Students attend national conference


Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein greet MediaFest22 attendees on Oct. 28.

Emmy Hardy, Copy Editor

Dallas College newsroom staff and students attended a special event in Washington, D.C., Oct. 26-30. Over the course of four days, journalists from Brookhaven, Richland, North Lake and Eastfield campuses attended MediaFest22, a prestigious journalism convention for professionals and student journalists.

From the retired editor to the freshman photographer, workshops were available for everyone.

The convention was held in the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel. Starting at 9 a.m., students and staff could attend their choice of workshops and roundtables. These meetings covered a variety of topics such as fact-checking sources, design tricks and tips, and even how to spread news through Instagram reels.

In a session focused on the history of women in journalism, freelance writer Jody Beck spoke candidly about struggling to find success in male-dominated newsrooms. Beck emphasized the importance of continuing to fight for equality and representation. She provided attendees with valuable sources to help them do so such as JAWS (The Journalism and Women Symposium).

In another workshop, professor Andrea Hickerson, dean of the school of journalism and new media at the University of Mississippi, warned attendees of the dangers of deep fake (synthetic media used to replace or insert something, usually a person, in video or audio) technology, both to the general public and to journalists in particular.

Halfway through the session, Hickerson revealed the DeFake Project prototype. This is an in-development digital program designed by Hickerson in conjunction with other credited academics and tech experts that will not only detect whether a video is faked, but will discern the specific false or real aspects of a video.

One of the hardest challenges when exposing deep fakes is finding out what percentage of the reviewed content is real or fake. The DeFake Project seeks to eliminate this challenge by using advanced artificial intelligence to pinpoint and expose all kinds of digital manipulation techniques.

Hickerson ended the session by once again warning attendees of the dangers of deep fakes and similar technology, asserting that journalists as a group must start to develop more technical knowledge if they are to ever combat this new threat to the truth.

Outside of the more personalized experiences of the workshops, a daily keynote was held at 11 a.m.. These keynotes boasted prolific names in the journalism world, such as John Quinones of ABC News, Darlene Superville, White House reporter, and more.

The most anticipated event of the convention featured none other than Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two reporters who famously helped break the Watergate Scandal, and were later immortalized in the film adaptation of their story, “All The President’s Men,” in which the two were portrayed by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman respectively.

Throughout the interview, Woodward and Bernstein (collectively referred to as “Woodstein”) reminisced over the Watergate scandal, and how it affected journalism as an institution. The two asserted that people want to tell the truth and it is the job of journalists to provide a conduit through which that truth may be expressed.

They also repeatedly highlighted their publisher at the time, Katharine Graham, without whose effort none of their successes would have been possible.

Toward the end of the interview, Woodward and Bernstein moved on to more modern topics, namely controversies surrounding former President Donald Trump. Mincing no words, the two reporters firmly labeled Trump as a “criminal” and “seditious” president. Woodward and Bernstein concluded the interview with promises of further investigation into the former president and his affairs.

“MediaFest22 was an important experience for me as a student journalist,” said Andrea Olan, a copy editor with The Courier, “Having the opportunity to network with professionals was my favorite part of the conference. The different workshops given have improved my skills as a journalist too. I met wonderful people and connected with people in the newsroom.”

Dallas College student publications received multiple awards at the event. Former Brookhaven Courier editor-in-chief Desiree Gutierrez won for “Newspaper Front Page” under the design of the year category. Staff photographer Brandon Donner earned an honorable mention in “Environmental Portrait” in the photo of the year category.

The Brookhaven Courier scored sixth place in “ACP Best of Show” in the newspaper/newsmagazine, two-year campus category.