CT SPJ grant winners share experiences from Baltimore

The Connecticut SPJ awarded a professional and a student travel grant for a working journalist and a student journalist to attend the national convention in Baltimore at the end of September. This year’s grant winners were journalist Jordan Fenster and student Sarah Willson, CCSU’s student chapter president of the SPJ.

Sarah Willson shared the following with us after the convention:  

The Excellence in Journalism Convention is something the Central Connecticut State University SPJ looks forward to every year. Not only is it a way to broaden everyone’s knowledge on some of the most important issues facing journalists, it’s also a way to make real-world connections.
I knew that, after attending last year’s convention in Anaheim as a member of the CCSU chapter, I needed to find a way to go back.

Having been more outgoing and emerged in this year’s activities than compared to 2017, I know that what I have learned from this year’s convention is something I will carry with me throughout my career as both a student and professional journalist. As someone who aims to cover politics after graduation, by far one the most interesting and beneficial lectures was regarding “Midterm Elections in the Era of Trump” and the multiple Freedom of Information sessions held by some of the industry’s best.

Despite the range of lectures and workshops, I myself and others from the CCSU Chapter had the ability to meet and converse with possible future employers from different news outlets. By far, that has been the aspect that always seems to draw us back for more.

I can also confidently say that, had it not been for the generous scholarship the Connecticut SPJ allowed for the CCSU SPJ to take part in, we may have never made it. You have allowed for our chapter to attend one of journalism’s most important events and for that, we cannot thank you enough. Though still a while away, the CCSU chapter looks forward to attending such a rewarding conference again next year.

Jordan Fenster shared the following after the convention: 

I sat in a chair in the hotel lobby on the way to the Excellence in Journalism conference opening night reception. 

One by one, journalists joined me. A contingent of students from Connecticut. A radio journalist from Africa. A Pakistani master’s degree candidate studying in Maine. A transgender journalist working for a liberal digital-only publication. We talked, chatting about the differences and similarities in our jobs and finding, I think, more commonality than disparity.
That was in the lobby. On the way to the reception. 

EIJ, more than most journalism conferences, is focused on sharing knowledge. I could write pages about the value of the sessions themselves.  It’s good to hone hard skills — podcasting, politics coverage — and great to smooth out the edges with sessions on diversity and effective communication within newsrooms.
But journalists and journalism are threatened these days, the accuracy and impartiality we hold so dear questioned and weaponized. With that in mind, the great benefit of EIJ for me was meeting journalists from across oceans, not to mention across the United States, and finding that they face the same questions I try so hard to answer. 

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