OK….so NABJ Student Projects – the real deal

Last week was a whirlwind experience….point. blank. period.

I was running from Tuesday afternoon to Friday night…but it was all worth it.

And for those of you who may be unfamiliar with NABJ….here’s a quick history lesson.

For the past 36 years, the Nation Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has had their annual convention and career fair as an opportunity for black journalists to network, learn and get to know each other in a professional setting.

And for the past 20 years, the NABJ Student Projects Program has been giving student journalists the chance to cover the convention, gain more hands-on experience and produce multiple forms of journalism from newscasts to a newspaper. Each journalism medium contributes to the NABJ Monitor.

This was my third NABJ convention so this wasn’t new to me, I knew what to expect with how to navigate between the workshops, forums and career fair BUT this was my first time participating with student projects.  As a participant, I was one of eight students who were a part of the television group and we all cover various aspects of the convention and the city of Brotherly Love.

But this experience was nothing like I thought it would be. It was a rush of events starting from the moment I arrived until the day I left. Basically, I hit the ground running on Tuesday evening after I got off the train and kept running the whole week until I headed back to D.C.

Throughout the week, I auditioned for anchor positions, interviewed various people, and worked on a tight deadline and now, two more packages to add to my reel. During this week, the TV group literally worked from 8 a.m. to almost 10 p.m. and we operated like a real news station.

I interviewed one of the lecturers for a learning lab for my story about job reinvention. Photo Credit: Sia Nyorkor

The days would start with an assignment meeting in the morning, getting interviews and b-roll during the day and then writing and tracking a script by the afternoon. After a quick break (like a half hour or so) we were heading to the NBC 10 studio to record a newscast where we got our scripts, had to wear a ton of makeup (but looked fabulous) and then record our pseudo live newscast — that was my life for most of the convention.

And both days that we had a newscast, I had a “day of” piece that I was assigned or pitched in the morning and had to finish by a 4pm deadline. My first piece was about job reinvention and how social media has become a major part of the job search. My other piece literally came from the opening session and initially I had no game plan — all I knew was go to the opening session with a cameraman and see what you can get. From there I was able to get some b-roll, interviews and soundbites that become a piece about ethics in journalism. And it turned out to be a good piece and I really enjoyed working on this one because I interviewed a lot of well known journalists like CNN contributor, Roland Martin, and former NABJ President, Barbara Ciara.

This is just a few minutes before we started our second newscast for NABJ TV News. Photo Credit: Sia Nyorkor

Each day was also very rewarding because I saw my packages come together in a short amount of time. And during the convention, there were television set up within the convention center that would plan our newscast throughout the day so I received feedback on the spot about my stories.

On our last day of reporting, we covered the annual NABJ elections and I had my first experience with live reporting after a press conference. It was pretty hectic because we were broken up into three teams — Team Greg, Team Deirdre, and Team Charles — basically a team for each NABJ presidential candidate. And I was Team Greg and I literally had to follow him throughout most of the election results press conference but it was again,  good hands on experience of what it would be like to cover a political event. But despite how frazzled I got at times, I think I handled myself well and I talked slowly in front of the camera — which is a MAJOR accomplishment for me when I’m in a very hectic atmosphere and it was great practice for future live shots in my journalism career.

And after the craziness of the press conference, the TV team had a mini closing ceremony where both students and mentors talked about their experience with Student Projects and then we were given little awards to signify the completion of this experience.

Check it out! This is my award for Student Projects 2011

The mini awards were a wonderful gesture from our mentors and I know I’ll cherish mine forever!! It’ll also be one of the first things I put on my desk….wherever that desk may be in the future.

After Friday night, I was free to enjoy the rest of the conference with my fellow CABJ members and that was nice because a break was much needed. Plus I really wanted to see some of Philly even if it was only for a day.

Despite my crazy schedule, I did get a picture in front of the Philly Love sign…which is much smaller than I thought it would. Photo Credit: Johnny Ubri-Cardona

Needless to say, when I got home on Sunday afternoon I was exhausted and sleep deprived but I also came home a better journalist with a better network for the future.

We all posed with just two of our many amazing mentors, Denise James, far left and Sia Nyorkor, far right. Photo Credit: Sia Nyorkor’s camera

My team…I heart these people dearly and I’m so blessed to have met them! I can’t wait to see what kind of news we’ll make in the business! Photo Credit: Sia Nyorkor — Missing Modupe Idowu and Shaneen Quarells from this photo.

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