By Owen Lei
Congratulations to this year’s NJC scholarship recipients! Â On the 25th anniversary of the Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship, AAJA Seattle was able to award nearly $5,000 in scholarships to help offset the cost of tuition, send a student to the 2011 AAJA national convention in Detroit, and help pay for off-campus multimedia storytelling courses.
(above picture, from left to right) Mary Jean Spadafora,Â 911 Media Arts Scholarship; Joanna Nolasco, Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship; Peter Sessum, Founder’s Scholarship; Gina Cole, NJC Scholarship. (not pictured: Katelin Chow, who won an NJC Scholarship, made a special appearance from Barcelona, Spain, via a pre-recorded webcam message)
Thanh Tan of the Texas Tribune,Â as keynote speaker, shared her experiences as a multimedia reporter/producer covering state politics at a non-profit journalism outlet.
The Texas Tribune is a non-profit journalism startup based in Austin that relies on diverse lines of revenue to sustain its hard-hitting reporting on state government and politics.
Here’s an excerpt from Thanh’s amazing keynote speech:
Will we succeed in our mission to be a non-profit, sustainable provider of public interest news? I donâ€™t know. Will I still have a job in a year or two? I sure hope so. When I questioned whether I wanted to venture into the unknown, I leaned on my old Nightline executive producer, Tom Bettag, for help. Hereâ€™s what he told me, â€œAs for the future of the Tribune and its model, I don’t think anyone knows. What we know is that it is a serious attempt to do important work. If it fails, it will be a noble failure. People will respect you for having done your best to make it work.â€
If youâ€™d told me seven years ago that I would NOT be working in television news. That instead, Iâ€™d be producing and writing for an online start-up in Austin, Texas. That I would be a multi-platform journalist– Iâ€™d have said, â€˜Whatever. Yeah right.â€™ The bottom is Iâ€™ve worked in local TV news in small and big markets. Iâ€™ve worked in public broadcasting at a local and national level. All those experiencesâ€”the good, the bad, and the uglyâ€¦ led me to where I am today and make me appreciate what I have so much more. You donâ€™t have to follow my path. Create your own future, and know that it may look nothing like what youâ€™re envisioning right now. But the basics are the same. Just do it. Find that first break. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed.
Keep in touch with those whose work you admire. Break a few stories. Check your facts. Seek the truth. Hold the powerful accountable. Meet your deadlines. Learn from your mistakes. Survival in this industry may well be based on your ability to adapt your stories for different mediumsâ€”so learn all you can about how print, online, and broadcast work. Try new thingsâ€”but always be mindful of your mission. And know that your job allows you to wield a certain amount of power that should not be abused. Pay attention to the people around youâ€¦ listen to their stories, and understand that our work as journalists often gives voice to the voiceless. Thatâ€™s a huge responsibility.
Times are changing for this industryâ€”it is a FASCINATING time to be a journalist, if you do it for the right reasons. Youâ€™ve gotten this far. I promise you that with a little help from the Northwest Journalists of Colorâ€”and all the people who are around you today– you will go on to produce work that inspires and enlightens your community.
This is just the beginning of your journey, and I am so excited for you.