On Tuesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to be featured on a media panel, along with five other established journalists in Memphis, in conjunction with The Teen Appeal’s Scholastic Journalism Week.
The event, "Meet The Press," took place at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Aside from me, the panel discussion included sports writer Jason Smith and columnist Wendi Thomas of The Commercial Appeal; Brooke Thomas, news anchor and reporter for Fox 13-Memphis; Richard Thompson, creator of Mediaverse (an online publication that analyzes the Memphis media), and Michelle Diament, co-creator of Disability Scoop, an online publication covering developmental disabilities.
When I stepped into the room, I saw a nice crowd of people, mostly young, aspiring journalists in high school and college. I greeted Otis Sanford, the panel's moderator and a 35-plus year print journalism veteran. He also holds the Hardin Chair of Excellence in the Department of Journalism at the University of Memphis. I consider Sanford to be a major influence for minorities involved with or interested in pursuing a career in journalism.
In front of my chair, there was a card facing the crowd that displayed my name and media representation. As I sat down, I introduced myself to Brooke, who was seated to my right. We chatted briefly about our job positions and what we liked the most about them.
A few minutes into our conversation, I was approached by Carrie Brown, another journalism vet and professor from the U of M's journalism department (she was also my journalism advisor at the U of M and the person who linked me up with the Memphis Flyer). We joked about me going from being a student in her class to a panelist among professional journalists. After our conversation, she snapped a picture of me and Brooke.
Wendi from the CA came in shortly afterwards and took a seat to my left. This was my first time meeting her, but I had heard a lot about her prior to our acquaintance. We chatted for a minute or two as well, and then the other panelists came in. Other than RIchard, I didn't know any of the panelists prior to the event. I introduced myself to all of them.
As the panel began, we all briefly shared our stories on how we got involved with journalism. My interest in the field began in fifth grade when my father purchased a 12-month subscription to Vibe magazine for me. I was amazed by how the writers for Vibe covered the stories in such a vivid and detailed manner. They made me feel like I was in the room with them when they interviewed the entertainers.
We were also asked about the favorite story we'd covered and why we still have a passion for journalism in a time where the print industry has seen a significant decline.
After the panel was over, the crowd asked us questions. As it ended and everyone began to leave, I was approached by a couple of people who asked me questions about my job, how I came up with story ideas, and if I had any advice for them.
One of these people was Tyler Springs, a student at Rhodes College. He asked for my advice on how to secure a position at a publication when you don’t possess any past experience in journalism. I encouraged him to start freelancing, contact local journalists who he’s a fan of, and ask if he can shadow them.
Being a young gun in journalism myself, I was humbled by his sincere interest in acquiring knowledge from me on how to make his presence felt within the journalism realm. I remember that it was not too long ago when I was approaching seasoned journalists and asking the same thing.
The next day, I received a tweet from Tyler that included a link to a write-up he had done on the event. He inspired me personally. It's good to see that there's still an interest in pursuing journalism as a career despite if some think otherwise.
A relatively shy person in front of big crowds, I'm glad that I stepped outside of my comfort zone and participated in the panel. It was most definitely an experience that I won't forget. Furthermore, I look forward to seeing the many young, aspiring journalists who filled the room for the panel discussion go on to have prosperous careers. I wish them all the best. The sky's the limit for us all.
The Teen Appeal is a city-wide, student-produced newspaper created in 1997. Partners in The Teen Appeal project are the Scripps Howard Foundation, the University of Memphis Department of Journalism, Memphis City Schools, and The Commercial Appeal.
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