by Dan Hill
My first gig in a professional newsroom was as a high school sports intern answering phones and typing box scores to appear deep in the sports section of The Sacramento Bee. I was thrilled to be pursuing my journalism dreams in a newsroom, and I jumped at the opportunity when staff writer Bobby Calvan told the interns about a summer journalism camp for high school students.
AAJA JCamp in Chicago 2008 launched my reporting career. Working journalists trained me to interview and write on deadline. A business card collection contest introduced me to professional networking. I listened to speakers from the biggest news organizations who also started out answering phones in newsrooms. Learning alongside 42 other talented high school reporters from different backgrounds opened my eyes and for the first time I considered the necessity of diverse newsrooms, the role of my race and my responsibilities.
I ended up joining two other students from my JCamp class at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. As I continued my training at one of the top journalism schools, AAJA kept me mindful of the need for reporters who reflect their communities. The networking I learned at JCamp helped me connect with mentors and experts as I honed my interests in data journalism and web development.
I made more connections with motivated peers from around the world on the AAJA Voices student news staff at the 2011 Detroit convention. AAJA student programs helped me earn internships that paved the way for my career in data journalism. Now I play with computers in a newsroom for a living thanks in part to my AAJA mentors.
AAJA programs have helped me at each step, and I’m excited to help upcoming students launch their journalism journey.
Dan Hill is a staff member of The Texas Tribune. He builds data interactives and maintains the massive Tribune government salaries database. Want to be a future Dan Hill? JCamp 2014 is accepting applications now