New York Press Club hosts 27th annual Foundation Conference to discuss the evolving media industry

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Ayse Kelce | The Ticker

Ayse Kelce

The 27th Annual New York Press Club Foundation Conference on Journalism took place in New York University Kimmel Center. 

Reporters and editors from various local and national publications attended the conference along with college students and freelancers. Throughout the day, experienced reporters shared their perspectives on concepts concerning the media industry.

The theme of the plenary panel was media’s responsibility in 2020 elections. The panel moderator Ethan Harp, senior writer for “Cuomo Prime Time,” raised questions about the coverage of the upcoming elections. 

The four panelists include Ruby Cramer, a political reporter for BuzzFeed News, Michael Calderone, senior media reporter at Politico, Harry Siegel who is a senior editor at The Daily Beast and columnist at the New York Daily News and Zack Fink, NY1’s state house reporter.

The panelists agreed that the number of Democratic presidential candidates made it more confusing to cover the elections, but once the initial candidate is decided, the media can better focus on more detailed reporting. They also highlighted that they observed an increase in public engagement with the media after the 2016 elections. 

Cramer mentioned that they had a team in charge of covering the candidates in BuzzFeed News newsroom, and each person was usually assigned to cover certain candidates.

Cramer covered Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, traveling all around the country.

There were two breakout sessions after the first main panel, and the attendees were given the chance to choose from three different panels for each session.

The panels for the first breakout session were: “Local News: Anybody Have a Watchdog in This Fight?” and “Turning Your Reporting into a Book and Workin’ It: Making It as a Freelancer.”

“Workin’ It: Making It as a Freelancer” was moderated by Debra Caruso Marrone, president and owner of DJC Communications, and the panelists were Hannah Bae, Joe Finora and Amanda FitzSimons.

All of the panelists had newsroom experience before starting as a freelance journalist, and they agreed that the experience and the name that come with a previous newsroom job helped them in their freelance career.

The panel focused on ways of presenting work as a freelancer, how to reach out to editors and format an effective story pitch. They highlighted the importance of using social media platforms and creating a website for self-marketing as a freelancer.

The second breakout sessions hosted panelists who worked for various news organizations; The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Information and Yahoo Finance to name a few. The panels included “NYPC Award Winners: How They Did It,” “Making Data a Routine Part of Your Beat” and “My Next Move: Career Advancement Advice.”

“My Next Move: Career Advancement Advice” also highlighted the importance of having a website to show written and visual work to potential employers.

Panelists advised the attendees to keep in mind the style and the vision of the publication they are interviewing to work for and prepare accordingly. After the second breakout session, The Peter O.E. Bekker Scholarships were given to Sarah Spoon and Leo DeLuca, both from the Columbia
University Graduate School of Journalism.

The New York Press Club President’s Award was given to Rich Lamb, for his long and remarkable journalism career.

Azi Paybarah, Metro reporter at The New York Times, was on stage with 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner Russ Buettner of The New York Times for the keynote discussion.

Buettner won the Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting with a story about President Donald Trump’s finances and taxes with his colleagues Susanne Craig and David Barstow.

Paybarah started the conversation with an entertaining question; he said that he covered a story on a lost bodega cat on the same month Buettner published his Pulitzer-winning story, and asked Buettner how he got his assignment.

The discussion continued on the process of the investigative story that took 18 months to complete. Buettner said that only the fact-checking period of the story took eight weeks, and they had thousands of pages of tax documents that belonged to the Trump family. The story revealed that President Trump was not a self-made billionaire.

When Paybarah asked Buettner how did it feel to hold onto such an important, explosive information for so long, Buettner answered “It made me feel really old.”

“My impulse is to hold onto something and so, you know exactly what it means. And you sort of maximize the potential of that information,” he said about the long process of gathering information and revealing the award-winning story.

“It was a weird thing internally at the paper,” Buettner said about the privacy of the project they were working on. “Just keeping a secret internally was a bit of a challenge.”

“The stakes were so high, if something gets out, one of the principals finds out what we were working on; it kind of changes the game,” he said.

At its conclusion, Alicia Venter, a student journalist who attended the event, tweeted “Thank you to @NYPressClub for holding your conference this weekend at the NYU Kimmel Center. As a uni freshman who is a student journalist, I was given very in-depth and accurate information on how to pursue my career.”