System leaders want NABJ/NAHJ convention-goers to ‘Think Public Media’

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(Photo: Dru Sefton, Current)

NPR headquarters (Photo: Dru Sefton, Current)

NPR and stations are teaming up to encourage journalists of color to think of public media when planning their careers.

The network and more than two dozen stations will share a space on the convention floor of the joint National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention Aug. 3–7 in Washington, D.C. The Public Media village will provide a place for attendees to meet public media notables, connect with employers, submit resumes and learn about careers. It’s part of the Think.Public.Media initiative, a collective of individuals and public media organizations.

“The title tells you everything you need to know about our intentions,” said Keith Woods, v.p. for diversity in news and operations at NPR. “We’re hoping to get people who are attending the convention to have that moment, to say, ‘Wait, I’m a producer; I’m a digital journalist; I’m a reporter. I could go work in this place as surely as I could work in a TV station or at my newspaper.’”

Public media careers aren’t always top of mind for people of color, Woods said. But the industry is taking steps to attract and retain a diverse workforce. Teresa Collier, director of news and public affairs at Mississippi Public Broadcasting, said both early-career and seasoned journalists and storytellers can benefit.

“Part of our job is to reach out to those people and educate them and let them know that there’s a place for you in the public media world,” Collier said.

Unlike at previous conventions, NPR and stations are uniting under one banner rather than setting up individual spaces. “Even when we collaborated before, we simply put ourselves in adjacencies to other organizations,” Woods said. “This is the first time we’re all subordinating our individual identities for the sake of this greater goal.”

The village will have computers with information about public media jobs plus videos from select organizations. It will also include a meet-and-greet space where attendees can connect with popular podcasters, bloggers and reporters. Job seekers and employers can break away to talk at high-top tables, and a photo booth will post to thinkpublicmedia.org. To expand the conversation beyond the conference, attendees are encouraged to tweet using the hashtag #thinkpublicmedia.

Participating stations vary in size and location. NPR didn’t attempt to involve all member stations, instead focusing on previous collaborators who expressed an interest in improving diversity within the system.

The 29 stations at the conference had the capacity and means to participate, although many more were invited. Once the group formed, committees organized to prepare for the conference, Woods said.

The conference expects to draw more than 4,000 attendees, providing the public media organizations an opportunity to get in front of a big group in one place.

Next year, NABJ and NAHJ will hold separate conventions. “It will be more difficult to put the kinds of resources that organizations have put in this single effort” toward separate conventions, Woods said.

Organizers hope the conversation moves forward under the Think.Public.Media brand.