Once upon a time, I spent a weekend realizing that despite my constant mantra of “I’m no journalist,” I am a journalist. At least a little bit, deep down, somewhere.
The Illinois College Press Association’s annual conference was last weekend and is usually a hoot; last year’s was lackluster at best, but I’m not sure I had the right mindset at the time.
This year, however, I was ready to have my mind blown. I learned all about how to, ya know, be a journalist and stuff. But there was another important theme among the sessions I attended: We journalists have skills that may seem trivial because of how second-nature they are to us, but they are valuable. Things like knowing how to write a complete thought in a clear and concise manner. And grammar. Lots of grammar.
It was exactly what I needed to hear. As a college senior whose friends are about to head off into the real world in two months, I’ve been feeling a little lost. I don’t really know where I’m headed — so I’m glad for the reprieve of a delayed graduation date — but I know words are in there somewhere.
I headed home floating on a cloud, inspired and ready to take on the world.
Other slightly important things I learned: 1. A weekend in the best city (Chicago) with some of my favorite people in the world is all I need to reevaluate things. 2. Journalists are really cool and are full of great stories and advice. 3. Most journalists only vaguely resemble their Twitter pictures.
Oh, and being shy probably won’t get me anywhere in my career. One woman on a panel talked about how working in any sort of communication field requires people to get over it and put on their extrovert pants. I glared at her as I wrote in my notes, “Stop being so effing shy, Holstrom,” but she has a point.
And an hour later I was able to speak up in a session and ask a question I’ve had on my mind for a while. I’ve always been a passive listener when it comes to things like this, so I was proud. Lame? Definitely. But I don’t mind. It’s progress, and if baby steps are what it takes, then that’s totally okie dokie with me.
That night, we hung out in the lobby of the hotel with some kids from other newspapers and talked about what we all go through day in and day out. We drank beer and critiqued each other’s page designs and had an outrageously nerdy time, which was probably my favorite part of the weekend.
In other news, my coworkers and newspaper as a whole brought home a hefty pile of awards. The ones I was ecstatic about were first place front page design, chosen from three consecutive days’ papers, and the honorable mention award to yours truly for sports page design. It’s the first award I’ve ever received — aside from 4-H awards for knitting my American Girl Doll a shawl back in the day. You don’t need to tell me how cool I am.