2014 AAJA Convention in Washington D.C.

If you’re a student or just out of school: Why they’re part of the Task Force, why they’re committed to helping to build it and why they think it’s important.

After attending my first AAJA National Convention last year, I witnessed firsthand the power and influence in banding together over a common cause. I was inspired by the number of people dedicated to promoting the Asian-American presence in newsrooms. Some had contributed to the cause for years, if not decades. The message was clear: while there is still much to be done, AAJA has come a long way in its mission since its infancy. It may not have been easy, but through the commitment and persistence of the pioneers of the group, AAJA had blossomed into an entity that could offer a young aspiring journalist a haven of support moving forward.

It is that fundamental belief in a young cause I care about that I joined the Sports Task Force. Like AAJA as a whole did roughly 35 years ago, the STF is simply trying to get off the ground; to garner recognition and show a skeptical larger audience that there is an interest and there are committed members and the STF deserves a presence at the AAJA Convention. I attended the inaugural STF meeting because I have always been very passionate about two things: sports and journalism. The notion of bringing that together had always seemed idealistic but not entirely realistic for an Asian-American. There weren’t many success stories as examples to model.

I was blown away by the STF. The standing-room only crowd demonstrated the firm and powerful support this cause would have. I chatted with the few examples of Asian-Americans who were wildly successful at venturing into the world of sports journalism. I met peers who were similarly interested and encouraged by the support. I was inspired. I felt that the STF could function as the interest group promoting a cause I believed in that had been sorely missing. I want to contribute to the progress the STF has made claiming its stake as part of AAJA because I am sure if given its opportunity, it can continue to inspire young journalists interested in sports. It can continue to provide imperative support system for those journalists; much like AAJA did for all journalists over three decades ago.

Though still in its infancy, the Sports Task Force got off to a fast start at its inaugural meeting at the 2014 AAJA Convention in Washington D.C. Attendees ranging from intrigued students to veteran sports journalists filled the room to the point of capacity. The talk was real. Students expressed their prior reservations about the feasibility of such a career but also their encouragement from seeing a group dedicated to supporting that endeavor. Veterans offered their full support to the cause. They collaborated and brainstormed ideas to move the ball down the field.

Tips for Student Journalist

As college graduation approaches, the job search scramble beings. For other students not yet reaching for a cap and gown, months or years of college still remain — and every season is the perfect season to take on an internship.

The sports media industry can be tough to break into, whether you have aspirations of being a reporter, producer, designer, on-air talent or any other sports media-related positions. The competition is fierce.

Virgil Smith, Gannett’s Vice President of Diversity, said he has attended “all ethnic journalism conferences since 2007,” which includes the most recent 2014 AAJA conference in Washington, D.C. He recruits people for Gannett’s various publishing, broadcast and digital companies.

The AAJA Sports Task Force asked Smith what advice he has for students on how to gain an edge in a competitive job market:

  1. Customize Your Resume“I look at the complete resume. I try to ascertain what the person is looking to do, what internships they’ve done and I look at their website. Don’t use a cookie-cutter resume. Use it as a branding and information tool about who you are and what you’re looking for. I’m more interested in your accomplishments and your achievements — that separates people when they’re telling their story.”“If I were to go to a career fair, I would tell students, it’s on the [companies’ websites]. Do your homework on those companies, and tailor your resume as opposed to giving everyone the same thing.”
  2. College Experience CountsWhile Smith says that internships with established media companies (LA Times, The New York Times, CNN, etc.) matter, he says he is also “impressed with people who run a student newspaper or who have a high role at their student television station. It shows they have to make journalistic decisions.”When Gannett posts job hirings that require, for instance, “one to two years of experience,” Smith says he considers years spent working on college papers or in internships (writing and covering stories) as professional experience. He added that Gannett has hired recent graduates as new directors and producers.
  3. Study Up“I am not impressed by students who come, and the first question out of their mouth is, ‘Who is Gannett?’ You come and talk to me, and you don’t have a clue about who are or what we do? With social media and the access people have with information, there’s no excuse to come to an interview and say ‘Who are you?’ I like students who did their homework. I know they’re going to be thorough and have some critical insight not only when they’re looking for a job, but when they’re in a job.”
  4. Speed MattersIt only takes the single tap of a key to send a website link, whereas a paper resume requires the physical exchanging of hands. To gain an upper hand, have a website and keep it updated. “If you give them a link and they really like you, they can then send that link to a hiring manager immediately. That separates you from people handing out resumes,” Smith says.“If you want it, you’ve got to be prepared and think strategically about how you can use technology to communicate who you are and help the recruiter communicate to the hiring manager. Who gets there first is who they look at first.”

One common piece of wisdom threads through all of Smith’s advice: Be different. “Your opportunity is you’ve got to think clearly about who you are and what you want to achieve and why you should be considered,” Smith says.