Opinion: What we learned in California

By Branwyn Wilkinson

Assistant Opinion Editor

If you’ve made it this far into this week’s issue of The Griffin, chances are you have at least a minor interest in journalism. Or at least a minor interest in reading the high quality journalistic content we at The Griffin deliver right to your door every week. Or maybe you’ve just been wasting time on Twitter, and this article happened to look interesting, so you clicked on it.

Either way, I’ve achieved my goal as a journalist. That’s right, we still exist. Journalists, I mean. And we’re still always looking for ways to improve our craft. You may not see print newspapers that often anymore, but think for just a minute about the amount of web articles and content you consume per week, and you’ll realize how important a journalist’s job still is.

Every year, the Associated Collegiate Press holds a national conference for college journalists, usually somewhere in California, and last weekend I, and five other members of The Griffin’s editorial staff, were fortunate enough to attend this year’s conference in Long Beach. While Long Beach definitely is a great vacation spot, and while we did take cute pictures by the Pacific Ocean, we learned a lot too.

We came back ready to make The Griffin better than ever.

For us, The Griffin isn’t just a college paper. It’s not only a club, or something fun to do on a Thursday night. For us, it’s preparation for our careers. It’s a line on our resumes, and an experience we talk up in interviews. Because, while Canisius may offer journalism and communication studies majors, the way you build your skills as a journalist is by doing. You learn how to write, by writing. You improve your layout by looking at examples and figuring out what works best for your newspaper. You learn by doing, and by talking to experts, which is exactly what this conference allowed us to do.

I went to a session called “The Art of the Interview” given by Los Angeles Times reporter Geoff Boucher, who has interviewed everyone from Beyonce to Dick Cheney, and another given by Tammy Trujillo, who literally wrote the book on internships. These are people who have made it in the journalism field, and this was my, and my fellow Griffin staff members’ opportunity to learn from them.

And learn we did. I think we were all a little overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information and ideas we gained over the course of just two short days. I know we all have a lot of ideas for the future of our small college paper though, and I’m so excited to see how we will turn it into something really special over the course of the next year.

The ACP Midwinter College Journalism Convention was an awesome, humbling, inspiring experience. Not only did I get to learn from the masters of my field, I even got to share some of my own expertise. In one of the sessions I attended on mental health reporting, a fellow opinion editor asked if the opinion section was an appropriate place to publish about mental health and mental illness. I shared a story about how an article I wrote about normalizing conversations about mental health actually sparked a conversation about the topic in our opinion section last year. Not only did we get to learn from professionals, we got to learn from each other.

I say the conference was humbling, because of the realization I, and most of my fellow staff members came to: we are young professionals in this field. Right now we may only write for a small college paper, but that college paper is available to the entire student body and staff. We are already informing our community. We are already shaping their views and opinions about Canisius, Buffalo, and maybe even more. That’s a big responsibility, and once we graduate, that responsibility will likely get bigger.

I’ve always been inspired by the influence journalists can have. That’s why conferences like the ACP Midwinter College Journalism Conference are so important. When you write for a college paper, you aren’t just learning about your chosen career path, you’re practicing it. That’s why, even as an undergraduate, the opportunity to share your ideas with other students and learn from professionals in your field is so important.

I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to attend the ACP Conference, a sentiment I know is shared by the rest of my fellow staff members. Because of this conference, and the experience we’re gaining here at The Griffin, we will be ready to hit the ground running when we graduate.

 

On another note, I will be moving to California to become either a flight attendant (because their outfits are so stylish) or a movie critic. Either way, I will be spending my free days lounging on the beach because screw the East Coast. So this will be my last contribution for The Griffin. Thanks for reading, guys! I’ll miss you (but not really because I’ll be in California).

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