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What Went Down at the National Association of Black and Hispanic Journalists Conference



National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists joined forces to host the largest gathering of minority journalists since a 2008 UNITY conference. Held in Northwest Washington DC from August 3 to August 7, the event provided hopeful journalists with many opportunities to meet people in the field.


Hillary Clinton was asked about her e-mails (again) and her black friends.  During the beginning of the conference, NABJ and NAHJ announced that Clinton would address the organization on Friday morning. It's been over 200 days since the Democratic presidential nominee has held a press conference; questions for Clinton were most likely vetted, but it's worth noting that reporters were able to ask her a few tough questions.

After introductions from NABJ President Sarah Glover and NAHJ President Mekahlo Medina, Clinton took the stage to preview her policy if she wins the election and what her goals are for the country (economic opportunity, national security, and national unity.) Questions about her e-mail scandal and polling numbers on her trustworthiness came up, but the standout, and somewhat left-field inquiry, came from Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of The Undefeated. Merida asked  former Secretary Clinton what was the "most meaningful conversation" she ever had with a black friend.

Clinton went on to say she was lucky to have a lot of black friends over the years, and even earned muffled laughs from the crowd when she quipped that they have tried to "expand" her musical tastes.

All-star panels. Journalists from every medium you could think of — broadcast, digital, print, radio — came together to deliver tips on how to make it in the industry. Many panels  focused on the clear lack of people of color in mainstream newsrooms. On Wednesday, a talk including NPR senior national editor and New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet focused on how to pitch content about minorities to an organization with majority white readers. Legacy organizations like the Times and NPR, with their Code Switch team, have been working hard to change assumptions about their targeted audience.

Social media was a hot topic. Gene Park and Manny Francis, social media managers at The Washington Post and Sinclair Broadcast Group, respectively, shared tips for coping with excessive online harassment, a growing problem for many journalists, but especially those who cover beats like race and feminism. They stressed self-care for journalists and for them to step away from Twitter whenever they need to.

A mini-film festival. The NABJ-NAHJ conference switched gears from the high-powered networking during the week to a laid-back weekend. On Saturday, the conference screened previews and clips from upcoming movies featuring black talent. Lupita Nyong'o, who is so famous she can just go by Lupita at this point, flew from her vacation in Bali (I stalk her on Instagram) to chat about Disney's Queen of Katwe.

Nate Parker showed clips from Birth of a Nation, his directorial debut. But my personal favorite was Southside with You, the indie romance about Michelle Obama's first date with that guy she married. Tika Sumpter and newcomer Parker Sawyers perfected the dialect of the President and Mrs. Obama.  In a Q and A with the audience, Sumpter, who also produced the film, said she Skyped with her vocal coach every week during filming — the same coach who trained David Oyelowo for his starring role as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. 

Going to large networking events isn't for the faint of heart, but it's worth the time. You meet like-minded people who are just as passionate about getting more voices heard in newsrooms.

The 2017 NABJ conference will take place in New Orleans.


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