Four editors and three staff writers from The Metropolitan joined college students from across the country to participate in the fourth annual College Media Mega Workshop. From July 11-14, aspiring journalists came together on the U of M campus to learn from experienced media professionals how to become better leaders, content creators and journalists.
The summer conference was sponsored by the Associated Collegiate Press, the College Media Association, College Broadcasters Inc., College Media Business and Advertising Managers, and the Hubbard School of Journalism at the University of Minnesota.
Due to the departure of nearly all newspaper staff in May, including graduating Editor-In-Chief Kathryn Ganfield, the new Metropolitan team felt the need to take advantage of the conference to build their knowledge and expertise.
The seven Metro State representatives split themselves among four of the tracks offered: organizational leadership, design, digital journalism and storytelling/reporting.
The Metropolitan staff wanted to acquire new knowledge to pass on to future editors and reporters. They also hoped to learn the tools and systems used in larger newsrooms so they could establish some long-term stability for the student journalism organization.
“The digital conference was a great learning experience that gave us the opportunity to network with students all around the country. Through various classroom activities at the conference, I was exposed to new online tools, such as ThingLink and JuxtaposeJS I believe these tools will assist me greatly in bringing fresh digital content to the paper,” said Brandon General, multimedia editor for The Metropolitan.
Each day before student journalists broke up into session groups, they met together in a large lecture hall to listen to featured guest speakers and panelists.
On the first morning of the conference, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Joe Hight spoke about self-care for journalists, who must often witness and relay information about traumatic events.
The importance of diversity was discussed in another morning keynote address. Guest panelists Roxanne Anderson and Quinn Villagomez, co-hosts of “RARE,” a radio program featured on KFAI Radio’s Fresh Fruit; Kyndell Harkness, editor and photographer for the Star Tribune; and Mordecai Specktor, editor and publisher of American Jewish World and columnist for The Circle, discussed ways to create inclusive newsrooms and stories.
Advocating for members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, religious minorities, immigrant communities and even people who aren’t classified by a specific “group” should be a priority for student journalists, according to the panelists. Above all else, they stressed the importance of “authentic networking” to introduce underrepresented groups and individuals to campus communities. This lesson is a point of emphasis for The Metropolitan, which works hard to represent our diverse student body.
For members of The Metropolitan, their sense of excitement—most of them were attending a journalism conference for the first time—was tempered by the overwhelming realization of all the new things they had to work on to make the paper interesting and valuable for the Metro State community.
The College Media Mega Workshop left staff members eager to practice what they learned. The energy and enthusiasm of workshop collaboration went beyond attendees; many instructors were already working on ideas to make next year’s event better even before this year’s workshop ended.
Executive Director of the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), Laura Widmer, hoped students would go back to their newsrooms thinking, “I’m ready to share what I learned with my staff and…make next year even better.” NSPA was another sponsor of the workshop.
April Carlson, interim editor-in-chief of The Metropolitan, expressed her desire to foster relationships with staff members and establish a functional workflow for the newsroom. “[Confidence] is a process…in this case it is definitely a group thing,” she said.
The challenge of running a newsroom is a huge opportunity for learning. With the skills gained during the workshop, members of The Metropolitan are now better equipped to tell the stories of our campus community.