This weekend marked the 2010 National Biennial Convention hosted this year at N.C. State University. As a newly inducted member into the Society of Collegiate Journalists, I was quite surprised in the level of organization, panel content, as well as participation from schools across the southern states at our host convention. On Friday afternoon, members from the various chapters were welcomed into Witherspoon Student Center for light refreshements. Students from Carson Newman College, Virginia Wesleyan, Mercer University, Hampton Sydney, Youngstown State, and Valdosta State at first mingled awkwardly, much like shy students at a middle school dance. However by dinnertime, friendships were already being made. Guests enjoyed some of the nightlife in Raleigh as this year’s convention coincided with Raleigh’s March First Friday.
Saturday morning set a strong and positive tone for the remainder of the convention with inspirational talks from both Michael Biesecker, capitol reporter for Raleigh’s The News & Observer, and Frank LoMonte, director at the Student Press Law Center. Biesecker focused his speech on the importance of journalism, specifically directing our attention to the first amendment. Through his experience as a longtime journalist, he emphasized journalism’s role as the watchdogs of government. Afterwards, LoMonte spoke about journalism’s importance within the university setting. It was hard not to feel empowered as a student journalist, especially when he referred to us as the “present of journalism.” As LoMonte pointed out, the future signifies that our work in the “real world” has yet to be done. However, in light of the poor economy and laying off of countless professional journalists, many people in the community now turn to students to receive information and news.
The morning progressed with two large break out sessions. The first was an information session regarding the law of online publishing led by Frank LoMonte. I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel discussion involving the development of a public affairs show. The panelists included Saja Hindi, public affairs director for WKNC 88.1FM‘s Eye on the Triangle, Mike Alston, WKNC’s general manager, Jamie Lynn Gilbert, the station advisor, and Frank Stasio, host of WUNC‘s The State of Things. The panel discussion questions ranged with various topics such as the process for developing stories to marketing and engaging in audiences who are familiar with visual media. It should also be noted that Frank Stasio openly admitted to putting WKNC 88.1FM as his favorite radio station.
After a short lunch, students and advisors sat in on the afternoon break out sessions including a panel discussion about the use of new media. The round-table panelists included Mike Alston, John Clark, general manager for WRAL.com, Paul Jones, a journalism professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, Tyler Dukes, web producer at News 14 Carolina, and Fred Eaker, systems administrator for N.C. State Student Media. During this session, I was attending Frank LoMonte’s conversation about the freedom of information. During the hour discussion, LoMonte touched on the Open Records law and invited students to share
their experiences in which their university had withheld information. Susannah Brinkley, N.C. State’s SCJ President, touched
briefly on the recent scandal involving former NC governor Mike Easely and his personal email account.
Sunday morning closed this year’s convention with a series of awards presented and committee proposals. N.C. State was honored to have Martha Collins, the university chapter advisor, receive the advisor of the year award.