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Jason Williams


There's No App for Longevity

Posted: 06/22/2012 6:39 pm

New Platforms. New Directions. New Orleans. Is the tagline for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) 2012 Annual Convention & Career Fair and through the first full day of proceedings #NABJ12 has lived up to its billing.

Wednesday opened with an impressive collection of interactive skill building workshops tabbed Learning Labs. Among the several sessions that were going on concurrently there was one on career transition and resilience aimed at seasoned journalists looking to thrive and stay competitive in the ever-evolving media marketplace. Another learning lab focused on entrepreneurialism in the current digitalized new media world. This talk was geared toward those looking to build inventive and profitable digital platforms using the latest technologies. Branding U, was a student focused lab where a panel of recruiters, journalism professors, and NABJ' Student Board member Wesley Lowery spoke candidly about the changing landscape of getting that important first job and how Twitter, Facebook, and virtual resumes are all playing an increasing important role in getting or not getting hired. To summarize, new, new, new; adapt or perish.

I attended the ONA Camp learning lab where presenters from the Online News Association (ONA) demoed and showed the limitations of numerous web-based tools that would enhance storytelling while facilitate better engagement with story topics and audiences. Two particularly fascinating discussions centered on the use of news games in reporting and integrating Google generated data maps.

Nonny de La Pena, an Annenberg Fellow and former full time reporter, has turned into a documentarian (Unconstitutional). Through the blending of 3D and second life technology, layered with news quality audio and video de La Pena has created immersed news environments. 'Readers' through the use of mobile devices and 3D glasses use their personal avatars to navigate through a simulated version of a Guantanamo Bay detention camp or standing in food line where a persons falls into a diabetic comma.

"What is delivered to readers is the inability to disconnect from the subject mater." Said de La Pena

She would later add, while in this completely virtual immersed news environment, "people go through a full range of emotions, some crying others reaching for cellphones to call for help."

The personal nature of this cutting edge type of reporting means that establishing ethical guidelines are a priority and that along with creating a list of best practices is what de La Pena is diligently working on.

Not as personal as immersive journalist but still highly effective and innovative.

John Keefe helps journalists contextualize critical facts through maps generated in Google. Keefe, a Senior Editor for Data News & Journalism Technology at WNYC through Google Fusion Tables helps journalists hone in on important statistical patterns that often leads to deeper reporting or backs up reporting that has already taken place and as a bonus, Keefe crystalizes those data patterns into a completely digestible map. You have seen example of Keefe's fusion maps in the reporting of Ailsa Chang on New York City's controversial Stop and Frisk laws, JJWIMv but what you probably did not know is the map you see in Chang' story was created before she finished her reporting. Keefe's map showed a hotspot for Stop and Frisk incidents. Chang went to that hotspot and connected with students that had been stopped and interviewed them, marrying personal narrative to statistically valid data.

Even though Google Fusion Tables are a relatively new application there is plenty of searchable information on the net on how you create one, just Google it. (snare roll!)

My mind sufficiently blown after sitting through six plus hours of journalism innovations and best practices like many NABJ12 participants I waiting in line to get into Welcome Reception where Vice President Joe Biden would address the audience. As the first day of my first NABJ conference was entering its final leg I realized that I was a bit of a man without a country. There are two dominate groups at this conference, veteran media members to whom NABJ conferences have become summer traditions on par with family reunions and student journalists who arrived with what seems to be their entire NABJ chapter.

I am in neither camp, since I recently finished my formal journalism training in graduate school (Georgetown) this spring and I am transitioning into the industry. Now this is not my first NABJ event and I attend my local chapter meetings, but that is still 8 familiar faces in a sea of two thousand not so familiar ones.

I found refuge in a seat in front of the camera row. After ten minutes, a middle age man sits next to me and a minute later he out of his seat taking pictures, back in his seat then back out talking to old friends. He returns to his seat for longer then two minutes and I take the opportunity to ask him who he is and what he does. CBS New, BET Nightly News, Cablevision, NBC working broadcast journalism for 42 years.

I thought my mind was blown before. I peppered him with questions throughout the evening and I will share the two most important thoughts he left with me, "there is not substitute for passion in this industry so find yours now". And secondly, "you have to inspire people to work with you and then you have to work as hard as possible for them and with them, that's the key to sticking around."

I know that the news industry is wrong side up and too many outstanding journalists, particularly in our community have lost their job because of the instability of the system. I even have a sense that the task of someone like me finding a way into the system is getting increasing difficult. And as much as I appreciate all of the news skill I was exposed to yesterday, my biggest take away was neither web-based nor Google powered.

Thank you Mr. William J. Wright for taking the time to talk to me and put things into proper perspective. I hope over the next three days everyone gets to have equally impactful experience as I experience on the opening night of NABJ12.

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