The Chief Takes D.C.

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Meleah York, Editor-in-Chief

As the school year begins to flow into a numb drawl, it’s making me think a lot about an incredible trip that I had this past July. Last semester, I received a nomination to attend the Washington Journalism and Media Conference at George Mason University. I decided to take the plunge and attend in order to learn more about the many different fields of journalism, which I want to major in when I go to college.

It only hit me about three months before the actual trip — I would be going across the country all by myself and spending an entire week with people from all over the US that I didn’t know. It was all extremely daunting, as you can imagine, and part of me was second guessing my decision to attend. I’m so glad I didn’t.

The conference was essentially a journalism immersion course, filled with fancy meals, a lot of formal and business attire, newsroom simulations, tourist-y Washington DC things, and many speakers throughout the week. I met so many people there, editors-in-chief from all over the country as well as other English or writing lovers, or people just interested in what journalism is all about.

There were some days that we left the George Mason University campus to go to DC, either to tour the monuments or go to museums such as the Newseum, which is essentially a museum dedicated to journalism (I might have geeked out). Other times we would listen to speakers at convention halls, the campus, and even the National Press Club.

The speakers we heard came from all over the journalism field. There was Lauren Ober, a podcast and radio host who has worked on NPR; Carol Guzy, photojournalist and four-time Pulitzer Prize winner; and Steve Berta, one of the leading investigative journalists from the Indy Star in the Larry Nassar case. They, along with many other speakers, presented tips and information on succeeding in the journalism field as well as capitalized on their own achievements and inspiring stories.

It was especially fun to meet so many new people. Right off the bat, it was a ton of socializing, figuring out where everyone was from and what school they went to, the type of journalism they enjoyed, and more.

It was incredibly refreshing to be in an environment where I knew no one and had to start over with forming friendships and bonds within groups. High school can sometimes get a little suffocating without even realizing it, and we forget that outside of the high school bubble there is an entire world out there, waiting to be explored, filled with people we have yet to meet.

The conference had us constantly moving and doing things, and it drove me past the point of exhaustion. But even through the continuous assignments and packed schedule, I loved every second of it. I realized that, being a person who hates work, that I loved working when it pertained to journalism more than anything. The tiredness and fatigue didn’t stop me from delving into this passion, and it only confirmed my desire to go into journalism someday.

I obviously cannot make you feel the emotions that this week’s conference made me feel. I can’t explain how deeply the bonds I made on that trip affected me. WJMC definitely changed my life, and it has me looking forward to what is yet to come.