Nearly 40 people signed up to attend the “New Members and First Timers Welcome” session on Thursday. It was for the Society of Professional Journalists Convention in Las Vegas. Nicolle Praino from the Nashville Post and Clayton Gutzmore, a freelance journalist, helped them learn how to make the most of their experience at the convention and with SPJ in general.
Praino and Gutzmore’s favorite part of the convention is connecting with people across the country. Gutzmore said he was able to make a long-lasting connection with someone at the convention last year, and he found the freelance community through SPJ.
“It can definitely change the game,” Gutzmore said.
To get the most out of the convention, panelists recommended using the Whova app, which contains the schedule and lists attendees. It allows users to map out which sessions they want to attend and connect with other attendees.
Praino said another big opportunity the SPJ convention provides is the student newsroom, which this writer is a part of. The program gathers around 10 students from across the country to work in a newsroom setting during the convention and have the opportunity to develop connections with mentors.
Although there won’t be an SPJ convention in 2024 due to financial reasons, the convention will return in 2025 in Washington D.C.
Despite canceling next year’s conference, there are still many ways members can gain connections and knowledge through SPJ. Praino said SPJ will likely bolster regional conferences. SPJ also provides other programming locally, regionally and nationally to continue journalists’ education.
“That helps me to become a better journalist every day and that’s why I stay a member, so that I can continue building my knowledge,” Praino said.
Other benefits SPJ provides are discounts for certain hotels, a freelance directory and education articles and videos on a range of journalism topics.