Friday, September 28, 2012

On The Ground: John Chidley-Hill on the Fast Break conference

Here's the third and final companion interview to this piece, with John Chidley-Hill of The Canadian Press, who helped put the Fast Break conference together. This is the one that particularly motivated me to run these separately, as John had a lot of great things to say about the conference that I wasn't able to squeeze into the story. To me, it's very important to see these kinds of conferences, and they're a terrific idea, so I wanted to make sure John's comments on them in somewhere. I got on-the-record responses from John to four questions: What was your role in putting this together? How do you think it went? Are these sorts of events useful for young journalists?How'd Jones' comments sound in person? Here's what he had to say.

What was your role in putting this together?

Nadine [Liverpool] and I are both graduates of Centennial's sports journalism program and we sit on the Program Advisory Council as alum. She brought up the idea of doing a conference for aspiring sports journalists at one of the PAC meetings and I tried my best to chip in and help. Program director Malcolm Kelly, dean Nate Horrowitz, some of the current students and a couple other alum pitched in too.

My main contribution though was inviting Julie Scott -- my boss at CP -- to be one of the panelists. I did some other stuff in the background, but really, this was Nadine's baby. She did the heavy lifting.

How do you think it went?

I think it went really well. All four panelists were really articulate and they had the crowd hanging on their words.

I'm kind of obsessed with people's creative process -- no matter what their field -- so it was cool hearing the very different stories of how Chris, Akil, Julie and Tas broke in to the industry. I've been in the business three short years and I definitely learned some things.

When the speakers were done there was a networking hour for the audience to speak with the panelists one-on-one and that was also really interesting. All four speakers had lengthy lineups and ended up staying for hours to speak. I'm sure some of those students learned some valuable lessons in those one-on-ones.

Hell, some students even asked me questions about breaking in and I met some great young journalists.

Are these sorts of events useful for young journalists?

I think that, like anything in life, it's what you make of it. If you paid attention, asked some questions and tried to apply the talk to your own budding career, it was invaluable. If you goofed off and didn't think hard on what was being said, you missed out.

Same goes for the networking portion of the night. The students who went up to the panelists and made a good impression will probably see that connection pay off in the long run. Maybe not a job, but the admiration of a peer and the experience of saying "Hey, I had a really great conversation with Tas Melas and got some great ideas for my podcast."

How'd Jones' comments sound in person?

I thought Chris made some great points on the panel -- really, all four guests did.

I agree with him that being polite and friendly is a key networking skill. There's no point in saying to me "I want your job" because, well, I like putting bread on my table. I'm going to be less inclined to help you out if your approach is to basically threaten me. Saying "Hey, can I ask you about your experience? What would you have done differently? What advice can you give me?" will go much, much further.

I think Chris' point was that sports journalism is a very small corner of a very small industry and if you turn someone off -- either by unfairly criticizing them or by being overly aggressive or rude or whatever -- you're going to make your own life more difficult.

Like I said above, I've only been at this for three years but already I have friends and colleagues at a bunch of different outlets (like, say, Yahoo! Sports). If I'm asked my opinion on someone, I'm going to be honest about my impression. Surely an aspiring journalist wants that to be a GOOD impression?

Thanks to John for the time. He's a highly recommended follow on Twitter here.

1 comment:

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