Abdulrahim, Staff Writer at Los Angeles Times
“You’re not just a journalist. You’re a human being.” – Eiji Yamashita

I put these two together because they pull at a similar issue. So often do we, in the pressure to remain objective, lose sight of the communities and people who are affected the most. It’s not impossible to be both empathetic and fair, and perhaps empathy is intrinsic to justice. Our work as journalists are strengthened by nurturing relationships and trust with the people around us.

“This is not news in one point in time. I want to tell a story with an arc.” – Christopher Wong, Filmmaker of Whatever It Takes
Especially with tools like Twitter, there’s a lot of hype around up-to-the-minute bites (or bytes) of news, quick snippets of information. And the reality is, there’s definitely a demand for that in this fast-paced world. Yet as we reimagine different ways to make the news, we gain more opportunities to harness the power of a compelling story, something that isn’t just informative in an intellectual and utilitarian sense but something that speaks to the bigger picture.

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AAJA Seattle student member: AAJA Voices was one of the most rewarding weeks of my life

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Peter Sessum’s mug shot for AAJA Voices

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, “The only easy day was yesterday.” 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 — 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.

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Sea Beez meetup: Best practices in journalism

Posted on by sbhatt

The “Sea Beez” ethnic media project is holding a roundtable on best practices in journalism from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sept. 23 at KOMO’s Fisher Plaza.

In May, AAJA Seattle and the Seattle Association of Black Journalists (SABJ) co-hosted the launch party for the Sea Beez project, which aims to build the capacity of Puget Sound area ethnic media and empower them to strengthen their business and journalism practices.

Julie Pham, managing editor of Northwest Vietnamese News, directs the project. Pham invites AAJA and SABJ members to the event on Sept. 23. The project’s website is seabeez.com.

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More resources from 2010 AAJA Convention

The Online News Association has a link to all the presentations from its daylong Parachute Training session held during the convention.

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Ten Twitter lessons from AAJA Seattle Innovation Salon at TASTE

Posted on by sbhatt

AAJA student member Peter Sessum, a three-time recipient of Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship who writes for The Daily, documented the event and wrote up 10 Twitter lessons he learned at our AAJA Seattle’s first Innovation Salon:

1. Be yourself. While Twitter can be used for business, it is expression of who you are. Relationships with customers can be built if your Twitter has that personal touch. Better to be loved, or hated, for who you are than to be invisible.

2. Don’t retweet compliments. It comes off as self indulgent and will get you deleted from Becky Selengut’s feed. It is enough that all of the sender’s followers can read it, all of your followers don’t need to as well. Simply reply a thank you and move on.

3. Be mindful of which account you are using. For the professional Twitter, posting a personal Tweet, or replying to a friend, from a business account reflects on the business. Remember to log out and log back in from your personal account.

4. Deleting posts. Recent news proves that deleting can be just as troublesome as the original post. Twitter is in real time and instant gratification. There is a feeling of urgency to post right away or retweet before there is a gap in the posting. In a professional setting, take a moment before posting. It will get read, might as well have it right.

5. Misspellings. Make a correction and move on. Do not be too critical of another’s mistakes; it will happen to you too someday.

6. Inflection is lost when typing. A public forum is not the place to give someone new a taste of your sense of humor.

7. Do not argue over twitter. A healthy exchange of ideas is good, shouting matches are not. In online fights there are no winners, only losers.

8. We are all connected in the Twittersphere. Retweets are a good way to link people you don’t know with people you don’t know. Selengut’s beautifully convoluted story that linked up strangers illustrates how to help one another. As a result, you may end up with jam.

9. There is still room for improvement on Twitter. Creative people will find new ways to utilize twitter at 140 words at a time. Limitations do not stifle imagination, they inspire innovation.

10. Most importantly, know when to unplug. Despite all the “connections” on Facebook and Twitter, it isn’t real interaction. Sit down with friends and family without phones and computers. Have some real connections, there will be plenty of time to Tweet about it later.

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