ACP-CMA National College Media Convention 2017: Not Your Average Field Trip

Ten staff members of The Wilson Billboard and Student Media Adviser Kimberly Maske-Mertz traveled to Dallas, TX on Oct. 25 to attend the annual ACP-CMA National College Media Convention. The five-day convention offers student journalists the chance to network with their peers and learn from professional journalists from across the country.

This years keynote speakers included some of the top journalists in the field:

Photo provided by Associated Collegiate Press

Dale Hanson: weeknight sports anchor for WFAA-TV (Channel 8) in Dallas
Hugh Aynesworth: Emmy award-winner and four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist who covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy
Bob Schieffer: retired CBS News correspondent and longtime host of Face the Nation who has interviewed every president since Richard Nixon
Stella M. Chávez: reporter at KERA, the NPR affiliate in Dallas who won the Livingston Award for her series “Yolanda’s Crossing”

While in Dallas, students also had the opportunity to learn about internships and graduate school programs geared toward careers in reporting, public relations, photojournalism, social media, and media law.


Hear from the Billboard Staff


Kirsten Bilger ’18

I was thrilled that members of the Billboard, myself included, were able to travel to Dallas for the ACP/CMA conference. During my time, I attended different sessions where I learned new tricks to help my journalism skills. Along with the sessions, I was able to get a critique of The Wilson Billboard and got to discuss different ideas on how to improve it overall. After attending different sessions, I was able to take the time to relax and visit the Texas Discovery Gardens.

Possibly the most important takeaway for me from the conference was to embrace the failures in life. As a journalist, there will be times where my story ideas will be shot down or rejected. Each failure is simply an experience that I can learn from and better myself. I also learned different things, like how to build a good team like “The Avengers,” how to handle diversity among the staff, and how to lead as editor-in-chief while also being approachable.

Overall, I enjoyed myself and am glad that I had this opportunity.

Dasia Edwards and Hong Nguyen attend a keynote session during the ACP-CMA National College Media Convention in Dallas.
Photo by Jenna Kauffman

Dasia Edwards ’18
Staff Reporter/Calendar Editor

This year I had the opportunity to attend a media conference in Dallas, Texas for a week. Being an Animal Studies and Spanish major, I was not sure if I would find sessions that would be helpful for me since I don’t have a goal of working in media. However, this was not the case.

The sessions were broad which allowed for the conference to attract anyone despite their major. I found several sessions that sparked interest for me because of the topic that the sessions were covering. For example, I attended a session that discussed how to use social media to brand yourself. From this session I learned more about how to present yourself on social media and your brand, if you have one. This was great to learn as social media is something future employers will look at during the hiring process.

I was very honored to attend this conference as it allowed me to learn new things and gain new experiences. Not only this, the conference was a great way to network and meet new people.

Timothy Horn and Katie Shank look over information about graduate school programs at the convention trade show.
Photo by Kimberly Maske-Mertz

Timothy Horn
Staff Reporter

Throughout the convention in Dallas, there was a distinct theme from most of the sessions I attended: be prepared to fail a lot. The speakers all explained how the writing process of journalism relies heavily on trial and error in all aspects, from the creation of headlines to rewriting articles several times before finally publishing. Even then, the finished articles may not be of the desired quality. One speaker discussed how he still feels embarrassed looking back at his earliest published work but feels that the earlier failings were necessary for him to learn and grow as a writer.

I admit I have a hard time dealing with failure in general. I tend to aim for perfection on all of my writing assignments, so I tend to struggle whenever I cannot find the perfect words. Seeing industry professionals admit to struggling to produce finished products is encouraging as it puts my struggle in perspective. Even the best writing takes several tries and remakes. You just have to be okay with failing the first several times until a finished product is formed. This applies in almost everything we do; we can only learn by growing from our early failures.

Andrea Hornbaker
Staff Reporter

I believe the Dallas convention was a good idea because it gave us a wide variety of seminars to attend. There was something for everyone: photography, sports writing, critical thinking, photojournalism, writing seminars, and sessions for editors-in-chief, among many others.

I especially enjoyed the seminar based on “Stranger Things” which engaged the audience by using pop culture and giving prizes to people who answered trivia correctly. I also enjoyed the seminar by Ashley Landis about covering the Dallas police ambush. Landis spoke about how she switched shifts that day in order to cover a protest by using her cell phone to shoot video for twitter and ended up photographing some of the most iconic shots from the police ambush, since she was front and center, albeit unexpectedly. I learned how her expectations and her actions changed from her original plans, and how she dealt with everything both in the moment and later on.

