What has social media got to do with journalism? Why does the media focus on the topics it does, and how does that shape public opinion? In a disaster stricken land, when does a photographer raise their camera in the name of professionalism, and put it down in the name of humanity? All of these questions were raised at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference that I was able to attend recently.
The conference was organized and held at George Mason University, though it included more than one trip into the District of Columbia where we toured the Newseum and the National Mall, met with congressional representatives and heard from accomplished journalists at the National Press Club. Some notable speakers included Candy Crowley (CNN), Chris Cilizza (Washington Post), and Michael Shear (NY Times), and many others whose specialties lay in photography, sports, film and entertainment. Students from all over the country, with different backgrounds and varying interests, diversified the environment and provided valuable insight in group discussions through each of their perspectives.
Much of the focus revolved around the use of social media in today’s emerging brand of journalism, highlighting its usefulness in finding stories as quickly as possible, but also noting its inadequacy in terms of actual reporting. In an effort to embrace the use of social media as a mechanism of self-marketing, we were encouraged to blog about our experiences throughout the conference. Success in the news industry depends more and more heavily upon conformity with social media sites in an age when information is more accessible than ever, and when reputations are more easily made (or broken) online than in person.
The scope of the conference extended much further than just the subject of journalism; it also delved into building connections and setting goals in order to stand out to prestigious colleges and future employers. Not only that, but the necessity of shaping one’s views from multiple sources and the awareness of personal bias remained constant themes throughout. Learning about media and its extreme importance in the company of some of the most inquisitive minds the country has to offer was a fantastic opportunity, and I look to pass on more of what I learned to those back home.
Sam Aldridge is a teen from Milford.