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Journalists Gather For D.C. Convention


The Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) hosted their annual National College Media Convention on Oct. 20-23 in Washington, D.C. The national event, welcoming over 2,000 student journalists from all over the US, took place at the Washington Grand Hyatt.

As attendees found out, Washington, D.C. is considered one of the major media hubs within the country. The nation’s capital houses the bulk of American media, through print, television, online, and radio news. The convention aimed to combine these media conglomerates to give college journalists a sample of each, while both instructing and inspiring them along the way.

The ACP offered workshops and lectures throughout the weekend. There was a little something for everyone: resume and cover letter sessions, information on political coverage, lectures on social media and multi-platform multimedia, tips on reporting on social justice, design workshops, recitations on millennials in the newsroom, on-site critiques, classes regarding sexual assault and interviewing victims, orations on free speech (including protests, power, and campus censorship), talks on advertising, and editorial guidelines, like crafting headlines and kickheads and captions or managing newspaper staff.

Attendees also had the option of signing up for media tours. Local institutions opened their doors to the wide-eyed students, including Vox, the Newseum, National Public Radio, CBS, and the Motion Picture Association of America. These tours allowed students to interact with several faces of media, ask questions, and receive feedback on paths to national-level media, while also seeing company production firsthand.

For many convention-goers, the most exciting part of the conference were the keynote speakers. There were several speeches: “Elections Matter” by Donna Brazile, “From All the President’s Men to the Last of the President’s Men” by Bob Woodward, and “From Cybersecurity to Human Rights Activism” by Edward Snowden stood out.  Brazile opened the convention on Thursday night, welcoming students to the conference. Brazile, the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and political strategist, spoke on matters of ethical reporting and the importance of journalism in an election season. She focused on the new style of reporting known as whistleblowing, and brought sites like WikiLeaks into focus: Brazile urged the student journalists to verify information, to respect boundaries of personal security, and, most importantly, to vote.

Woodward was welcomed to the stage on Friday morning to thunderous applause. He spoke to a crowd who endearingly idolized him, and his historic contribution to the world of journalism and American politics—most notably when he he uncovered and reported on the Watergate scandal in 1972, leading to Nixon’s resignation. He urged the crowd to remember a few important things. First, “The purpose of education is to think for yourself.” Second, “You have the hammer, and it’s called the First Amendment. Use it. Use it for change.” He also told the audience about an internal saying at the Washington Post: “All good work is done in the defiance of management.” Woodward stressed the importance of finding the truth, sticking to your gut, and always being a human before a reporter. It was an inspirational moment of solidarity for reporters as Woodward concluded his keynote, and everyone rose to their feet for a teary-eyed ovation.

For Snowden’s talk via Skype, he was also met with standing cheers, before he said a single word. Once the applause died down on Saturday morning, Snowden chuckled, and commented on how journalists were the only group of people who gave him an overwhelmingly positive reception. After his 2013 leak of classified information from the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance, Snowden has sought asylum in Moscow, Russia, though he was still able to speak at the conference. With a green screen behind him, Snowden touched on issues of national security and the important role of the press in justice. He drove one point home: “I am not a journalist,” he said. “Remember that I was only the source.” Snowden aimed to tie together questions of power and control with issues of fundamental human rights, and the responsibility that all citizens have to seek the truth.

The 2016 National College Media Convention was an opportunity for student journalists to network and grow, through new information and collaboration. The conference, if nothing else, reinforced what Snowden said to his listeners: “You guys have the potential to help determine what is actually happening in our world.”

Savannah Nelson
Savannah Nelson

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