From the professional panels to sightseeing around Washington D.C., the Washington Journalism and Media Conference was quite the beneficial experience. As I was going into my junior year when embarking on this journey, the mere beginning of discovering journalism as my own career path, I hadn’t had the slightest clue what I was getting myself into exactly. Not knowing a single person attending, I chose to go anyways and definitely don’t regret it. WJMC opened my eyes to journalism. WJMC taught me that careers in journalism are flourishing and that journalism as an institution is definitely necessary.
Taking place at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, this was my first time stepping on a college campus. Staying in the dorms, eating at the dining halls, and listening to lectures from college professors was all new to me. The conference also engaged in group work where I participated in workshops in learning how to interview, write, and edit. And in addition to a taste of the college life, the conference also toured Washington D.C., visiting the must-see monuments as well as visits to the Newseum and National Press Club.
As the Newseum’s mission is to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment, the exhibits and public programs truly express those freedoms and why such freedoms are necessary. The interactive museum allows for visitors to experience the stories of yesterday and today through a media lens. And in that lens of yesterday and today, the Newseum educates, promotes, and protects those First Amendment freedoms for not only today but for generations to come.
In the Newseum, physically seeing stories and journalists of the past, leading up to where the media is now, inspired a passion for journalism in me and made me realize its profoundness.
Moving forward, in attending professional panels and our visits to the National Press Club and National Geographic, the speakers we heard from were, in one word, inspiring. Whether it was through a formal journalism education or freelancing, the professionals all had stories to tell and inspiration to share in regards to the journey of establishing yourself as a journalist and building your experience.
From the multitude of speakers, I learned a multitude of lessons and different advice. From New York Times’ White House Correspondent Michael D. Shear, I learned that “access is everything,” especially to maintain a free press. And from Nicole Livas, an anchor on WAVY News, I learned to ask critical but not cynical questions.
Carol Guzy, a photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, creates meaning in her work and inspires so many through her photography that employs empathy. As a passionate photographer, she insists on capturing the “wow moments in life” and for her work to truly have meaning. I learned that if I wanted to be a journalist, I should do it because I am passionate about it and do it because I enjoy it. Be free of fears. Convey a story.
In receiving advice in how to build a journalism career, Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief of National Geographic Magazine, advised that the process of storytelling is dependent upon adaptation. Whether it be in adding new mediums such as photography or audio, a story becomes more powerful when that story is conveyed in different, new ways. “We must embrace new ways to get our messages across.” It is important to be flexible and adaptive. In the many lessons I gained through these various speakers, I gained my inspiration to write and to seek journalism as a career.
My experience at WJMC was far more than the sleepless nights, flooded camera roll, and endless notes; it was an experience that instilled an increased passion for journalism in me. I engaged in activities that were outside of my comfort zone, and in result broadened my horizons. I am not only looking at finding a possible career, I am looking at my passion, my interest, and my voice. I am no longer looking at just the sun, I am looking at everything beyond. The diversity, ambition, and veracity for the art of written word never dies, and has no distant deadline to be met.