‘The Hill’ set to host national conference

Leadership training, name recognition, networking and strong character development are just a few things faculty and students in the School of Journalism and Graphic

Communication expect to build upon as they gear up for the ninth annual HBCU National Newspaper Conference and Job Fair at the Tallahassee Ramada Inn and Conference Center Feb. 15-17.

Hosted by FAMU and the Black College Communication Association, the three-day event gives journalism students from historically black colleges and universities the opportunity to attend workshops, strengthen writing skills and exchange thoughts about the highly competitive media industry with some of the most crafted professionals in print, TV, radio and photography.

The conference also serves as a tool for students to obtain possible jobs and internships.

“This is a great opportunity for students in our program to network with students in other HBCU media,” said Valerie White, assistant professor and chair of the BCCA. “We are all family even though we come from different schools and locations.”

As coordinator of the conference, White said she hopes students will utilize conferences such as these so they can become the best in college publication not just among black colleges, but also within the nation.

Students who attend the conference will participate in a variety of workshops discussing investigative reporting, design and photography, feature and editorial writing, copy editing, web design, writing business stories for campus newspapers, business ownership and careers.

Distinguished journalists from across the country will be leading the workshops.

Sidney Wright IV, 20, a junior broadcast journalism student from Tampa, said he is eager to reunite with students he met at last year’s conference and looks forward to making connections with new attendees.

“This conference is all about meeting new people and networking with students around the country at other HBCUs,” said Wright, former editor in chief of The Famuan. “I correspond with people I met at last year’s conference all the time who have information about various career opportunities. The more contacts you have, the easier it is to get jobs.”

Keynote speakers will include Shawn Cargil, president and editorial director; of Extendous Media; Lee Jones, president and executive editor of InSpire Magazine; Keith Woods, dean of faculty at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies; and hip hop activist and filmmaker Byron Hurt.

The first conference was held on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore on March 7, 1997, according to bccanews.org. This is the first time the conference will be hosted by FAMU.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the great work of FAMU student publications,” said Dorothy Bland, director of the division of journalism. “It also gives us the opportunity to share with other HBCU networks a new facility and state-of-the-art technology.”

In past years, the conference has drawn more than 250 students from HBCUs across the country. Faculty members hope to keep up the momentum this year.

“It’s very important that there is a large number of students at this conference,” said Kenneth Jones, associate professor of journalism. “If you’re a journalism major, there are a number of things to learn, especially about networking and the world of convergence.”

Jones, who will be moderating an independent filmmaking session during the conference, said media multitasking is only going to get greater and students need take advantage of conferences so they will not be stunned when they enter the job market.

One of the major highlights of the conference will be the “Excellence in Journalism” awards banquet for BCCA member colleges and universities, which recognizes the best student-produced newspaper at a historically black college.

College newspapers will be judged in categories including best student newspaper, best news coverage, best editorial, best sports coverage and best graphics and use of graphic elements. Last year, Southern University’s campus newspaper The Southern won the top honor as the best student newspaper.

The Famuan won the award in 2004, and writers are optimistic about another win.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the awards banquet because it recognizes the best of the best in college newspapers,” Wright said. “You get a chance to be recognized for all the hard work you put into making a good newspaper, so we’re definitely hoping to win this year.”

In addition to the “Excellence in Journalism” contest, The Pearl Stewart-Freedom Fighter award will be presented to the student journalist who has demonstrated excellent journalistic courage, according to blackcollegewire.org.

Named in honor of Pearl Stewart, founder of Black College Wire, the award encourages student journalists to uphold the First Amendment and strive for excellence in news coverage.

In conjunction with the conference, The American Society of Newspaper Editors will sponsor a job fair where students will have the chance to meet recruiters who are looking for interns, applicants for special programs and entry-level hires.

Although the conference serves as a means for students to gain internships and job opportunities, planners for the event hope students will walk away with much more.

“I want students to leave the conference with a better knowledge of the skills necessary to succeed in this business and a greater sense of pride in the work they do,” White said. “These are the skills that will increase the number of blacks journalists in the world.”