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Student Journalists Gear Up for HBCU Newspaper Conference

Leadership training, name recognition, networking and strong character development are just a few things faculty and students expect to build upon as they gear up for the ninth annual HBCU National Newspaper Conference and Job Fair in Tallahassee, Fla.

Photo credit: Dionna King/the Famuan
Professor Valerie White and journalism student Sidney Wright IV, planning for the HBCU National Newspaper Conference, say the event provides valuable networking opportunities.

The Feb. 15-17 event is hosted by Florida A&M University and the Black College Communication Association, an organization of faculty and advisers to student newspapers at historically black colleges and universities. The event will provide journalism students from HBCUs an opportunity to attend workshops, strengthen writing skills and exchange thoughts with professionals about the highly competitive media industry.

The conference also serves as a tool for students to obtain 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 in FAMU's School of Journalism and Graphic Communication 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 use events such as this to make their publications the best among all college publications, not just at black colleges.

Students are to participate in a variety of workshops discussing investigative reporting, design and photography, feature and editorial writing, copy editing, Web design, business stories, business ownership and careers.

Professional journalists from across the country are to lead the workshops.

Sidney Wright IV, 20, a junior broadcast journalism student from Tampa, Fla., 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."

Scheduled keynote speakers include Shawn Cargil, president and editorial director of Extendous Media, whose "mission is to enlighten, empower, entertain and extend young black people by providing access to information relating to civic, political, and economic issues"; Lee Jones, president and executive editor of InSpire Magazine, whose mission is "“create and maintain a magazine designed to promote growth and development for individuals who are committed to enhancing their lives and the lives of others"; Keith Woods, dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies; and hip hop activist and filmmaker Byron Hurt. who has produced the documentary, "Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture."

The first HBCU newspaper conference was held on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore on March 7, 1997. This is the first time it will be hosted by FAMU.

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

Kenneth Jones, a FAMU associate professor of journalism who plans to moderate a session on independent filmmaking, said media multitasking is only going to get greater and that students need to take advantage of these conferences so they will not be stunned when they enter the job market.

A conference highlight will be the "Excellence in Journalism" awards banquet for BCCA-member colleges and universities, recognizing the best student-produced newspapers at historically black colleges.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors is sponsoring a job fair where students can meet recruiters who are looking for interns, applicants for special programs and entry-level hires.

"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 black journalists in the world."

Kilisha Parks, a student at Florida A&M University, writes for the Famuan. To comment, e-mail [email protected]

Posted Feb. 12, 2007

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