My Week at WJMC: A Retrospective

The week I spent at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference was a lot of fun. Days filled with learning and friendship flew by, and many tearful goodbyes were exchanged on Friday. I have already posted a bit about each of the speakers from the week; here is an overview of the entire week.

Sunday: When I arrived just after noon, I was a little nervous. It was my first time on a college campus, and I didn’t know what to expect or who I would meet. After checking in, I unpacked my clothes in my dorm. Although my dorm didn’t have a mini fridge like some others, it was pretty cool; I bunked in my own little “room” and my roommates were nice. Then I met April and Courtney, who were the leaders of our color group, the Blue group. Just before dinner the entire Blue group, minus a few who were traveling, met each other. We truly had the best group; everyone got along well from the beginning, and we each brought unique qualities to discussions. Dinner was a fancy buffet and afterwards Peter Doocy spoke to the entire conference. Another color group meeting to discuss what we learned about Peter Doocy, then we headed back to our dorms to get ready for bed and blogging.

Monday: The earliest wake-up for the entire week, I stumbled out of bed and into the shower at 6:00 in the morning. It was worth it because we went to the Newseum. A museum focusing on the journalistic side of history, there were many cool exhibits there; sadly, not nearly enough time in the day to fully explore the Newseum. I plan another trip back to finish what I missed. After the Newseum, we took a tour of some of the monuments in DC. We saw the Lincoln, FDR, and Martin Luther King Jr. monuments, and the World War II memorial. After dinner, Candy Crowley spoke to us about living our life and career our own way, and achieving what we want. One of the longest days in the week, at 11 I just fell into bed, too tired to blog. I planned to report the next morning.

Tuesday: Here was the first 30 minutes of my day: wake up, shower, write up my blog post quickly, scarf down breakfast, and assemble at the color group meeting for bus boarding. This is what happens when you oversleep your alarm. I don’t recommend it. The first speaker of the day was Brian Lamb, the founder of C-SPAN network. He didn’t read a speech to us, instead he called on people in the audience and asked them question, then offered his views and advice to people. Lunch was at Buca Di Beppo. If you haven’t dined there, they served delicious pasta, and I loved their Chicken Parmesan. After lunch, we visited the National Press Club, a prestigious club opened only to journalists. There we listened to various speakers, including Ed Henry, Jennifer Bendery, and Jonathan Karl. Then, the highlight of the day: Hoda Kotb! A favorite of the WJMC, each year she makes an appearance to talk about her life. I have the least amount of notes on her, simply because I forgot to write.  I know I wasn’t the only one. We had another speaker after dinner, this time Matthew Schott, who talked to us about the importance of social media. Another full day, but I made myself blog to avoid the panic in the morning.

Wednesday: By Wednesday, I was starting to get into the routine. I was less tired, and most of the Blue group was upbeat as well. After breakfast our color group had a mock press conference that concerned a fictitious football player and the possibility of him using drugs at a party after a victory. To say it was an unusual press conference would be an understatement; the school’s statement and the family’s statement were completely different, and we went from the possibility of the football player doing drugs, to him using a meth pipe in literally three sentences. After this craziness, the first speaker of the day, Carol Guzy showed off her Pulitzer Prize winning photos, as well as some of her other, equally touching pictures. The whole room was silent as we witnessed these heart-breaking world events captured forever on camera. This was followed by a presentation by Jana Sweeney, who spoke of the impact of journalism in crisis situations, like in her job as a communications director for the American Red Cross. At lunch, we discussed the possibility that the American Red Cross was recruiting because their presentation was after Carol Guzy’s, which stirred up a lot of sympathy. After lunch, and yet another color group meeting, two people from Young Voices did a presentation about journalism advocacy. Then Amy Takayama-Perez explained the process of college admissions, and how we could increase our chances of getting accepted. Dinner was a magnificent barbeque, with music and dancing. Unfortunately, the party couldn’t really get started because we had to attend another lecture. Here we all split up into different groups. Along with Parker and Josie from the Blue group, I met with Dianna Russini, a sports reporter for NBC4. Finally the day ended with Kevin McCarthy, a movie reviewer, and his speech about how to interview people, especially the celebrities that some people find intimidating.

Thursday: The last full day at WJMC, but our group didn’t dwell on that, choosing instead to live in the moment, and save the farewells until tomorrow. Today was a lot less structured, what with all the people meeting their congressional representative at different times. We started with a group photo at the Capitol, then we did individual photos. Some people went off to the Holocaust Museum, while others took the Capitol tour. That left the rest of us to find something to do while we waited for our meetings. My mini group consisted of Josie and Nathan, who didn’t have meetings and just needed a buddy, and Nicole and I. Nicole’s meeting was right after pictures, so we dropped her off, then rebelled and got Starbucks, which many of us hadn’t had since the start of the week. After Nicole’s meeting was over, we went to see the inside of the Capitol, but all we ended up seeing was the lobby and the food court. It was a magnificent food court, by the way. After lunch, I went to my meeting with Representative Frank Wolf. Our group was supposed to meet up afterward outside the Air and Space museum, but somehow the others got lost on their way back from the Library of Congress, so I ended up arriving a little bit (read 20 minutes) before them. Luckily, some other WJMC correspondents were there as well, so I got to talk to them while I waited. After we got back to the dorms, we had an hour to “pack,” but I used the time to take a much-needed nap. Then I started getting all dressed up for the Gala at the Westin Arlington Gateway. Anticipated all week, the Gala was four hours of fun, food, and dance, celebrating our survival through the week. My mind blurred all night long I had so much fun. We got back very late at night, so I just threw all my clothes in my suitcase and flopped into bed.

Friday: The day of goodbyes, and the day none of us looked forward to. In the morning we had our final color group meeting, and we all exchanged emails and phone numbers. Many pictures and selfies were taken as we all slowly departed in groups: some to drive home, some to fly. All in all, I had an awesome time throughout my stay at the WJMC, learned a lot, and made many friends that still blow up my phone, days later.

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