Annual journalism conference aims to change student perspective

The fourth annual journalism conference will start on Friday, March 4 and continue until March 5 where the Journalism in the Public Interest program and The Campus present “Welcome the Stranger,” an integral part of religious practices and cultural traditions around the world.

“Welcome the Stranger: Stories of Immigrants and Refugees in the 21st Century” will feature presentations from David Gilkey, photographer and video editor for National Public Radio; Carrie Kahn, independent correspondent in Mexico City for National Public Radio; and Dijana Muminovic, an independent photojournalist.

The conference will address the issues of immigration and refugees but also collaborate across campus disciplines while bringing in students and professors from Ohio University, the University of Mississippi and other schools.

Conference participants will work alongside professional journalists and team up to report on refugees and immigrants who now call Erie home.

Muminovic, who grew up in Bosnia during the war, has been looking forward to coming and speaking at the conference this year.

“I think I’m most excited about sharing the story that has been with me for a really long time. It has been something I wanted to share for quite some time,” Muminovic said. “I’ve been trying to find many ways to share my story.”

Rich Sayer, a standard staff photographer for the Oil City Derrick, teamed up with Allegheny College’s assistant professor of journalism, Cheryl Hatch, a few years back to help create the first conference.

He said that people should come to the conference because there is an importance in learning what journalism is about today.

“Right now it’s never been more important to understand what journalism is,” Sayer said. “Cell phones and blogs are putting up info without much thought now so there is a lot of missed info out there along with people who don’t know the true ethics of journalism.”

Stan Alost, a professor in the school of communication at Ohio University, has been helping with organizing the conference for three years.

He mentioned the opportunity of being around so many people with different voices.

“It is a phenomenal opportunity for students to get to work with not just their normal professors, but you got a team of great mentors from all over the country who give these students a chance to help them with what they’re doing and help them make it better,” Alost said. “You can’t beat those opportunities.The number of voices the students get to hear and the help from students from other schools gives them all a chance to meet and share ideas.”

Muminovic believes people should come for the experience of meeting a lot of different people and the potential bond you could get to share with them.

“When you mix schools and people, magical things happen,” said Muminovic. “You become inspired and encouraged and you receive tiny pieces from everybody’s story and experience. You suck in all the knowledge you can in a few days and if this didn’t happen it could take you years to receive information like this from a job, class

or an internship.”

Sayer said that the theme of the conference is relevant to current events and that his goals for the conference remain high for the student participants.

“You know, it’s a big news story now. People fleeing eastern Europe trying to get out of oppressed situations looking for places to live. There’s a guy running for president who says you can’t come here. This story is politically charged and it’s important to get it out there. These are actually people here. And good people,” Sayer said.

Muminovic said there will be a lot for students and professionalsx to take away from the conference.

“I think what Cheryl is doing is taking a global issue and localizing it, performing for people in a way and letting them know what’s going on,” Muminovic said. “Speakers are sharing their stories and you are going to walk away with their experiences. I feel like people are going to walk away with having the feel to what it means to perhaps be a stranger or to be surrounded by strangers and have a different outlook on that.”

The conference will begin on Friday, March 4 with a presentation by David Gilkey at 7:30 p.m. titled “No Quarter: Fleeing War, Seeking Shelter.” On Saturday, March 5, the conference will continue, beginning with Muminovic’s “I’m a Refugee” presentation at 10:30 a.m. followed by Kahn’s “La Migración: Latin America’s Migration Crisis” at 2 p.m. Lastly, at 7:30 p.m. the students of Allegheny College, Ohio University, Point Park University and the University of Mississippi will be presenting “Welcome the Stranger.”

Along with the presentations, students along with their mentors, will work on their multimedia projects, which include a variety of news stories and photos, throughout the course of the day.

All events will take place in the Vukovich Center and are free and open to the public.