Journalism students travel to Washington, D.C. to attend national journalism convention

by Varsha Rammohan, Managing Editor

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Helen Zhu
Hannah Allam speaks to Harker Journalism about her experience covering the extremism beat for the National Public Radio (NPR). Allam took students on a tour of the NPR studio, where they were able to watch a Tiny Desk Concert.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Journalism students from TALON, Winged Post and Harker Aquila traveled to Washington, D.C. from Nov. 19 to 23 for the JEA/NSPA fall journalism convention, in which the Winged Post was named as a Pacemaker finalist, and four Individual Award finalists were named: one for social justice reporting, one for local climate change reporting and two for digital story of the year.

After landing on Tuesday evening, students split into three groups and visited the Newseum, African-American History Museum or explored D.C. They were joined by director of journalism Ellen Austin and chaperones Katy Rees, Eric Kallbrier and Pilar Aguero-Esparza.

The staff reconvened at the U.S. Capitol where they visited Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office and interviewed hunger strikers who were advocating for climate change. 

“We were able to interview congresspeople, and it was really fun to interview them and hear their diverse perspectives,” junior Aditya Singhvi, who is the Aquila sports editor, said. “I was able to apply all the journalistic skills I learned in a professional setting, which was an informative experience.”

On Thursday, the program visited the Capitol once again, attending House and Senate sessions and attempting to obtain press credentials for the impeachment inquiry hearing. In the afternoon, students visited both the National Public Radio (NPR) and Associated Press (AP) offices; NPR reporter Hannah Allam hosted a tour of the studio, and AP photo editor Jon Elswick answered questions regarding political and sports photography from students.

“It was a unique opportunity to learn about journalism and different kinds of journalism,” said Smrithi Sambamurthy (9). “I was also able to meet some of the upperclassmen on staff and bond with Harker journalism.”

Thursday night marked the official start of the convention, and students attended sessions and workshops at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park where they heard from speakers like American free speech activist Mary Beth Tinker and Emmy award-winning television journalist Mark Hyman.

Three groups from Harker journalism also hosted their own sessions about the Humans of Harker project, 2020 election coverage and longform features.

“I had a really good time. It was a lot of work, there was a lot of walking, but being able to see all the wonderful places we went to was really fantastic,” said Aguero-Esparza. “To be able to go to the Senate and the House and to be able to see the National Gallery was just wonderful.”