Conference offers glimpse of what journalists do

Caroline Carpenter / Times-News correspondent

   FAIRFAX, Va. — I was given the opportunity to attend the 2015 Washington Journalism and Media Conference from July 12-17 at George Mason University along with 270 other students from across the United States. This weeklong conference was a chance to encourage future generations of journalists through simulations, panels and speakers.
During this week, we had the opportunity to speak to past and present members in various fields of journalism such as politics, sports and entertainment. Notable figures included Michael Shear, the New York Times’ White House correspondent, Phil Murphy from ESPN and entertainment reporter and movie critic Kevin McCarthy. The latter was not able to attend the conference in person but made a personal Skype call to the entire group from Spain, where he was residing for an upcoming movie premiere.
We had the opportunity to meet with Carol Guzy, a four-time Pulitzer-prize-winning photojournalist who brought the entire room to tears with a video presentation of her work with Sierra Leone amputees and her work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina helping wounded and abandoned animals. She really pushed the importance of how visuals make you feel the story when words can’t fill in the gaps.
We also traveled to National Geographic Headquarters to hear from Susan Goldberg, the first female editor-in-chief of National Geographic Magazine and News. Goldberg explained how National Geographic sets itself apart from other news organizations and taught us the five principles of storytelling: make a difference, do what others can’t, be part of the conversation, act urgently and know who you are. Goldberg also snuck us a few peeks at upcoming National Geographic issues. One of the last speakers was Brian Lamb, C-SPAN executive chairman, who gave us interviewing tips as well as engaged us in his talk by giving personalized advice for each of the stages we as correspondents were in as far as journalistic careers.
Two main concepts mentioned by every speaker were the importance of sticking to the basics and getting internships early in your career.
We were each given roles as reporters, producers, etc. to recreate a press conference to cover the treatment of journalists during the Ferguson, Mo., protests. Each news channel was given a different goal to form their questions and was given the opportunity to ask these questions in a 15-minute press conference with the Ferguson mayor, city manager, police chief and press secretary (played by various correspondents). The news organizations then had 25 minutes to Tweet, make a video or write an article regarding the press conference. This taught us the speed and accuracy needed to report events immediately after they occur.
A great deal of time was devoted to touring museums, monuments and other notable parts of Washington D.C. We spent much of our first day at the Newseum, which is dedicated to the history and impact of news as well as protection of First Amendment rights. We also had the opportunity to go on a moonlit monument tour.
We were scheduled to go to the White House that day as well but the street was closed off in order for Taylor Swift to drive by safely (we got to go back a few days later). We also went to a few exhibits at the National Geographic museum and had the opportunity to enter the National Press Club for some of our panels. One of the last days, we had the chance to explore Capitol Hill more individually. I had the opportunity to meet with Senator Thom Tillis as well as Senator Richard Burr’s press secretary Rachel Hicks.
The conference intensified my passion for journalism.

 Caroline Carpenter is a rising junior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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