As many Excellence in Journalism attendees chatted with conference exhibitors, attended breakout sessions and mingled with like-minded colleagues, a select group of students and young media professionals rubbed elbows with NBC executives, who in turn critiqued their scripts and offered career advice.
Centered around the Fourth Estate, or journalism as a tool to hold the three branches of government accountable, the NBCUniversity workshop paired groups of new and upcoming journalists with NBC producers and reporters.
The workshop also paired writing analysis with serious conversation about the current political climate and the negative perception the public has of the news media.
“We’re facing a lot of challenges as it relates to the Fourth Estate,” said Yvette Miley, senior vice president for MSNBC and NBCUniversal. “What are the principles that we stand on? What are the values that we have as journalists? What things do we need to do to stick to as journalists as we face other challenges?”
Greg Dawson, vice president of news at NBC 7 San Diego, was one of more than 10 NBC news managers who critiqued the attendees’ work. For him, the session is a brainstorming opportunity for both attendees and facilitators.
“What’s always neat for me is to see the different things that they see in the story that I may not have seen when I watched the video and different ways that I may not have written it,” Dawson said.
The participants were selected through a competitive application process. Prior to arriving at the conference, they were asked to write a news package from video, interviews and a fact sheet. At the conference, TV news professionals critiqued their work, and then students compared their stories to NBC News correspondent Harry Smith’s original story.
Students also listened to a panel of news executives discuss the public’s terse relationship with the media, and students mingled with their new colleagues at a post-workshop mixer.
Sergio Martinez-Beltrán, a senior print journalism major from Michigan State University, said he applied for NBCUniversity to find different ways to tell stories.
“I think as journalists, we’re trying to learn and improve as storytellers,” he said. “Coming to a workshop like NBCUniversity definitely helps you improve and definitely helps you become a better journalist and helps you connect better with your audience.”
Martinez-Beltrán trained with Dawson, who stressed to his pupils the importance of focusing on one topic and having “the courage” to keep on track with the original topic.
“Everbody brings their own sensibility and ideas,” Dawson said. “That’s part of my message at least. There are different ways to write a story, and there’s no right or wrong.”
NBC has hosted its educational workshop at other conferences such as the Asian American Journalists Association. The work shop, in its third year of existence, was conceived as a method for NBC officials to form more intimate relationships with attendees.
“That gives us the opportunity to get closer with potential job candidates to make it an educational opportunity for them to learn a little bit about us and also for us to learn about them,” Miley said.
Cameron Sadeghi, a sophomore Saddleback College student and intern for the Orange County Register, said the event especially helped him as a journalist by exposing him to new opinions.
“We as younger people have our own little perspectives,” Sadeghi said. “If we don’t ask older people about their perspectives, then we won’t have a complete view of journalism.”