BY NAOMI PRIOLEAU
Over the course of two days, 150 attendees and speakers discussed health issues that plague the African American community during NABJ's 4th Annual Media Institute on Health, held in Washington, D.C. March 30 and 31.
Panelists spoke on a variety of subjects including HIV, diabetes, lack of funding for certain programs and much more. Organizer Cindy George, a health reporter at the Houston Chronicle, said the importance of NABJ offering these types of events to members and non-members serves to make them more aware of their community and present story ideas.
“It helps you to have information that you might not have had and think of issues happening in your area in a different way,” said George, who also is NABJ's parliamentarian. “Coming to a conference like this helps people understand why things are happening and not just that they are happening. It helps you to frame stories so that they’re relevant to your communities and not just write about topics.”
George also tweeted live from the conference to inform even those who could not attend on key points made by panelists. Twitter played a big role in delivering information during the conference, using the hashtag “#NABJhealth.”
Tayla Holman, a student at Hofstra University and NABJ student member used the hashtag and her account to direct followers to her website taylaholman.com where she reflected on conference. Holman told her readers about the impact the panelists had on her and her career thus far.
“Not only do I have a couple of story ideas, but I also have a bunch of amazing new role models in the fields of journalism and health,” Holman wrote. “To be able to see and hear how passionate all of the panelists were made me want that for myself.”
The conference focused on health disparities and showed journalists how to report on health issues that have an impact in communities of color. Discussions ranging from the benefits of breastfeeding to insurance covering Viagra and vasectomies were shared throughout the social media world and among the journalists at the conference.
Mavis Baah, a freelancer at Essence Magazine, hopes young journalists in NABJ will take advantage of events and opportunities that the organization provides. A recent graduate, she said she and some of her friends want to see more journalists around their age actively involved in future conferences.
“It’s just so helpful and so informative,” Baah said. “Not only that, we built relationships with awesome journalists. I really hope that in the future more young people take advantage of these types of media institutes by NABJ.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Holman.
She tweeted: “I'm pretty sure I'm the youngest person at this conference. Kind of disappointed there aren't more students here. #NABJHealth"
George has begun planning topics for next year’s conference. She said this year’s conference served as a precursor for the Healthy NABJ seminar at this year’s convention in New Orleans. George said the audience’s positive reaction to the panelists and information is what she had hoped for.
“I’m really pleased about the kind of education that we can bring to our community,” George said. “We can give them information or help them think in a way that they otherwise would not have thought about if they had not attended the conference, so I’m very pleased that people left richer than they came.”
Naomi Prioleau is a freelance journalist and staff writer for Selig Multimedia Inc.
NABJ Media Institute on Health: Health Policy, Inequities Briefing
National Association of Black Journalists