This year marked my first experience attending a national Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Convention.
When I heard the convention was taking place in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., I could picture myself relaxing on the beach in the sun after a long day of journalism seminars.
Unfortunately, my pleasant little daydream never made it to reality, as the weather in Fort Lauderdale made it apparent that it had no concern whether or not I came home with a decent tan.
It rained every single day of the convention.
But, the gloomy weather did not stop eager mass communication gurus and students from getting up early every morning, slugging down their coffee and getting their learning on.
Before the convention I joked about how nerdy I felt attending as CU’s SPJ chapter president. I said I was going to show up wearing “hipster glasses” and bearing a foam sword exclaiming, “This isn’t the Comic-Con Convention?”
However, once I was actually there, I found myself surrounded by professionals from all over the United States, even the world. It was a nice feeling, being in the presence of so many others who take journalism seriously.
Each day started off with different seminars led by experts in the field. I was able to choose the seminars I wanted to attend. So, of course, I picked the ones that sounded most interesting.
My first session was led by Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize winner for feature writing who worked with The New York Times. Earlier in his career he covered major stories such as the Oklahoma City bombing, the Jonesboro killings and the Susan Smith trial. He spoke on how to “write in color” using images to tell stories instead of only facts.
Bragg opened my eyes to the idea that you can put feeling and emotion into a piece without breaking the journalistic rule of staying objective. He explained that by simply painting a picture for readers you are allowing them to easily come to their own conclusion about the story.
Throughout the day I tried to continue broadening my horizon by going to seminars on subjects out of my mass communication realm.
“Unleash Your Inner Broadcaster” was the name of a seminar I attended where I learned how you should sound on the radio versus how you don’t want to sound. At the end of the session the attendees were encouraged to put themselves on the spot and test out their own radio voice.
I decided to sit back and watch due to the fact I have absolutely zero experience reading for radio. It was interesting how the trainers helped each volunteer to improve their radio voice in just seconds by using different exercises and techniques.
Several other seminars continued to fill my brain with new ideas about journalism and mass communication as a whole.I attended one session on multi-platform reporting, where some tips for efficiently using different mediums—such as social networks, print, video and radio— for one story were discussed. I also took advantage of sessions on succeeding in freelance, or self- employed, reporting in and out of the country.
At the end of the first day when I was convinced I couldn’t focus during one more session, I was pleasantly surprised. The session was called “It’s Just Video—Until a Storyteller Creates an Experience.” It was lead by Boyd Huppert, an Emmy winning news reporter for KARE 11 in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.
Huppert showed several videos where he used people to create incredible and interesting stories.
His story “Portrait of Compassion,” for which he received his Emmy Award, was bril
liant, taking human emotion and allowing it to shine through in a news story.
After the showing of the video, sniffles could be heard throughout the room. I have to admit, I even had to stifle a few tears. His session was a great presentation of how it is possible to make news matter to people who aren’t being directly affected by it.
Along with all I learned from the sessions I also gathered some tips on how to make my own SPJ chapter better.
It is extremely difficult to get college students to care about anything school related, so I was completely open to any ideas on how to get more people involved in SPJ at CU.
All in all — even though I wasn’t able to get my dream tan — my trip to Ft. Lauderdale was enjoyable and enlightening.
I encourage all students interested in mass communication to join SPJ and make it a point to attend the next convention.
Wed, October 10, 2012
by Lacy Mudd