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The Excellence in Journalism conference is a unique opportunity for student journalists to network with industry professionals and learn about the latest trends in the evolving world of journalism.
Mike Reilley, journalism instructor and SPJ adviser at DePaul University, has taken students to SPJ’s regional and national conferences since the chapter was founded in 2010.
“We’re having some really good discussions this year, and I think the students benefit from that,” Reilley said. “And we benefit from the students being here, because we learn from them, from their questions and the issues they bring up and talk about.”
Aside from the seminars offered, the convention gives students the opportunity to network with industry professionals, things Reilley said you can’t get in a classroom.
“Once you go off and work in the professional world for 15 or 20 years, you’re going to re-establish many of those contacts, and they can help you get a job down the road,” Reilley said. “They can tip you off and help you on a story, you might be pitching that person a story if you go into PR down the road. Those relationships that you can establish at a conference like this are invaluable not just for your academic career and for your first job, but for jobs down the road.”
Ali Trumbull, a recent graduate of DePaul University, said the convention gives her an opportunity to meet other successful student journalists from across the nation.
“You get to meet some amazing journalists in the world, but also student journalists who are going to be the next New York Times writers and the next web gurus,” Trumbull said. “It’s networking with professionals, faculty of other schools, the national board. Everyone is just so tapped into the world of journalism. It’s almost impossible to say ‘no’ to coming here.”
The Society of Professional Journalists was originally an organization for students only, but today, students make up only a small percentage of national convention attendees. This may be attributed to a lack of funding from university chapters.
Heather Schroering, recent Columbia College graduate and intern at the Chicago-Tribune, is attending her first national convention this weekend. She said members of her school’s SPJ chapter were able to get their trip to Anaheim paid for by her college.
“So far, I think it’s been excellent and enriching,” Schroering said. “It’s an excellent opportunity to come and learn things and be with your peers, but also have the opportunity to network and meet people who are absolutely incredible in the industry. It’s just a great opportunity to learn from industry professionals who are on the ground and doing it.”
For student chapters looking to attend the 2014 Excellence in Journalism convention in Nashville, Trumbull said school activities funds are a good place to start looking for funding.
“There is money you can tap into at your school,” Trumbull said. “Student activity funds, that’s the best way to go. Schools are more than willing to send journalists that want to have these wonderful opportunities to meet with these people they might not get to meet in person.”
Follow Marcus Constantino on Twitter at @amtino.