It was a restless night full of twisting and turning but, when I did finally wake up, I knew the first official day of the conference was finally here. Although anticipation caused me to lose a little sleep, I hustled out of bed in excitement, got dressed and practically ran out of the dorm as I scrambled to make my way to the dining hall on the George Mason University campus.
When I entered the room, there was an array of dining booths set up to accommodate the abundance of students participating at the WJMC. All of the National Youth Correspondents mingled and ate amongst ourselves, taking advantage of being able to socialize outside of our assigned “color groups.” This gave me a better idea of the type of people, my peers, who are also attending the conference. Once I finished my meal, I started off towards the buses along with the rest of the group. Today we were to head to the Newseum–a historic building in Washington DC containing various news industry memorabilia, with some highlighting the evolution of media throughout the years. We proceeded through all of the exhibits, participating in various games that tested our skills and abilities as a journalist, as well as a fully automated news cast simulator that allowed us to act as a real field reporter covering a specific story for a news station. Once we finished our expedition through the history of news-making, we headed off toward the White House. It was hard to contain my excitement!
However, that excitement took a bit of a left turn as, once we arrived at the White House entrance, security and police pushed all citizens (including our group) away from the premises due to a motorcade entering the area. So, unfortunately, we were unable to take our group picture today. However, another opportunity to visit the White House may present so hopefully that photograph will appear in a blog post later this week.
After that minor itinerary shift at the White House, we headed off to hear presentations from Jamie Smith, an Executive VP of Media Strategies for Edelman, and Michael Shear, a White House Correspondent for the New York Times. They educated the group about various journalism techniques and strategies commonly utilized in the White House. Their speeches were very insightful, and I learned how to decipher the “good” jobs from the “bad,” as well as the ability to leverage my interests to my professional advantage.
After the presentations, we headed off to dinner at Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant that serves meals family style. Today happened to be my 16th birthday, so all of my peers banned together and sang me “Happy Birthday,” which was a really special and unexpected moment. After dinner, our last outing of the evening led to a Twilight Monument Tour through which we viewed several different monuments scattered across Washington DC. I gazed upon the likes of the: World War Two Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Each monument employed various quotes to spur an emotional response felt in the hearts of all who read them, most certainly including me.
After a long and productive day, and on my 16th birthday, I have reflected on much about myself and my future career choice of broadcast journalism. While I learned a great deal today, ringing in my ears are the words of Michael Shear from his presentation earlier on, when he said “access is everything.” Today was a good day. A very good day indeed.