Science, Travel, and Journalism

This past weekend, Billboard staff got the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the ACP/CMA Media Conference. I went with our editor-in-chief, Hannah.  We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where the conference was to be held. We left early Thursday morning and arrived in time to check in and go up to our rooms. There were a few sessions that day, so Hannah and I went together to a session about travel journalism. We began taking notes from speaker Marian Liu as she presented her session “Writing About Music and Travel – and Getting Paid For It.” She discussed ways to talk to bands and their publicists, how to be safe when traveling for a publication, and more ways to succeed in the business. Her advice was to start small with local bands to build up your portfolio.

Friday was much busier, with our first session of the day coming from Victor Greto titled “Writing Profiles and Features: Getting the Right Anecdote.” It included a workshop exercise in which we introduced ourselves to someone new and wrote a short profile on them. This gave us a chance to meet other prospective journalists like ourselves and a chance to write about someone we had just met, testing our ability as writers while learning how to improve.

The next session we had, Hannah and I split apart. I went to Katherine Myrick Parks’ session titled “Reaching Beyond the Dream Job.” She gave us the story of her own journalism career, the mistakes she made, the things she learned, and answered questions from the audience to give further advice. Her takeaway was to find three or four core values to never compromise on and stick to them. If that means starting your own business, so be it. Parks actually did begin her own publication, Global Press, that employs 100% women from everywhere around the world. She has a nonprofit linked to Global Press that aids women from areas of poverty to be able to get an education and produce articles for her company, giving them a job and an education where otherwise they would have none.

Following that session, I went to another music-related session led by Sonya Singh titled “No, Really, I’m with the Band: Breaking into Music Journalism Wherever You Are.” Singh got her start in California by building a relationship with a local band, and as they grew in popularity she was able to follow their band and others close to them, writing more articles as time went on. She emphasized the importance of having a relationship with the band, artist, publicist, and even the manager that you are interviewing, as it helps you get the best story possible while keeping the chance for future interviews open.

That concluded the sessions for Friday. Saturday morning, Hannah and I took the chance to explore the Newseum, a wonderful museum dedicated to the history of reporting and journalism from when it began as storytelling to today’s online articles. They had artifacts from every large news story that has happened in American history, including items from the American Revolution and terrorist attacks such as the Unabomber’s cabin or other artifacts from 9/11. Unfortunately, the Newseum is closing its doors soon, so I am very grateful I was able to see it before it closed down.

When we got back, we attended a few more sessions, starting with a Q&A panel titled “Landing a Job in Media Today.” The panel included Lisa Renze-Rhodes, Clea Benson, Ted Kim, Doug Lederman, Vimal Patel, and Alex Rosenwald, each from different publications. As the title suggests, the panel had questions based around how to successfully get a job in media today. Each panelist took turns answering the questions asked by either the crowd or the host, giving advice and tips for what makes them throw applications away and what would send it to the top of the pile.

Following that session, I attended one which would become my personal favorite. “Science, Health, and Environmental Journalism” was a Q&A panel led by Erik Vance and Nsikan Akpan, both of whom were familiar with the other from previous articles researched and written together. They had a slideshow of the work they did together, including Vance being bitten by ants as part of an old world cure for pain. They reminded students that science doesn’t have to go over your head, you can do a little research on your own if the topic truly interests you so you don’t go into an interview unprepared. Science can be found everywhere, and it needs to be written about. This was the only science-related session the entire weekend, and I felt really special to be able to attend it.

The final session of the day was Bianca Quilantan’s “How to Make the Most Out of Your Internships.” Since I have an internship requirement for my major, I really wanted to go to this one to get some advice on the whole process. Quilantan gave expert advice, as she had just graduated and got a job from her internship this year. She supports being aggressive and meeting your potential boss in person, putting a face to the name on your application, and she emphasized self-worth. “You are a reporter, not an intern,” Quilantan said. That mentality has helped her get through bouts of imposter syndrome when she would take on more high-profile stories.

Sunday, Hannah and I explored D.C. a little more, going to multiple gardens in the center of the city. We saw statue gardens, wide open greens with a tent and a carousel, botanical gardens and even a moon garden within the botanical gardens! It was a fantastic experience to participate in, and I am very grateful to the Billboard for the chance to go and learn so much about the career path I’ll be taking.

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