I’d been looking forward to this conference since I had found out I was going, but my enthusiasm increased as attempts to discredit the media had grown in the past few months. Journalists play a crucial role in ensuring that people know the happenings of the world around them and that that information is correct —it’s also imperative journalists have the freedom to carry out their duties fully. One of the first sessions I attended emphasized the task of journalists in today’s times and highlighted the importance of the First Amendment, a theme common to other sessions as well.
The presenter of the session “Why Journalists are Superheroes” drew comparisons between superheroes, who protect their communities by saving them from evil, and journalists, who serve and defend their communities in similar ways. Even on a college campus, student journalists identify what’s important to the student body and then determine how to tell that story. A key component that enables them to accomplish such work is the First Amendment declaring that Congress cannot establish laws limiting the freedom of the press. The presentation emphasized that the Founders must have valued this freedom highly to place it in the very first amendment to the Constitution. Though the presentation adopted a dire tone toward the end as it mentioned assaults on the credibility of the press, it ended on an optimistic tone as the presenter expressed her belief that perhaps journalism will be revitalized in this era.
Next came the keynote session for that day, which helped to shift my perspective on a word that had previously held a negative connotation for me: networking. Mara Schiavocampo of ABC News delivered a presentation entitled “It’s a Relationship Business” that centered on the importance of developing your professional image and skills while also forming connections to people who will help you in finding opportunities. It’s embarrassing to say this, and I’m aware that it may be offensive to some people, but previously, I had considered “networking” to be a euphemism for “self-promotion.” I don’t think I aspire to be a professional journalist, but networking seems to be an integral component of acquiring a job in any field, and I was not keen on the idea of bragging about myself to people who I would want to hire me for an internship or job. However, Mara’s speech framed that previously heinous word in a different light —people have to know you to hire you for something. Thinking about networking this way clearly highlights its value and makes it more feasible.
Another idea that stood out to me in her presentation was that you have to find the confluence of what you enjoy and your career goals in order to have a fulfilling career. This equation was repeated in the following day’s keynote as well as in a discussion with a Wall Street Journal editor. Hearing so many people reiterate that you have to have a job you love makes me feel better about being a Spanish and political science major rather than the biology major that I thought I’d be when I was applying to UP.
Journalism can be stressful for a variety of reasons, so I was eager for a presentation entitled “Practicing Journalism with Aloha” to provide a dose of positivity and relaxation. However, the session that I thought would be about infusing the newsroom with the spirit of aloha took a dark turn —but still proved to be extraordinarily informative and engaging. Most of the presentation did not focus on the Islands but on the small town of Laramie, Wyoming and the grisly crimes the presenter had covered in the state, including the murder of Matthew Shepard. She continued to write similar stories when she moved to the Big Island, and from her experience reporting on sensitive topics, developed a list of principles, grounded in Hawaiian culture, she uses to guide her reporting.
The presentation made me think of the coverage of the Umpqua Community College shooting in my hometown and the various approaches different media outlets took to contacting the families of the UCC Nine and their willingness to talk to the media. She spoke of the importance of forming an authentic connection with the family in such a story so that the family would trust her to tell the story of their loved one and of the value of showing compassion to the family in the process instead of solely focusing on publishing the story. The presentation closed on the significance of not succumbing to the pressure to sensationalize crime stories and to instead focus on conveying the truth while also showing care and compassion to the family in the process, a resonant message as I thought of the experiences of the families in Roseburg and how their stories were told.
The final session of the day was one in which Malika, our editor-in-chief, participated and spoke about achieving success in the industry at a young age. While I don’t plan to go into journalism, this panel made me appreciate the skills I gain and cultivate working at The Beacon and that they are transferable to and valuable in any profession. Any job requires you to think critically, and every step of telling a story requires critical thinking, from coming up with the questions, listening closely during interviews, and thinking about how to best tell the story. The Beacon also enables us to overcome shyness and talk to students and professors with confidence, teaches us to work on a deadline, and shows us how to cooperate with others on a project. Hearing Malika speak about her drive to achieve success in journalism provided me with renewed ambition to focus on my goals and pursue excellence, regardless of which field I enter.
– Dora Totoian