Conference recap: challenging my own assumptions

With the muggy and humid air and the spicy Southern creole dining, New Orleans is a city full of life. This year, New Orleans, Louisiana, hosted the Excellence in Journalism National Conference September 18-20. I, along with four fellow executive board members, had the opportunity to attend thanks to funding and support from our school. Our time at the conference could not have been more enjoyable. We not only attended workshops addressing various topics, but also explored the downtown New Orleans area and met with top-notch industry professionals. With that, I realized there is much more to take away from a conference than simply networking.

One goal I had in mind when attending this conference was to expand my knowledge on what it means to be a media professional. In the past, my conference attendance has involved sitting in on similar workshops that address, more or less, the same issues. This time, I tried to branch out and explore a variety of panels with the goal of hoping to learn about all sides of the communications industry. I wanted to seek different experts who could share with me the process of improving social media usage, reporting with accuracy and researching information. Hence, I listened to presenters that spoke about a range of topics and issues, including “Covering Domestic Violence Against Native Women”; “Race, Religion and Politics: Avoiding Stereotypes and Leading Community Conversation”; “Immigration: Reporting Across Ethnic Divides”; “From Data to Impact: Finding and Using Health Disparities Data”; “New Orleans News and the Role of the Press in the Digital Age”; “Collaboration Tops Branding in Nonprofit Journalism.” I enjoyed these panels because they discussed topics relevant to today’s society and brought to my attention the issues we are still working to address.

There were two sessions that stood out to me throughout my time at the conference. First, I was impressed at the number of people who attended the “Race, Religion and Politics: Avoiding Stereotypes and Leading Community Conversation” panel. I attended the panel because I felt that it fit in with all that I am currently studying in one of my journalism courses this semester, “Media Literacy: Race, Gender and Ethnicity.” The session highlighted topics that are still prevalent in society today: race and stereotypes that misrepresent a story and/or narrative. I thought it was impactful to hear about how to craft the story accurately and depict characters and sources in the right light. In my opinion, this was an important session to attend because it helps to understand how to make ethical and accurate journalistic decisions when crafting a message or story. After learning the ways in which the media distorts information, I learned how I can improve as a journalist and storyteller by understanding the impact of the decisions that ultimately misrepresent a story or narrative.

The second workshop that was meaningful to attend was the “Collaboration Tops Branding in Nonprofit Journalism.” Compared to the other panels and workshops, I consider this one on nonprofit journalism to be my favorite. The panel consisted of representatives from Native Health News Alliance, a nonprofit news and service site that serves Native American populations and media. Prior to the EIJ conference, I had never attended a workshop where we discussed media for Native Americans, so in my opinion, it was unique to learn about the Native American culture, population and misperceptions. As a writer, I believe it is important to understand other cultures and ethnicities simply because it contributes to how well a story is told. This panel opened my eyes to sharing stories about some of the most underrepresented groups in the media. There are definitely stories to be told…they just need to found and written without any presumptions. Collaboration, whether it is with another organization or with another writer, challenges your assumptions and biases and creates a diverse network of alliances to authenticity to your writing. As a storyteller, passion and harmony thrive in collaborative environments.

These workshops, along with the ones I mentioned earlier, presented a diverse array of issues that contribute to my understanding of how to become a media professional who is aware of her biases and the misrepresentations in the media. The EIJ conference, for sure, definitely put the hat on a wonderful year as president of the Ithaca College chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Tricks of the trade: what I learned as a marketing intern

Although senior year is in full-swing (and trust me, it is as busy as ever), I couldn’t help but reflect on my time working at Sagefrog Marketing Group in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. My internship at Sagefrog was unlike any other; in fact, I’d consider it a culmination of my previous experiences and skills.

For 10 weeks, at 40 hours per week, I was fortunate to have the opportunity of immersing myself into all facets of the marketing and communications industries, including, but not limited to: branding, digital marketing, public relations, social media, traditional marketing and integrated marketing. Of course, I also learned skills relating to administration and business operations, which have allowed me to further develop as a professional.

My time at Sagefrog not only helped me realize what it’s like to work in the professional media industry, but also confirmed the type of career I want to pursue after graduation. With that, here are my five takeaways after working at a marketing agency:

  1. All types of communication (especially verbal) are key: In other words, being extroverted goes a long way when you’re working in the communications industry. Yes, this means you have to get over your fear of speaking on the telephone, but it also means learning to interact with employees and clients in the industry language. Be proactive and seek clarification when needed.
  2. Chaos is a good thing: As a journalist, I can tell you chaos is just the beginning of a long day. At Sagefrog, it is a fact that interns always have work to do whether it is researching a prospective client, gathering social media analytics or proofreading documents. You are constantly moving and there is not a time when the phone is not ringing. In the midst of it all, you prioritize work that needs to get done. For this reason, I have learned, time management comes in handy…and it is never too late to begin prioritizing.
  3. Nothing is ever busy work: I repeat…nothing is ever busy work. From day one, I realized the work I completed and the tasks I were assigned were steps to creating bigger projects. Even minuscule tasks, such as the organization of media lists, helped move along a public relations project and press release. In the end, the team carried out the project much more efficiently and within a timely manner.
  4. Journalists have a different perspective: Yes, working in a marketing agency is not the first place people think of when you say you are a journalism major. But, journalism is a multi-dimensional degree that teaches a variety of skills and prepares media professionals to work in all aspects of the industry. I believe my skills as a journalist, specifically as a storyteller, contributes well to the marketing communications industry since I am working with clients who hope to brand a strategy that tells the story of their company.
  5. Work outside your comfort zone: A few projects I worked on involved data extraction and website analyzation, which definitely are not my strongest areas. Although I have experience with website analytics, I still had much to learn and Sagefrog entrusted me to do just that. I explored Google Analytics and other data-retrieving websites to get the necessary data. I am glad to have expanded my knowledge in Excel (especially with pivot tables!), as well as HubSpot, as digital marketing is a rising industry today.