Student and former Urban Journalism Workshop participant Juan Diasgranados attended the 2011 NABJ Convention and Career Fair in Philadelphia. He shared his experience at UJWonline.org.
From left: (1) Juan Diasgranados, Wesley Lowery (NABJ candidate, and now student representative), and Kayla Clough (Hampton University Student) at the Opening Reception. (2) Diasgranados, Kristen James, and Kayla Clough at the Sports Taskforce. (3) Diasgranados and Craig Melvin, reporter and MSNBC anchor. (4) Diasgranados and Jessica Leblanc. Leblanc is a rising junior at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Arrival Day. I hopped on the Megabus with a classmate and Wesley Lowery, a candidate for the NABJ Student Representative. It was a short ride from New York City, two hours to be exact. We hoped off the bus and walked to our hotel. We got dressed, lay down and grabbed a bite. It was drizzling on and off so we took a cab to the Marriott. My classmate and I walked around the lobby shaking hands and introducing ourselves to the other students. There were so many students we met that night that I couldn’t keep track. Some of them were students I met on Twitter and Facebook prior to the trip, others were students I had never met before. We took a shuttle to the opening reception at a museum, and it was on. A two-floor upscale venue was filled with students, recruiters and journalist in the business. It was like family. I went around introducing myself, handing out my business cards. I ran into some of my professors and made new friends — friends who I will hopefully be able to keep for years to come. We headed back to the Marriott where we met more students from across the country. It was crazy. I was surrounded by people who had the same dreams and aspirations as me, all at this one conference. It was overwhelming at first, but I knew from here on out, it was time to network!
It was game day. I woke up early in the morning for the free bagels that NBC/Comcast gave out. I figured since I was a current intern, there should be no reason why I shouldn’t have been in attendance. Then it was on. I walked through the career fair all morning. My philosophy was to attend the career fair early Thursday, when the recruiters still had energy and motivation to talk to us. I showed my demo reel and passed out my resume to more than 20 companies, including Scripps Howard News Service, NBC, CBS, BET Networks, ESPN and Allbritton Communications. It was quite interesting getting critiqued by the different recruiters because they all had something different to say. Some loved my reel and told me to keep in touch, while others offered constructive criticism. Luckily, I was not in need of a job, so I knew I would be able to take the advice they gave me to work on during the school year. In the afternoon, I was able to help Wesley’s campaign for his run to be the next NABJ Student Representative. I handed out literature, talked to student chapter presidents and listened to issues effecting student life. It was very enlightening to hear what the different students had to say about their schools’ programs. Fortunately, my school was able to secure a room for small reception for current students and alumni. We were one of three schools that hosted such an event. It was great to see all my professors and connect with alumni and see what they were up to. Later that evening, I went with some of my classmates to the Sports Gala at the Whisper Club. It was a fun event. It was weird at first, seeing my professors and recruiters dancing and socializing, but I have to remember we are all human. We stayed until the party was over and then headed back to the hotel.
Friday was a great day. I woke up and went to sessions all morning. I participated in the different labs to learn about the evolution of journalism. Since I spent most of Thursday at the career fair, I decided Friday would be workshop day. One session really stood out to me: reporting on the go. The speaker showed us a story that was reported all by an iPhone. She showed us how to capture, shoot, report, voice and put together a story on our mobile devices. It was very intriguing and enlightening to see how technology can do so much. Later that evening I went to dinner with students from across the country to learn about their chapters, and how I could bring back ideas to my school. My school’s chapter had lacked participation in prior years, so hearing what the other students had to say was rewarding, something I planned to absorb and bring back to Hampton University.
It was the last day of the conference. It seemed like it went by so fast. So fast. And it did. Since we received little to no sleep on the prior nights, we decided to sleep in for a little bit. I had breakfast with my professors to tell them how my summer was going in New York, and then we headed to the Film Festival. The films were amazing. The amount of time and work the students put into those films were phenomenal. We then headed to Reading Terminal and tried some Philly cheesesteaks. It was my first ever, and it was GOOD! The cheese, beef, onions — oh that thing tasted so good! The rest of the day was spent saying goodbye to the students I met and preparing for the Gala. The Gala was very memorable. I enjoyed socializing and having fun with the adults present in the room. It showed that we can all get down, NABJ style!
Overall, the trip was a very rewarding experience. It was an opportunity that was afforded to me by NABJ and WABJ, that I will always cherish. In the four days, I learned so much, met so many people and built lifelong friendships. As I told everyone at the conference, “Yes, this may be my first conference, but it will certainly not be my last.” I believe every journalism student in the nation should take advantage of the conferences and programs NABJ has to offer.