Members of The Agora staff traveled to New York City over spring break to attend the Spring National College Media Convention.
The convention offered more than 200 sessions, workshops, special events and activities aimed at providing the 1,400 student journalists with chances to learn and network with professionals.
Some rooms were smaller, which allowed interactivity and collaborative discourse among those in attendance.
“I took a lot away from the conference. I feel I have a better grasp of the journalism world today and learned more about internships and how to land a job,” said Agora reporter Evan Kutz.
During the conference, journalism students often found themselves in small group settings talking to people in the work force who have their dream jobs.
Successful journalists can walk down the block from their newsrooms and give an hour-long workshop that can change a student’s life.
Josh Margolin, chief investigative reporter for ABC News, gave a workshop on “The Art of an Interview,” where he showed students how to take control of tough interviews and get successful responses.
“His talk was life-changing, and it was an incredible feeling to be able to pick the brain of a successful journalist who does what I want to do,” Agora co-editor Shelby Spencer said.
Margolin gave advice on how to always get your questions answered and how to stay calm and in control of tough interviews.
During the session, students did several mock interviews that Margolin critiqued.
“He brought up points and bad habits in interviews that I had never even thought of before,” Spencer said.
Students take away a whole new world of thought and learn beyond the limitations of a classroom, Spencer said.
Workshops at the conference ranged from plotting career paths in journalism to technical areas like manipulating software.
Loren Elia, head of marketing at Infogram, and Alex Salkever, Head of Data Journalism and Marketing at Silk.co, gave a workshop on how to build data stories with no required tech skills.
The two showed a room of student journalists how to use Infogr.am and Silk.co. These two sites are free for journalists to use to create info graphics, interactive maps, and charts. The room was only about a quarter full.
"I can't believe more people didn't show up for this; this pretty much changed my life." Agora reporter Stevie Pipis said.
One of the keynote speaker sessions was a panel of political cartoonists, Daryl Cagle, Steve Sack, Adam Zyglis and Taylor Jones.
The prize-winning editorial cartoonists discussed some of the challenges and rewarding experiences they’ve encountered during their careers.
While they spoke, their work was presented to the audience on slide shows.
Some students laughed, while others gasped in shock at way controversial topics were covered.
“I loved it. I never really considered political cartoons as powerful, but after hearing the speakers talk about what they do and seeing what kind of impact a cartoon could have, I’ve changed my mind,” Agora co-editor Mariah Tevepaugh said. “One of the speakers mentioned that every college newspaper should have one, and now I really wish we had one too!”
Some of the workshops focused on how journalists can tackle tragedy with tact and professionalism.
Suicide is not a bad word, according to journalist Caley Cook.
Although suicide is a topic that many people would rather avoid writing about, Cook emphasized just how crucial it is for the topic to be talked about on college campuses.
Throughout the session, Cook shared personal stories, experiences, and tips that helped students learn how to confront the issue, which is a growing problem on American college campuses.
“This is the most important session I attended,” said Agora member Julia Grzywinski. “Suicide is a topic that no one really knows how to talk about, but she really brought a new light on how to approach the topic.”
Perhaps the best part of the conference, many students thought, was hearing Vikram Ganhi speak about creating videos that make a difference.
Ganhi is the filmmaker behind the award-winning film "Kumare," and is a producer and correspondent for the HBO series "Vice."
"After his keynote, I was inspired. Videos can change lives", said Agora reporter Mika Kotanova.
Three national leaders on First Amendment rights – Andrea Frantz, Frank Lomonte and Gene Policinski – spoke at two workshops at the convention. The first was titled, “Tackling the Top 10 Challenges Facing Student Media in 2015.”
Attendees learned about the information walls built to keep the press out, the effect of free press ignorance around campus, and how to diffuse hurdles with professionalism.
Their second workshop was a First Amendment Trivia Challenge. This interactive session quizzed attendees with First Amendment trivia.
“These workshops were by far the most fun and educational. I can’t believe how unaware I was of my own rights,” Agora reporter Josh Cappuccilli said.
Frantz is a Professor of Digital Media at Buena Vista University and president of the Society for Collegiate Journalists; Lomonte is executive director of the Student Press Law Center; and Policinski is senior vice president of the First Amendment Center and a leader of the Newseum Institute.
Early Saturday morning, in the first workshop of the day, Amy Perko hosted a session called, “Critical Issues Impacting College Sports.”
Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, covered financial issues being faced by NCAA athletics. The revenue brought in by universities with top-tier football programs differs immensely from smaller schools and schools with no football program at all.
She touched on a few of the court cases that are effecting student athletes and the distribution of funds to the athletic departments.
“She covered topics that as a fan of college athletics I was unaware of and the way she approached them opened my eyes to better understand how college athletics works,” Agora reporter Mitch Perkins said.
Kutz noted the variety of sessions that attendees could pick and choose from. Students were encouraged to leave for another session if one didn’t turn out as expected, so they could make the most of their time at the conference.
“It was good for us on the paper. Seeing students from all across the country, who were also passionate and eager—it rubbed off on us, I think. I know it left an impact on me. I want to pursue a career in journalism more than ever now.”
Speakers gave inspirational advice from their own life experiences. They shared their honest opinions about the changed ecosystem of news reporting, and how that affects the way news is being handled.
“There are now more ways than ever to bring news to the world, and it’s an exciting time to be part of that,” Kutz said.
(Agora staff members Shelby Spencer, Mariah Tevepaugh, Stevie Pipis, Mitch Perkins, Mika Kotanova and Evan Kutz also contributed to this story.)