A look into the three-day-long conference
NASH85 took place in Hamilton, Ontario last month and was a massive success. NASH is the largest conference for student journalism in Canada, with 149 student journalists, 31 speakers, and 45 events spread across three days. The Silhouette, McMaster University’s student paper, single-handedly hosted this event, choosing to build the schedule around workshops geared towards “revolutionizing” journalism to match the needs of the modern world. This year, I was lucky enough to attend on behalf of the Martlet.
The conference started on the evening of Feb. 17 with a keynote led by Sierra Bein, author of the Globe Climate Newsletter and digital editor for The Globe and Mail. She talked about the future of journalism, saying that “journalism has always been in trouble, but here we still are trying to revolutionize media.” With the layoffs that persist worldwide from VICE Media to the Capital Daily, journalists are no strangers to doom and gloom. According to Bein, what keeps them going is the hope of sharing a story successfully. Bein then continued to speak about the lessons she’s learned as a journalist at The Globe and Mail. From the importance of emotional literacy to the simple act of not being rude to your coworkers, Bein established that being patient with yourself and staying connected to the world is vital to being a good journalist.
The student journalist mixer and dinner allowed us to network and gain information on the various journalism programs offered across Canada. I was elated to make friends with the student journalists from The Dalhousie Gazette. Their paper is not only one of the oldest student papers in Canada, established in 1868, but their university also offers excellent journalism programs. It was an enriching experience to get to meet like-minded students from across the nation who are passionate about the same issues as me. We talked about what a day in our life at our individual student publication looks like, we shared notes about the stories we were working on and our plans for the future. Every student brought a unique perspective since they all had different majors, varying from history, sociology, and political science to biochemistry. What united us was our drive to write and share stories with our communities.
Day two was a fully loaded Saturday, with five workshop blocks from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
One of my favorite sessions was held by Justin Chandler, a Hamilton-Niagara bureau reporter for TVO Today. He talked about reporting on local current affairs in the Ontario region. Despite being specific to issues the province faces, the discussions regarding covering these topics were insightful and applicable to anyone. Chandler’s approach was more hands-on compared to the other speakers. He divided the class into groups and gave us a topic which we had to turn into a story outline.
Another memorable session was a panel discussion on investigative reporting for student journalists that brushed upon record-finding FOI systems in Canada, handling sensitive information, and anonymous interviews with the help of new technology. The students shared their investigative stories from each university, most of which were stories about sexual assault, misuse of university funds, and racism. It felt like I was part of a secret society who knew information that was yet to be disclosed to the world. As much as it was enthralling to be a part of this conversation it also acted as a reminder about the power of words, the damage words could cause to one’s reputation if used unwisely, and the awareness it could bring about if used judiciously.
The vice president of Postmedia, Erin Valois, held the third session on job searching in journalism. Interacting with a female journalist with 14 years of experience under her belt was enlightening and informative. Sharing her personal story of being a woman in power in “a man’s job,” she was not only inspiring but also friendly and happy to share insight about job hunting. She stressed the importance of personalized cover letters, especially in journalism.
Post sessions, we had two hours to get ready for the most acclaimed journalistic award ceremony for students in Canada. I was feeling a mix of emotions, excitement about watching the ceremony, along with a lingering hope for being in the nominee’s shoes next year.
The John H McDonald Awards for Excellence in Student Journalism (JHM awards) occur yearly at NASH. This prestigious award ceremony recognizes the best in student journalism nationwide. The event took place at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel. It was a grand affair, almost like a red carpet event. There was dancing and mingling with disco lights reflecting off the flashy chandeliers of the event hall. There was a delicious five-course buffet spread. The students and speakers were all dressed in formal wear. It was delightful to see student journalists getting the recognition that they deserved. While it was an emotional moment for the winners, I was content being in the audience and cheering for my fellow writers.
The third and last day of the conference started with a talk on data journalism by Inori Roy, Toronto-based journalist and associate editor at The Local. Her passion for the subject was visible to every student in the room as she explained how the use of open data portals can help weave stories that are often overlooked. Like tracking workplace injuries and the amount of inspections at industrial workplaces over years with open data available online to find out that the rate of injuries increased while safety inspections decreased. She taught us that one can create stories out of data if they look deep enough into it, and Roy was successful in imparting her technical knowledge on this subject.
After Roy’s talk, I returned home with a renewed hope and excitement about pursuing my dream of being a journalist. I decided to take advantage of my newfound connections and ask a few other student journalists about their experiences at NASH.
Angela Capobianco from The Dalhousie Gazette writes, “It was nice to see how other papers run, and there was some decent information provided, especially how to get a job and knowing your rights as a journalist. The professional and industry speakers they had were really good and provided some super interesting insights … It would’ve been nice to have a bit of a larger scope, or at least subjects less specific to Ontario.”
Negin Khodayari from Toronto Metropolitan University’s The Eyeopener writes, “It was incredible to see the future of Canadian journalism all in one room and get to meet so many students who share similar interests.”
Overall, NASH is an essential platform for networking, sharing knowledge, and connecting the future journalists of our country in one place. I would definitely recommend attending this conference if you are interested in the field of journalism.