PBMF workshop exposes youth to professional media

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by Malik Vincent

Students of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation’s Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop cleared the competitive application process to begin a rigorous, weeklong program that gears them toward becoming the field’s professionals of the future.

CLASS-OF-2010
CLASS OF 2010—Members of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation Workshop pose for their final photo before graduation.

This year, the 28th annual workshop was held on the campus of Point Park University from July 31-Aug. 7.

“I was very excited to see how, once again, the students have grown from day one (of the program) to the end of it, said PBMF President Tonita Davidson. They found their stories and developed them (independently). I can tell that most of the participants will go far.”

Throughout the week, the students sat through various seminars and panel discussions that pertain to what is done in the journalism practice. On the first evening of the workshop there was a group of alumni who returned and spoke to the students about their experiences afterward and gave insight on how to excel in the program. Most of them are currently working as journalists. Typically there are even some that volunteered as instructors.

“The biggest thing that I was pleased about this year was the returning alumni giving back to the workshop,” said workshop co-director Chris Moore. “Many of our alumni achieve personal success. To me, it is important when that is obtained and they reach back and give to the students.”

Aja Gaddie is one of those alumni who came back for the first time since participating in the workshop in 1997.

“I feel as though the workshop was extraordinary,” said Gaddie. “It was nice to see all of the volunteers that donated their time and expertise to help the students reach their goals for the week. I think that special recognition should go to Mr. Moore and Ms. George. They have been great facilitators who work with the students year after year and are here 24/7 with the kids as (residential) directors.”

Moore and Olga George are the co-directors of the program. They work closely together months before things take place, to plan, prepare for, and operate all components of each process.

It has four subdivisions (print, radio, television and web/photography) in which both members of the federation as well as other field professionals take part as instructors. The objective is to help the students produce a professional quality four-page newspaper, newscast and a website with blog posts, photos and a video report.

Briana Humphrey, 16, was the lone web/photo­graphy student in her first year. She will begin her senior year at Oakland Catholic High School this month.

“It was tough but it was a good learning experience,” said Humphrey. “It taught me to see pictures better in a different way. I did not before I got here, but I now am interested in photography.”

Humphrey also updated the workshop’s Facebook and Twitter pages on an hourly basis throughout the week.

“I’ll be going into English education when I go to college,” Humphrey said. “I feel like after this experience I’m now a better writer. I want to contribute to the school newspaper and participate in the film club as a result of my experience.”

The radio students made a full-length news program entitled “Urban Today” in which they worked with certain staff members of the American Urban Radio Networks and KQV AM 1410.

“This year we had two outstanding students who grasped the concept in only two hours,” said Brian Cook, who is a producer and reporter with AURN. “You could also tell that they were not made to do it, but they wanted to. I was very pleased.”

Moore and George also coordinate the television news­cast. Those students pick their report topics and four of them are assigned to anchor chairs. Two of them fill the first and second chair and the others are for sports and weather. They practice reading off the teleprompter and get acquainted with the set at Point Park’s studio. After that, they move to KDKA to do the final newscast.

Nexus Ransom was selected as one of the main anchors. This was her third year in the workshop and second as a television student. She is a graduate of Oliver High School and will attend Point Park in the fall, where she’ll major in Journalism.

“When I arrive at Point Park, I’d like to take the anchor’s chair with their television program,” said Ransom. “I thought it would be easier as time went on but it wasn’t. Ms. George pushed me extra hard this year. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have experienced the success that I have this week.”

The print students produced the Urban Agenda newspaper in which they brainstormed and came up with a wide variety of story ideas, set their interviews, and hit the field with the help of veteran coordinator Carmen Lee who is the communications officer and editor of h Magazine for the Heinz Endowments. The photography facilitator Richena Brockinson, who is also a workshop alumni, guided her students through the process of capturing and preparing them for final print.

Despite having great support of local media outlets, the workshop is still seeking more organizations to step forward and contribute to the program.

“KDKA has been a superb supporter of our program over the years, however, we would like for the other local television stations to increase their involvement,” urged Davidson.

Also, we’d like to strengthen how we advertise through the other news outlets. Our organization is grateful for the many contributions that it receives from its current partners. However, it will further the workshops progress if we increase these efforts.”

(Malik Vincent can be reached at malikvincent@gmail.com).

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