TPA Sponsors Five JEM Students to Attend Annual Convention
School of Journalism and Electronic Media students, from left, Ellie Williamson, Faith Applewhite-Rowland, Erick Gomez-Villeda, Kylie Berry and Peyton Gravell embarked on a road-trip to the Tennessee Press Association Winter Convention in Nashville. Photo by Michael T. Martinez
Every year, the Tennessee Press Association sponsors college students interested in the field of journalism to attend its winter convention. This year, five School of Journalism and Electronic Media (JEM) students were the beneficiaries of scholarships that allowed them to travel to Nashville in February and experience the convention and the networking it facilitates. Those five students are: Erick Gomez-Villeda, Ellie Williamson, Faith Applewhite-Rowland, Peyton Gravell, and Kylie Berry.
“What I thought was particularly valuable was that they heard from working professionals and not just from professors in classrooms and they were able to talk to and hear from people who were actually doing it and what they face in the field,” said Michael Martinez, an assistant professor of practice for JEM.
For Gomez-Villeda, a senior pursuing a career in photojournalism, the convention was brimming with opportunities for him to connect with experienced professionals in the field. He said he was impressed with the speakers, especially a former Associated Press photographer who gave a talk about how to take good photos with a cellphone camera—a session with plenty of great tips that Gomez-Villeda said he brought back and shared with other photojournalism students.
Besides learning new skills and perspectives at the TPA convention, Gomez-Villeda ran into Mike Sisco, editor of the Maryville Daily Times, which ended up being a fruitful encounter.
“I did my practicum at the Maryville Daily Times and Mike Sisco was there speaking and he offered me a freelance spot. I was very flattered because I wasn’t expecting to get anything like that. So that was just another opportunity I was given,” Gomez-Villeda said.
He said CCI has provided a lot of ways for him to get hands-on experience, including sponsorship to travel to and attend a conference through the National Press Photographers Association. He has also worked for the Daily Beacon as a sports photojournalist and now as a photo editor.
“In the last year there’s been a lot of opportunities that have been put in front of me. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do some of these things without CCI, so I am grateful for those opportunities,” Gomez-Villeda said.
Martinez said interacting with actual journalists who have years of experience and plenty of connections in the field can be invaluable for students about to embark on their new careers.
“We in academe can speak ‘til we’re blue in the face about what life is like in the trenches and it doesn’t sink in, whereas these students heard from people who are actually doing it. They heard about current, topical things, like how they’re trying to deal with disinformation, for example, and the ethical implications of it,” Martinez said. “Being exposed to a conference, to a professional conference, is a whole lot different from academia. And the students were able to see what that’s like—that once you get out in a working world you can be a part of this and get together to network and brainstorm and talk about current trends.”