Student Journalism Conference was a success

On Feb. 24, Norfolk Collegiate opened our doors for the 9th Annual Student Journalism Conference. More than 70 students from Hampton Roads and local media professionals gathered in the Meredith Center for the Arts for a day of networking and workshops.

This student-led event hosted various award-winning professionals who have worked for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Virginian-Pilot, as well as students from Bishop Sullivan, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, Greenbrier Christian, Tidewater Academy, Stone Bridge High School and Norfolk Collegiate.

Bailey Holmes-Spencer ’16 and Catherine Kim ’16 used their love and passion for journalism to put together a conference for young journalist, creative writers, editors and photographers as their senior project.

“Seeing past students go through the process of preparing for the conference, I knew I wanted to do it as my senior project also,” said Bailey. “Finding presenters and organizing workshops allowed me to make connections with those already in the journalism field.”

The beautiful weather also allotted for more participants than prior years.

“One of the challenges we faced last year was the lack of balance and distribution of people within the classes because of the weather,” said Catherine. “But this year, with the increase in participation, we were able to fill each workshop, which is always a good thing. The more people there are, the greater the energy within the classrooms; the synergy effects itself.”

Catherine and Bailey hope to purse journalism at the collegiate level and the conference made way for their next phase of education.

“Seniors Catherine Kim and Bailey Holmes-Spencer worked hard to organize the program and complete the myriad logistics necessary to host an event for 70 individuals from six different schools,” said Judy Davis, English teacher, English department chair and director of curriculum and instruction. “One highlight was the Google Hangout they organized with Norfolk Collegiate alumnae Jewell Porter ’12 and Anyssa Reddix ’14, who are journalists at Denison University and the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, respectively,” she continued. “Jewell and Anyssa gave the students insight into the world of collegiate journalism and professional media internships and fielded questions from the audience.”

The workshops included sports writing with Larry Rubama and Jami Frankenberry of The Virginian-Pilot who discussed the everyday life of a sports writer and editor.

 “First you go to the game, talk with the athletes and the coaches, then you write your article, send in your copy to the sports editor whose job is to edit and title your article, then send it to the page designer for layout,” said Frankenberry.

The key to a good sports writer or writer of any kind is to look for an angle in each story.

“I always look for human interest stories to make the articles more relatable to the end-user,” Rubama said. “It’s not just this team won and that team lost; a good reporter finds the angle in the story and knows what your audience wants to read.”

Tom Kelly, coordinator for Old Dominion University’s Writers in Community Outreach, taught the poetry writing workshop and encouraged students to submit their writing to poetry contests and to join poetry organizations to enhance their skills and network.

“A lot of people enjoyed how the conference was set up,” Catherine said. “It wasn’t a boring sit through type of conference.”

“I think everyone liked the interactive aspect of the conference,” said Bailey. “An advisor came up to us after the conference and said her students really enjoyed it.”

Erinn Harris served as the keynote speaker for the conference. She also spoke with students about design trends and story packaging during a workshop.

“She really energized her audience with her creative design ideas and tips for incorporating social media across publication platforms,” Davis said.

Harris advises Techniques yearbook, tjTODAY newspaper, tjTODAY online and TJTV at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology in Alexandria. She also serves as an associate director of the Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisors.

“Don’t get too attached to your work as there is a revision process,” she said.

Harris encouraged students to refrain from designing with a blank screen.

“Sketch your design, get your resources together, design from inspiration, design to meet perspective and always establish a tool box because it makes designing a lot easier,” Harris said.

“Ms. Harris advises newspaper, yearbook, online and broadcast journalism at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, where her students have won numerous awards for their innovative, multimedia storytelling," said Davis.

Other guest speaks included Jim Morrison of the Oaks in Action blog who led the shooting sports workshop, Denise Watson of The Virginian-Pilot who taught feature writing and Dr. Lin Kaatz Chary who instructed the course on creative writing.