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Professional Journalism Organizations for Aspiring Journalists

If you are an aspiring journalist, then you know that "Your network is your net-worth." I know this first hand as a working journalist for the past two years. I joined the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in 2016 as a student member after becoming a recipient of the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists' The Xernona Clayton Scholarship.

Becoming a member was the best decision of my life. I was able to participate in NABJ’s Student Multimedia Project as a member of the digital, print, and radio team at the annual national convention, which took place in Detroit, MI.

The intense week-long program gave me the opportunity to interview big names in media and entertainment like Bobby Brown, Jemele Hill, and Actress Tichina Arnold. Then, I began freelancing at The Atlanta Voice newspaper thanks to the guidance of my mentors from the program.

Since then, I worked as a full-time entertainment reporter for The Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa, and now, have a full-ride scholarship to New York University to obtain my master's degree.

I would highly recommend aspiring journalists to consider joining professional journalism organizations relevant to their background and interests as some also provide discounted student memberships. Many provide information, resources, job leads, learning and networking opportunities, and highlight issues, trends, and needs of the community.

Here are four organizations in particular that might interest you: The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), and Native American Journalists Association (NAJA).

National Association of Black Journalists

NABJ foundation dates back to 1975 and currently has more than 4,100 current members. Its signature event is the annual convention and career fair, which will take place August 18 - 21. This will be the second year that the event is held virtually in collaboration with the NAHJ.

NABJ President Dorothy Tucker is building on last year's virtual experience, and is passionate as ever about the organization's mission to provide 'innovative training, career advancement opportunities and advocacy initiatives for Black journalists and media professionals worldwide.'

"I think newsrooms are richer when they have Black journalists because we bring a unique perspective," said Tucker. "What I say to young journalists is to embrace who you are."

National Association of Hispanic Journalists

Established in 1984, NAHJ is "dedicated to Hispanics' recognition and professional advancement in the news industry," and currently has over 4,000 members, including working journalists, students, educators, and other media-related professionals.

NAHJ offers many resources for its members. The NAHJ Journalism Safety Guide is a resource guide to ensure the health and safety of journalists in the field. Vita Active Mental Health is a free resource that provides members with mental and emotional support, digital security, and psychological first aid. Students can also access scholarships like its 2021 NAHJ/Getty Images Inclusion Scholarship and 2021 Becas Scholarship.

Asian American Journalists Association

AAJA, like NABJ and NAHJ, is going virtual for this year's Convention on August 24 - 28. Founded in 1981, AAJA's motto this year is "Boldy Moving Forward, Proudly Looking Back.” Students interested in AAJA can also look into the organization's scholarships and internships, including collaborations with ABC News, NBC News, Getty Images, ProPublica, and many more.

AAJA members can also benefit from the organization's resources, like mental wellness initiatives that offer research, fact sheets, conferences, training, and more. This support has been particularly important amidst the ongoing pandemic and surge of hate crimes against the Asian community.

Native American Journalists Association

NAJA was founded in 1983 and serves more than 700 members across the Indian Country. The organization strives to empower Indigenous voices through journalism with several programs like the Red Press Initiative, NextGenRadio: Indigenous, in which the company partnered with NPR's Next Generation Radio Project, Native Public Media, and Southern California Public Radio to offer an Indigenous-centered digital workshop, plus more.

The organization rescheduled its annual conference to August 2022, and will extend memberships and program deadlines through next year. In the meantime, check out their other student resources.

Solidarity among organizations

The pandemic and the Atlanta-area spa shooting has led to more support for journalists and the Asian American Pacific Islander communities. In June, AAJA President Michele Ye Hee Lee and NABJ's Tucker hosted the "Role of Journalism in Black & AAPI Solidarity" panel.

The panel featured Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice; and Paula Madison, award-winning journalist, former NBC executive, and current chairman and CEO of media consultancy company, Madison Media Management LLC.

"We need to understand our relationship amongst marginalized groups," said Ifill.

"After the Atlanta killings, Ifill texted me and said, 'What can I do?' They got together with colleagues, and everyone shared the pain. Shared power in fighting that racism," Yang said. "We further solidify these alliances by showing how we show up for each other."

Madison, who is of Chinese and Jamaican descent, said that she noticed this past summer that many millennials and Gen Z were coming together to say, "No more."

Ifill added that newsmakers need to be in on these vital discussions to help better shape stories and add various perspectives when it comes to the newsroom. Lee echoed her sentiments, noting that the AAPI and the Black community must go a step beyond news coverage and stand in solidarity.

"Sticking up for each other in the newsroom," Yang said.

AAJA, NABJ, NAHJ, and NAJA go above and beyond by connecting, showing activism through media, and making sure the stories of their communities are told fairly and accurately.

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