A short vent about holiday music....followed by my great day at the UNITY summit!

I've been doing a lot of driving lately, and usually I plug my phone into the USB port on my car stereo and amuse myself with podcasts. But, sadly, there is something wrong with said USB port, so I have been listening to the radio lately...and there is at least one station playing Christmas music. People. It is only October. This is just sad.

Anyway, I just felt the need to vent, but I will leave it there and get on with the update. Because I am not going to waste a post on holiday music.

On Friday, I attended UNITY: Journalists for Diversity's regional media summit ("Empowering the Southern Narrative"). I had an amazing time and learned so much, and it was great to be surrounded by so many voices and experiences. I listened to Willoughby Mariano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution speak about investigative reporting she did that led to massive community change, and I sat in on former CNN Chief Diversity Advisor Johnita Due's keynote speech about cultivating and defining diversity in the media and in our lives. This was followed up by an excellent panel at lunch that discussed diversity in Alabama specifically. Though the panel focused mainly on issues and stories involving black and white issues of diversity that have arisen following the Michael Brown shooting, there was the question: "Yes, but what about everyone else?" I wish there had been more time to address other populations in our state--religions, cultural, sexual, ethnic, etc. But, as the speakers said, the most important thing is to start conversations. You can't change anything if you aren't willing to talk. And talking, as they said, begins right next door. Talk to your neighbors and friends. Small movements lead to big changes. And as Johnita Due said, we all bring something to the table, no matter what our life experiences are.

Johnita Due speaks about her family's history in the civil rights movement
and the importance of diverse voices in media. (My photo)
Aside from all of the fascinating conversation, this event is the first journalism specific event that I have attended in years. I mean, I work for a magazine and am therefore involved in journalism. But I'm not a reporter in the sense that most people think of when they hear the word "journalist." I was never trained as a reporter, though my first degree was in journalism. I was trained in magazine feature writing and editing, and though these are both aspects of journalism they don't always involve "shoe-leather" reporting (though, I think, some of the best feature stories do involve that). Too often now we get stories thrown at us  (and I am speaking of contemporary magazine/website sources of feature articles) that are clearly drawn from internet research only. This irritates me to no end, because so many emerging journalism students are not practiced in the art of interviewing and collecting the most important resources--those not found in a database. I do hope this changes, but I am thinking it won't. But that is the reason I admire the reporters and writers who get on the streets and into the neighborhoods to discuss the people they are reporting about. Databases are great for certain things, but they cannot replace the human voice and the perspective you can get by visiting the subjects/places/people you are writing about--so go for it!

Anyway, it was a great conference, and I am so glad I went with my co-worker, Rebecca. We also got a chance to hang out with one of my favorite Alabama authors, Frye Gaillard (so of course we had him take a photo with us!):

I'm still trying to figure out why my sweater looks so huge on me. At first I thought I was crazy for wearing it, but it was freezing in some of the sessions, so I was super happy I made the decision to dress for the arctic on an October day in Alabama. :)  It was lovely to see Frye and to hang out with such inspiring and amazing people all day. I hope I get to attend another UNITY event in the future!


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