In March I agreed to serve on a mentor board organized by Jerry Baldasty, chair of the University of Washington’s Department of Communication. Jerry paired me with William Kim, who graduated from the UW’s journalism program this year and attended the UNITY conference on a scholarship. I asked William to share his thoughts on his first national journalism conference with the chapter. Here’s what William has to say. If you would like to mentor a student or are looking for a mentor, please e-mail AAJA Seattle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Sanjay Bhatt, AAJA Seattle Chapter Co-President
By WILLIAM KIM
I didnâ€™t know what to expect going to my first journalism conference, the UNITY: Journalists of Color Convention in Chicago. Nothing I heard or read about UNITY could prepare me for the overwhelming experience of a gathering of thousands of journalists. It was exciting to see so many notable names and faces gathered in one place, such as ESPN columnist J.A. Adande in a panel about broadcast sports journalism and Martin Bashir from ABC News giving a keynote speech at an AAJA banquet.
The overwhelming part was initially not knowing anyone when everyone else around me seemed to be catching up with each other. But thatâ€™s what conventions like these are for. The UNITY Convention in one word: networking. Every moment of the conference, whether it was at the convention center, on shuttle buses, or during dinners and parties, was an opportunity to make and update connections. Over four days, I met other journalists, from students to professionals, and learned from their experiences about what it takes to be a journalist in todayâ€™s society.
This opportunity to socialize and share experiences with other journalists from all around the country was a way to get a feeling for the state of journalism. Of course there was an overall gloomy disposition about the diminishing advertising revenue and newsroom cutbacks, especially for print. One reporter I talked to was very bitter that her 15 years of print experience was not going to count for much in an era of journalism where multimedia skills are becoming more crucial. This is why much of the focus of the workshops and panel discussions was geared towards developing digital media skills. I had a great opportunity to learn some basics of recording and editing video while following my mentor, Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle Times reporter, as he worked on a multimedia project for UNITY.
We worked on making an audio slideshow about the changing demographics of the south side of Chicago. In a predominately African American neighborhood called Bronzeville thatâ€™s steeped in culture and history, new condominium developments are bringing in strangers and some residents are worried the change will dilute the cultural value in the area. Exploring Bronzeville was the highlight of my UNITY experience because it was a chance to see a side of Chicagoâ€™s true face. Itâ€™s hard to absorb the unique culture of a place from only staying in the downtown area.
If there is one thing I take away from this conference, itâ€™s that the adage, â€œItâ€™s not what you know, itâ€™s who you know,â€ is very true. In that sense, I am glad to have attended this convention for the networking opportunities it gave me.