New Platforms. New Directions. New Orleans. Is the tagline for the National
Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) 2012 Annual Convention & Career Fair and
through the first full day of proceedings #NABJ12 has lived up to its billing.
Wednesday opened with an impressive collection of interactive skill building
workshops tabbed Learning Labs. Among the several sessions that were going on
concurrently there was one on career transition and resilience aimed at seasoned
journalists looking to thrive and stay competitive in the ever-evolving media
marketplace. Another learning lab focused on entrepreneurialism in the current
digitalized new media world. This talk was geared toward those looking to build
inventive and profitable digital platforms using the latest technologies. Branding U,
was a student focused lab where a panel of recruiters, journalism professors, and
NABJ' Student Board member Wesley Lowery spoke candidly about the changing
landscape of getting that important first job and how Twitter, Facebook, and virtual
resumes are all playing an increasing important role in getting or not getting hired.
To summarize, new, new, new; adapt or perish.
I attended the ONA Camp learning lab where presenters from the Online News
Association (ONA) demoed and showed the limitations of numerous web-based
tools that would enhance storytelling while facilitate better engagement with story
topics and audiences. Two particularly fascinating discussions centered on the use
of news games in reporting and integrating Google generated data maps.
Nonny de La Pena, an Annenberg Fellow and former full time reporter, has turned
into a documentarian (Unconstitutional). Through the blending of 3D and second
life technology, layered with news quality audio and video de La Pena has created
immersed news environments. 'Readers' through the use of mobile devices and
3D glasses use their personal avatars to navigate through a simulated version of a
Guantanamo Bay detention camp or standing in food line where a persons falls into
a diabetic comma.
"What is delivered to readers is the inability to disconnect from the subject mater."
Said de La Pena
She would later add, while in this completely virtual immersed news
environment, "people go through a full range of emotions, some crying others
reaching for cellphones to call for help."
The personal nature of this cutting edge type of reporting means that establishing
ethical guidelines are a priority and that along with creating a list of best practices is
what de La Pena is diligently working on.
Not as personal as immersive journalist but still highly effective and innovative.
John Keefe helps journalists contextualize critical facts through maps generated in
Google. Keefe, a Senior Editor for Data News & Journalism Technology at WNYC
through Google Fusion Tables helps journalists hone in on important statistical
patterns that often leads to deeper reporting or backs up reporting that has already
taken place and as a bonus, Keefe crystalizes those data patterns into a completely
digestible map. You have seen example of Keefe's fusion maps in the reporting of
Ailsa Chang on New York City's controversial Stop and Frisk laws, http://wny.cc/
JJWIMv but what you probably did not know is the map you see in Chang' story was
created before she finished her reporting. Keefe's map showed a hotspot for Stop
and Frisk incidents. Chang went to that hotspot and connected with students that
had been stopped and interviewed them, marrying personal narrative to statistically
Even though Google Fusion Tables are a relatively new application there is plenty of
searchable information on the net on how you create one, just Google it. (snare roll!)
My mind sufficiently blown after sitting through six plus hours of journalism
innovations and best practices like many NABJ12 participants I waiting in line to
get into Welcome Reception where Vice President Joe Biden would address the
audience. As the first day of my first NABJ conference was entering its final leg I
realized that I was a bit of a man without a country. There are two dominate groups
at this conference, veteran media members to whom NABJ conferences have become
summer traditions on par with family reunions and student journalists who arrived
with what seems to be their entire NABJ chapter.
I am in neither camp, since I recently finished my formal journalism training in
graduate school (Georgetown) this spring and I am transitioning into the industry.
Now this is not my first NABJ event and I attend my local chapter meetings, but that
is still 8 familiar faces in a sea of two thousand not so familiar ones.
I found refuge in a seat in front of the camera row. After ten minutes, a middle age
man sits next to me and a minute later he out of his seat taking pictures, back in his
seat then back out talking to old friends. He returns to his seat for longer then two
minutes and I take the opportunity to ask him who he is and what he does. CBS
New, BET Nightly News, Cablevision, NBC working broadcast journalism for 42
I thought my mind was blown before.
I peppered him with questions throughout the evening and I will share the two
most important thoughts he left with me, "there is not substitute for passion in this
industry so find yours now". And secondly, "you have to inspire people to work
with you and then you have to work as hard as possible for them and with them,
that's the key to sticking around."
I know that the news industry is wrong side up and too many outstanding
journalists, particularly in our community have lost their job because of the
instability of the system. I even have a sense that the task of someone like me
finding a way into the system is getting increasing difficult. And as much as I
appreciate all of the news skill I was exposed to yesterday, my biggest take away
was neither web-based nor Google powered.
Thank you Mr. William J. Wright for taking the time to talk to me and put things into
proper perspective. I hope over the next three days everyone gets to have equally
impactful experience as I experience on the opening night of NABJ12.