The Department of Mass Communication held its 19th annual conference on Oct. 18-20 in Room 100 of the Washington-Johnson Complex. As Grambling State, Alcorn State and Louisiana Tech students filled the room, questions flew at the opening panel on the theme “Covering Crises: Disaster, War and Health.”
The panel discussion was the opening session of the conference, during which panelists and workshop presenters gave students insight and advice on everything from internships, apprenticeships and “spin,” to meeting deadlines and being professional at all times.
Many of the professionals who participated in the conference were GSU Mass Communication graduates.
“The fact that the alumni have come back with successful careers gives everyone hope,” said Soteria Brown, a GSU Mass Communication major.
Each of the panelists on the morning of Oct. 19 touched on the theme of the conference. Greg Hilburn, business editor, and Michael Dunlap, photo editor, both of The News-Star in Monroe, discussed how they covered hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They talked about their experiences when they were in New Orleans after Katrina. Even after a year, the conversation and the memories stirred up brought a certain quietness and sadness to the conference. Dunlap said that the aftermath of Katrina brought back memories from his time in Desert Storm.
When questions were asked about the racial slant on media coverage of the violence after Katrina, Scymentress Williams of KTVT/KTXA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth said, “A story doesn’t have a color, reporters just want the best story.”
Hilburn and Dunlap also gave interviewing tips when covering crises and disaster.
Panelists William Mayo of the HIV/AIDS Prevention Program for the Louisiana Department of Public Health and Venita Grimes and Cedrick Jackson from GoCare in Monroe discussed how students should protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.
Mayo described the disease as a “sophisticated disorder” that can go unnoticed. The speakers told students to not only get tested but to follow up on receiving the results of the test. “Living to fight another day is worth knowing,” Mayo said.
Discussions got heated between the panel and listeners when Jackson mentioned that 75 students were given AIDS tests last year on Grambling’s campus and only 40 picked up their results, a common problem. Of the 75, five tested positive, and only two of those five returned for their results, he said.
Go Care is the leading provider of HIV/AIDS testing throughout the area. Jackson also opened the student’s eyes when he described a story of a man that was married of 15 years with six kids and finally found out that he had the virus.
Panelists noted that the media need to be more involved when it comes to letting the public know about testing sites.
Anyone who has questions about HIV/AIDS or would like to get tested can call 318-325-1092.
Also serving on the panel were Taylor Henry with KNOE-TV in Monroe and alumnus Anthony Barnes, creative director of Quick, a newspaper based in Dallas/Fort Worth.
“The students at Grambling State University made the panel discussion very interesting,” said Britteny Frierson, a junior at Alcorn State. “The questions they were asking, I wanted to know.”
Stephanie Royal, also an Alcorn student, said the panel discussion was the best she ever heard. “The people here shared a lot of good information,” she said.
A reception on Oct. 18 kicked off the conference, followed by the panel discussion, a luncheon and workshops on Thursday, Oct. 19. Workshops on Friday morning and afternoon closed the conference on Oct. 20. Dr. Sharon Ford-Dunn was the coordinator of the conference.
Starr Pue, a GSU sophomore majoring in visual communication, was impressed with the “Page and Information Graphic Design” workshop conducted by Barnes. “Mr. Barnes showed us a number of steps for Photoshop CS2 and a great deal of pre-hand adoptions,” Pue said.
In the seminar “Write for the Ear, Shoot for the Eye, Aim for the Heart: Writing that Makes a Difference,” KTVT/KTXA-TV’s Williams and Chandra Rideaux of KSLA-TV in Shreveport gave the students insight on being a minority producer in the newsroom.
GSU Mass Communication major Brown said she was greatly impressed with the workshop. “The first thing that I truly loved about this workshop was that they (presenters) were both women, Black and, last, alumni of Grambling State University.”
Williams and Rideaux informed students that Black producers are rare in today’s society and that many newsrooms are always looking for them.
“People say the jobs aren’t out there,” Williams said. “They are. You have to be aggressive, annoying and yet be pleasant.”
She encouraged students to get a mentor and acquire as much experience as possible.
“You’re journalists by blood,” said news anchor Kim Betton of Fox 16-TV in Little Rock, Ark. “We are in the truth-telling business.”
Betton, who graduated from GSU in 1989, advised students to stay focused, be organized and to have thick skin.
Jacqueline Walden, who works with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living in Monroe, conducted a workshop called “Everything You Need to Know About Public Relations,” which was well-received by students. She expounded on topics such as how to talk to the media and what to say and what not to say to the media.
“I enjoyed this conference a lot,” Walden said. “I really enjoy seeing our people doing something positive with their life, while getting an education.”
Jason Summers, a junior from Alcorn State University majoring in Public Relations, said, “This conference is a good opportunity for students to interact with people who professionally work in the careers we want to future obtain.”
Rodney Pearson of KRIV-TV in Houston shared with the students that in the field of mass communication, experience is more important than a degree. “You do not need a master’s or Ph.D. degree to excel in this field,” he said. “However you do need skills which can only be obtained through experience.”
Another GSU alumnus who works in television had more advice for students attending the conference. “Don’t be No. 3, don’t be No. 2,” Arthur Murray of KHOU-TV in Houston told the students. “As an African-American, you have to strive to be No. 1.”
Mass Communication students who contributed to this story include Candice Bradford, Soteria Brown, Denise Giles, Stephanye Gilyard, Kellie Louviere, Chad Patterson, Vonye Richardson, Whitney Shannon, Janessa Wilkins, and Zameshia Williams.