The Center for Public Interest Journalism sponsored five Philadelphia-area journalists who attended the NABJ Convention last month in Orlando. Philadelphia Gay News Editor Jen Colletta shares her experience below, and we are hoping to hear from more of Philadelphia contingent soon.
My participation in the National Black Journalists Association Convention was my first experience at a large-scale conference focused on issues with which I did not have much experience; as a white journalist, I was a bit apprehensive as to both how I would be received, and how I could relate to the topics discussed. But, I found that new environment to be a perfect opportunity for both personal and professional growth.
My intent in applying for the CPIJ fellowship for the convention was to explore new ways that Philadelphia Gay News could cover and address the issues impacting black LGBTs, a goal that I furthered through conversations with fellow conference attendees and participation in panel discussions.
While PGN focuses on news impacting the LGBT community, the NABJ Convention helped me see that mainstream news can often have components that could be explored by an LGBT newspaper. After listening to a wealth of discussions at the convention examining a multitude of angles of the Trayvon Martin case, including a conversation with the victim’s family members, I saw that even such national issues can be looked at through various lenses. Editorializing on or examining the impact of larger issues on LGBT communities is one way to bring a reader-focused perspective to a seemingly mainstream topic.
There were also events that allowed me to make stronger connections to our readers who identify as both black and LGBT. One in particular focused on sports members who identify with both communities. Panelists, including those who have played for both college-level and professionals teams, told very personal and powerful stories about their own struggles navigating the sports world and also looked at the overarching impact that the intersection of homophobia and racism can have on other athletes. While I have heard many discussions on sports homophobia, this was my first exposure to one that brought in the unique issues faced by black LGBT athletes. PGN often covers topics relating to combating anti-LGBT stigma in sports circles, and from this conversation, I am now motivated to bring into our coverage how this issue evinces itself differently among people of all backgrounds.
The NABJ Convention was an extremely beneficial one in which I challenged myself personally and professionally. I returned to Philadelphia and PGN with a new and better-informed outlook on inclusive coverage and a renewed commitment to serving our readers of all identities.