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Black journalists hold regional conference in Philadelphia

April 11, 2017 GMT

Hundreds of journalists, communication professionals and students from across the Northeast attended the National Association of Black Journalists’ Region I Conference, Diversity, Innovation & Technology Summit earlier this month.

“The conference was absolutely, 100 percent phenomenal,” said freelance journalist and author, Marsha Stroman. “I think it should happen at least once a month!”

Held at the Annenberg School for Communication on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, March 31 and April 1, the gathering featured workshops, panel discussions, lectures and job interviews.

“He approached me about a year ago,” said Professor of Communication and the Walter H. Annenberg Dean of The Annenberg School for Communication, Dean Michael Delli Carpini. “The more I learned about, the more it made sense for us to get involved,” Carpini said of supporting the conference and initiating Penn’s Africana Studies Center, Price Lab for Digital Humanities and School of Arts & Sciences support.

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“There isn’t a more important moment than now when thinking about journalism and diversity in it.”

Focused on providing educational support and career development opportunities to its registrants, the summit employed a five-prong approach: Evolving Innovation, Technical Training, Media Coaching, Community Engagement and Career Advancement.

Director of NABJ’s Region I, Johann Calhoun, stated “Diversity pushes innovation along because you have diverse voices and ideas.” NABJ’s commitment to help diversify the media landscape nationwide, on all levels, was reflected in the conference. The convening was the most attended regional conference conducted by the nation’s largest organization for journalists of color.

“I’m happy with the turnout today,” said Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists President Melony Roy. “Johann and his team have been deep diving into how to present a quality weekend and they’ve done it.”

The conference highlighted several Philadelphia-based projects including Comcast’s Innovation and Technology Tower, University of Pennsylvania’s Pennovation, the Science Center’s UCity Square Project and Drexel University’s Schuylkill Yards.

Lucy Kerman, Drexel University’s senior vice provost for University and Community Partnerships, was appreciative of the opportunity to be in front of the journalists. “You all help to tell the stories of the great work our university is doing in the communities we serve and we appreciate that,” she said.

As a burgeoning hub of innovation, technology and community development, Philadelphia offers young journalists a rich spectrum of stories to cover.

“One of my favorite things about this conference was the emphasis that it put on innovation,” said Morgan State University student Korey Matthews.

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Enrolled in Morgan State’s famed School of Global Journalism & Communication, Matthews stated, “As journalists, it can be hard for us because we have all heard that journalism is a ‘dying’ field. I thought that this conference spent a great deal of time giving us ways to keep journalism relevant by giving us innovative tools. I really enjoyed it.”

Beech Companies President Ken Scott agreed with Matthews.

“This is a great event for people that are local but can’t travel across the country for the upcoming national conference in New Orleans,” Scott said. “To have the opportunity to network with people from across all media platforms, especially people of color, is something special.”

The conference concluded with an interview of special guest, New York Times journalist, commentator and visual op-ed columnist Charles Blow.

“There is no way I thought about journalism as an occupation” when growing up, Blow shared. The Grambling University graduate envisioned a life in Louisiana politics before pursuing a journalism path.