Journalism conference in D.C. offers life-changing experience

Special to the HeraldSeptember 2, 2013 

Editor's Note: Katie Holt, a senior at Braden River High, attended a journalism and media Conference in Washington, D.C., this summer. Here is her report.

By KATIE HOLT

Special to the Herald

It's strange to think that just a month ago I was walking the streets of Washington D.C., touring the beautiful campus of George Mason University, and meeting some of the nation's most established journalists.

The Washington Journalism and Media conference is an experience that stands out in my memory and one that cannot be forgotten.

As a young aspiring journalist meeting experts like "Today Show" host Hoda Kotb, Sports illustrated & Time magazine photographer Neil Leifer and CSpan founder Brian Lamb was an inspiration.

Being given the opportunity to interact and engage with professionals taught me numerous ways I can begin to establish myself as a journalist at a young age.

Movie reviewer Kevin McCarthy stressed the importance of persistence and asking questions, and Kotb taught me rejection is to be expected in this industry, and what is important isn't how you act, but how you react.

Spending a week in D.C. with 200 students I had never met before, who shared my love and curiosity for the world of journalism, had a bigger impact on my life and possible future journalism career than I would have ever imagined.

We started our first day in the city exploring the Newseum, an interactive museum focusing on journalism and media.

Some of the museum's most memorable features include the largest section of the Berlin Wall, an entire display devoted to Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, which held some of the most heart-wrenching photography I'd ever seen, and an interactive news room allowing interested journalism students like myself to explore the world of broadcast journalism.

Meeting four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post photographer Carol Guzy encouraged me to expand my journalistic interests past print to explore the possibilities of photo journalism. By the end of her presentation there wasn't a dry eye in the room, and it was astounding to me how she could reach so many students through just a slide show of pictures.

She taught me "a photograph can be a powerful witness and eloquent voice for those who have none. Pictures inform, educate, enlighten, captivate, and they can spur governments into action. They are historical documents and poignant reminders of our human frailties. Sometimes they can even touch our souls."

Leifer talked to us about the hours of dedication and determination needed to be a photographer, how he would spend the whole day taking pictures of the same thing, to get it just right, and his stories of photographing Olympic gold medalists, not only in action, but also in their home countries.

On the last day of the trip, I had the opportunity to see the U.S. Holocaust Museum, which was the most powerful and eye-opening day of the entire week. It was an indescribable experience to sit down and talk with Auschwitz survivor Franny Aizenberg one on one.

Listening to her heart-breaking stories of life in Auschwitz, and the brutal torture she endured through medical experimentations, made it real for me as a student, rather than learning about it through books and teachers. She talked about how her time in the camp still haunts her, and the many months she has spent in the hospital recovering mentally and physically.

I can honestly say my week at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference was a life-changing experience that gave me the tools I need to excel at a career in journalism. It was inspiring to listen to and speak with some of the nation's best journalists.

This opportunity was a humbling experience that became more than just meeting students who share my journalistic passion. We were able to explore and learn about that passion together.

Editor's note: Journalism Next begins publication this month. Any journalism teacher who wants his or her school to participate should contact Bradenton Herald Night Metro Editor Terry O'Connor at 951-745-7040 after 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday or 2 p.m. Sunday.

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