Thursday, September 28, 2023

From East Lansing to Birmingham, Alabama: NABJ gears up for the 2023 National Black Journalism convention

March 27, 2023
NABJ members Jaden Hawkins, Vanessa Thompson, and Lily Cross on Mar. 24, 2023.
NABJ members Jaden Hawkins, Vanessa Thompson, and Lily Cross on Mar. 24, 2023. —
Photo by Jonah Brown | The State News

National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), a student journalist organization at Michigan State University, is once again fundraisingfor the opportunity to attend the National Journalism convention, which will take place this year in Birmingham, Alabama. 

The convention will take place this summer on Aug. 2 to Aug. 6, providing an experience for Black journalists to network, connect with young journalists like themselves and to even see and meet some of their journalist inspirations. 

NABJ has been a part of MSU’s and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences (ComArtSci) history since 2016 when Treasure Roberts brought the organization back to life. NABJ focuses on professional development, helping MSU students regardless of their major develop interview skills and gain hands-on experience. Through hard work, dedication and professionalism, NABJ has been a Black organization that has impacted the Black students inside ComArtSci. 

Journalism senior Lily Cross is the current president of NABJ for the 2022-23 school year. She said NABJ is a club that's all about community and wants to bring that life into the halls of ComArtSci and beyond. 

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NABJ President Lily Cross on Mar. 24, 2023.

“NABJ’s mission from day one has been to make sure that we set our journalism students up to be prepared for their professional creative careers in the field of journalism,” Cross said. “We try to expose them to diverse professionals to help them grow their network in order for them to have ample access to opportunities like internships, mentorships and support as they go into a field that is drastically harder for people of their background.”

Journalism sophomore Jaden Hawkins is the membership outreach chair of NABJ for the 2022-23 school year. She said the convention has helped prepare her to professionally present herself to her idols she meets at the convention. Hawkins also said her idols introduce her to other journalism careers that she never thought of. 

“The opportunities, they’re very transparent in these workshops, they have a lot of ‘Okay, if journalism doesn’t work out, what else would you wanna do?’" Hawkins said. "They have people that switch out of journalism and it’s just great opportunities to realize there’s other things you can do with your degree.”

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NABJ eboard member Jaden Hawkins on Mar. 24, 2023.

NABJ’s main goal is providing their members with enough resources to become the journalist they want to be. NABJ hosts a variety of events and workshops ranging from newsroom tours to mock style interviews to better prepare their members for the competitive journalism world.

Even with these workshops, the members of NABJ do not solely focus on print journalism. Workshops surrounding photography, broadcast and digital media are opportunities for students who do not want to become reporters. 

Arts and humanities senior Vanessa Thompson, a general member of NABJ, said she wants to go to the convention because she feels that it would be a good experience for her despite not being a journalism major. As this will be her first convention, Thompson also said it’ll help her build connections by meeting industry professionals. 

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NABJ general member Vanessa Thompson on Mar. 24, 2023.

“I feel like it’s a good experience because this is my first year in NABJ and I feel like it would be fun,” Thompson said. “Also it’s an opportunity to learn a lot.“ 

Other student journalists outside of the organization are also supporting NABJ's goal of attending the convention. 

Broadcast journalism freshman Demonte Thomas said it’s really important for Black student journalists to go to this convention because it could give a chance to network with other journalism professionals. 

“Personally, as a Black journalist, (I think) there is not enough Black journalists in the field," Thomas said. "So I think with this convention, it can give us young Black journalists a chance to get their feet wet in the field — talk to representatives from prominent news networks and just kind of like connect with each other.”

NABJ’s executive board also works to prepare members for the convention through conversations about what to wear, what questions to ask and what documents to bring. Hawkins said even though she wasn’t prepared for her first convention, which was in 2021, she now knows what to do. 

“You should keep in mind that you’re going to have to dress professional, act professional and bring all materials," Hawkins said. "Michigan State offers a lot of opportunities to get your headshot, get business cards, your portfolios and everything. NABJ offers prep for that … at the convention, they have a career fair and that is the most intimidating room because you set up these interviews to talk with these professionals, but then you go in and you’re like, ‘You’re John Quiñones. And I’m like, holy, holy crap this is crazy.’”

With the recent Feb. 13 mass shooting that left three Spartans dead and five critically injured, Cross said the national convention takes time to listen and learn from impactful issues that happen to journalists, especially Black journalists. 

“One good thing about the NABJ convention is that they listen to how the world and the landscape changes as events impact journalists, specifically as we cover stories of tragedies and sometimes it's close to home,” Cross said. “I think our students and our members should look forward to their voices being heard.”

Aside from the convention, MSU’s chapter of NABJ is always open to new members and any MSU students who want to attend the workshops they provide. The club is open to students who want to prepare for the professional world and seek a sense of community and belonging among the busy lives of MSU students. 

“NABJ isn’t just another RSO on campus, it's a family," Cross said. "We like to call each other 'NABJ Fam' and at the end of the day it's NABJ Fam all the way until August and past August and after you cross the stage at the Breslin. We welcome one and all.”

Copy editors Shakyra Mabone and Jada Vasser are members of the National Association of Black Journalists chapter at MSU.

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