Going to a Journalism Conference wasn’t what I Expected


Bryant Martinez

At The “Sharing Power Presentation.” Photo taken at April 26, 2019, in the Anaheim Hilton Hotel.

Bryant Martinez

All I really wanted was a day off from school.

When our journalism class was given the opportunity to go to the JEA (Journalism Education Association) conference at the Anaheim Hilton, I thought it would just be an easy day. But it ended up being an encounter to all things journalism.

A quick guide to learning about journalism is represented in a yearly event called the JEA/NSPA Convention or Spring National High School Journalism Convention. Students from all over the country visit this three-day event in order to create new experiences and learn from countless mentors. The instructors cover different topics about the fundamentals of journalism and what it takes to become the best reporter everyday.

During the two day experience, I visited countless sessions over the span of 9-10 hours. All consisting of hour-long sessions showing many strategies and tactics all good journalists utilize in the real world. However, this event wasn’t just for journalists, it also accounted for yearbook and photography.

The first day we arrived at 9:30 a.m. Our JEA “swag” was gifted to us, consisting of college advertisements and fun stationery for journalism task, alongside with a 40 page travel and session times guide. During our stay, countless colleges and universities pitched their programs. Many scholarships are given to those interested in the courses showcased, as well as the limitless amount of entertainment, like photograph showcases and journalist signings. People show you around, from newbies to experts, everyone is a welcomed guest. 

“It gets our ideas flowing, and motivates us to create a newer, more unique yearbook for the new school year,” said junior, Jessica Stelzer, of Upper Arlington High School in Ohio.

I was in awe at the number of students who attend the convention. This time it was over 4,000 students.

My first day, I was able to attend four sessions. All were filled to the brim with students wanting to learn more about the ways of journalism. I began to question the motives of the coaches and volunteers who taught their presentations and established their fundamentals of journalism.

“You can teach this stuff and create a multiple choice test and 90% will get 100% however, if you give them a camera and ask them to take the best shots using the teachings, only half come back with it, if you’re lucky,” said adviser Jim McCarthy, from Joseph Gregori High School in Modesto, California.

“You can always walk away with new understandings of the topic and also just refine your skills in order to become the best journalist you could be,” said Junior Ethan Barragan from Da Vinci High School in El Segundo.

During the first part of my trip, I attended a session called, “Chicken Wings and Other Sticky Things,” run by Larry Steinmetz of Bullitt East High School in Mount Washington. This session was different. During his presentation, he established the first rules of getting the right person to quote. Steinmetz said, “you need to be persistent, and always create a sense of importance towards your article and your staff, no one will let down a group of twelve journalists in order to get the right quote, make it count and never let in.”

After Steinmetz’s presentation, I learned persistence in everything I do.  

On Saturday, I began my day with a small session on “Photo Storytelling” by Margaret Sorrows, CJE, of Jostens Sherwood, Ark. Her session revolved around telling a story through the subtle reminiscences of a picture. She created a sense of passion towards photography and gave tactics on how to manage a photojournalist staff. Also, how to tell the overall story of who “you” are and what your school is as a whole.

Through this session I quickly learned that the image of “your” school and the students in it all revolve around the pictures and stories photos tell, from a small town school to a large college campus, photos speak a thousand words. 

“I like the fact that I have learned so much. A lot of new techniques as well as practical skills that I can go back and teach my fellow students,” says junior Abby Bodart, of Columbus North High School, Ind.

As the sun set Saturday afternoon, we settled into our bus and reminisced on our experiences the past two days. Though tired, we conversed about the many sessions we took on our way back to school.

All in all, the experience was like no other, and to be frank, I grew as a journalist and learned a lot. Hmm, just like at school.

For a few more photos from our 2-day conference, click on the link:  https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw79wB4nFod/