I also enjoyed learning about how to use Google tools such as 360, VR, and Street View to enhance articles. The audience was given free VR viewers and taught how to take photographs that could be converted to VR and 360.

Jenna Kauffman poses on the “red carpet” at the ACP-CMA National College Media Convention in Dallas, TX.
Photo provided by Jenna Kauffman

Jenna Kauffman ’17
Alumni Contributor

The trip to Dallas was a trip of a lifetime for me; not only was it my first time ever being off the east coast, but it was also the first time I got to ride in a plane.

The conference portion was very informative. Admittedly, after experiencing The Wilson Billboard for four years and also the fact that I went to another ACP/CMA conference back in 2015, some of the sessions were a bit redundant considering what I already knew from my prior experiences. However, this conference did bring something new: a few sessions on entertainment journalism which the previous conference lacked.

I heard from some current reporters that have worked with huge publications (“Rock Sound” and “Teen Vogue”), so I had an opportunity to learn from people who I aspire to be like. Also, a few of the sessions featured experienced reporters that have worked in the business for 25+ years, so hearing from them and getting their advice was pretty cool. Each speaker also had some cool stories to share that I, as an aspiring reporter, can only dream of having my own version of someday.

Jenna Kauffman, Kirsten Bilger, Dasia Edwards, and Hong Nguyen wait to board flight to Dallas for the ACP-CMA National College Media Convention.
Photo by Jenna Kauffman

Hong Nguyen ’18
Staff Reporter

Five days in Dallas, Texas was long enough for me to feel a sense of nostalgia having to come back to Pennsylvania. I brought back to Wilson the images of Dallas’ extraordinary architecture, a postcard with a Texas’ humor line, and of course, new knowledge about the media world from the ACP/CMA National College Media Conference.

The ACP/CMA conference was a great opportunity for media students to gain more experience of how the media world operates in the real world. Learning about media through textbooks in class may provide you with different terms and definitions. Yet, learning about media by applying terms directly in the real world instead of a test may be a whole other experience. Therefore, by attending different sessions featuring speakers who have had years of professional training, students got the chance to have a peek of the work flow in a media-related job.

Not only did we meet with professional guest speakers, we also got the chance to interact with students from other institutions. We picked up a lot of ideas and tips for the newsroom to contribute to making our own Billboard even better in the future.

Katie Shank poses behind the press conference podium at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Photo provided by Katie Shank.

Katie Shank ’19
Staff Reporter

Overall, I had one of the best experiences on the trip to Dallas. I learned so much about myself and my career goals. I loved being able to interact with other students who are passionate about the world of writing and journalism.

On the trip, I had the opportunity to go to a session that impacted me so much in the short 50 minutes. I was able to hear from Charean Williams who is a professional sports writer. Charean was the first female voter in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the first female president of the Pro Football Writers of America. Charean’s session was very inspirational and has given me great opportunities for networking. If you’re willing to take a chance, opportunities will find you.

While in Texas, I also got to tour AT&T Stadium which is the home of the Dallas Cowboys. AT&T Stadium was amazing, and I felt like a little kid on Christmas when I got to take a picture on the star which is at the 50 yard line. I also toured, Globe Life Park Stadium, which is the home of the Texas Rangers. I had a very fun time learning different facts about the stadiums.

Ghada Tafesh ’17, ’18
Online Editor

The 2017 National College Media Convention, put together by the oldest and largest collegiate journalism organization (ACP), offered tremendous opportunities for me to grow personally, academically, and professionally. Led by distinguished advisers and media professionals, the convention offered numerous sessions and workshops on different topics and featured keynote speakers who shared their experiences and insights with students.

Among several favorite sessions, from podcasts to literary journalism, was the memorable “Questions of Color: Stories of Race and Diversity” in which the presenters discussed how race drives explosive news stories and causes tension in communities. They showed a powerful video project called “Questions of Color” (led by the Dallas Morning News) in which regular people shared their experiences with race and diversity. This was eye opening in that it presented various ideas and thoughts about the state of media in today’s world.

The convention was in Dallas, Texas, which also offered the fun experience of riding the DART rail to Deep Ellum and the McKinney Avenue trolley to Uptown! Overall, this was a great opportunity to branch out, network with thousands of talented students and professionals, learn to improve yourself, and get a taste of Texas culture. I returned to Wilson full of excitement, energy, and expertise.

Leave a Reply