Power Up Your Position: Major Keys From The #NABJRegionIIChi Conference

The greatest investment is always the one you make in yourself.

In my most recent post, I talked about my experience at my first NABJ Conference that I attended in Chicago and I’m back again with some major keys that I picked up. Enjoy!

On Money Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make in the Gig Economy

“You have to crawl before you walk.” – Micah Materre

Moderator: Micah Materre, WGN-TV Chicago

Panelists: Khoa X. Ho, Vice President of Investor Services of Ariel Investments and Darryl Newell, Vice President of Seaway Bank

So as we know, the world of journalism/writing/media is based on gig after gig. You have to hustle. You will switch jobs often unless you’re lucky enough to find stability. Regardless, you want to be as financially literate as you can. The panelists discussed everything from paying off student loans to investing in stocks. They said a journalist needs 3 things to survive in the gig economy, such as

A) Time on your side (start budgeting and saving early)

B) You need to be disciplined when it comes to spending.

C) You cannot succumb to momentary greed.

As far as debt, both panelists suggested tackling debt with the highest interest rate first. They also suggested getting a credit card that has the lowest interest rate as possible, as well as making at least two payments a month on your credit card bill to reduce your principle. If you are looking to build credit, they suggested on starting out with a secure credit card.

Other tips included:

  • Don’t spend more than 15% of your gross income (money after taxes are taken out) on consumer debt (loans, credit card debt, etc.)
  • No more than 28% of your gross income should be spent on housing. Fellow attendees shared tips on saving on housing in different places including searching on Craigslist for apartments of rooms in a home that have utilities included.
  • You should have at least 6 to 9 months of an emergency saved up and don’t be afraid to save for retirement once you save up.
  • When it comes to stocks, you should only invest in what you know. Think of yourself as a business partner whatever company you invest in. And remember, when you are investing, the results will not be fast.

On the Student and Early Career Journalist Forum


Tonya Francisco, Anchor/Reporter WGN-TV


Audrina Bigos, Reporter from CBS 2

George Lara, Director of Internships and Mentorships at Chicago Public Media

Leah Hope, Reporter from ABC7

Darleen Glanton, Columnist from the Chicago Tribune

This panel was all about ways to build a solid career in the ever-changing journalism world of journalism and some really great advice was given. Since (most)  internships are now legally mandated by federal law to be paid, that means they are even more scarce. Below are some tips on how to get your name out there.

“Start out small and gradually work your way up.” – Darleen Glanton

“Pitch. Pitch. PITCH. That’s how you get better.” – George Lara

“In this business, you are NOT a single entity, so stay connected.” – Tonya Francisco

Audrina Bigos, the youngest on the panel talked a little bit about ageism.

“Even though I am the youngest, I bring something to the table. So don’t be discouraged by your age, because experience outweighs that,” she said.

We also discussed the work that goes into getting a great story. Darleen Glanton said that “You have to be able to talk to people and try to grab the essence of who they are. Be apart of that community and dig.”

“Think about what is the best medium for this story.” – George Lara

“Remember that every story has a different pace and different emotion.” – Audrina Bigos

“Create stories within your lives, your families, your communities. Start small and develop your voice.” – Leah Hope.

One of the attendees in the room asked a question about journalists pursuing graduate school after receiving their bachelors. Here’s what our panelists had to say.

“Grad school is an option if you missed your opportunity in undergrad, such as internships.” – Tonya Francisco *personal opinion*

“More than a degree, they want to see your experience.” – Leah Hope

“A lot of times, its fear that makes people go to grad school. If you’re driven by fear, turn that fear into action.” – Audrina Bigos.

 On New Jobs In The Digital Age and What You Need to Get Them

Moderator: Art Norman, from NBC 5

Natasha Alford, Deputy Editor of TheGrio.com

Kathy Chaneym Managing Editor-Print of EBONY Magazine

Felecia Henderson, Assistant Managing Editor of the Detroit News

Arionne Nettles Digital Managing Editor of the Chicago Defender

*Special guest: Dr. Renee Ferguson

This panel was full of Black Girl Magic and by far my favorite. You can watch the Facebook Live recording I did of it by clicking this link here.

Some major keys:

“Learn how to do everything, and learn the business side of the business.” – Kathy Chaney

“Understand all platforms. Be comfortable in WordPress and other content managing systems.” – Arionne Nettles

“Success has many different paths, it does not look the same for every person.” – Dr. Renee Ferguson

I’m so grateful to have been able to attend this conference. There is nothing more inspiring than being in the same room as those who started exactly where I am as a student of the craft and to see them excel and progress in their own ways. ♥

Were you at the #NABJRegionIIChi Conference? 

What did you learn while there? 

Who did you connect with?

Make sure you either answer in the comments or tweet me your feedback @KiaSmithWrites

My First NABJ Conference


Because nothing is better than your first time.


I had wrestled with the idea of going to this conference for weeks, ever since I saw some Facebook friends attend another one in D.C. earlier this summer that left me feeling jealous because not only do I love D.C., but the people they were meeting and assumed connections they were making made feel as if I was missing out on something important, my purpose. 

My relationship with journalism was indeed a difficult one. I have always struggled about whether or not it was something I truly wanted to pursue. And if so, what type of journalist did I want to be? I never felt like I fit in with what I call “traditional” journalism (the people you see on the news) and after a bad experience with my school’s newspaper a couple years ago, I knew news writing was something I had no desire to do either. 

Creative by nature, I’ve always enjoyed writing stories about anything that crossed my mind and the older I got, I became interested in blogging about topics that interest me. If you truly know Kia, whether it is in real life or based off of an online relationship then you know I’m opinionated and passionate about well….everything. 

Upon entering college, my relationship with NABJ has not been as consistent as it should’ve been. I haven’t been an active member in almost 2 years due to other obligations and other leadership involvement on my campus but with my fifth year of college rolling around, I decided I wanted to become a due paying member again. 

For those that are not aware, NABJ stands for National Association of Black Journalists and was founded December 12, 1975 by 44 men and women in Washington D.C. It is the largest organization of journalists of color in the world. For more information, visit nabj.org

When the current NABJ of my school’s chapter told us about the upcoming Region 2 conference on finance in Chicago, I knew I had to go. 

Luckily, this conference was only a 5 hour drive from my school and with me actually being from Chicago, I didn’t have to deal with outlandish hotel fees like many of my counterparts. The next two weeks leading up to the conference were dedicated to figuring out what I was wearing, updating my resume and putting in an order for business cards. 

Bright and early on Saturday morning, I boarded the red line to an unfamiliar part of downtown Chicago. It was raining this day, and I was honestly in a terrible mood but I pressed forward knowing that I was meant to be here.

Official like a whistle.

Walking into the Medill School of Journalism, I immediately felt a sense of being home. So many bright and beautiful black and brown faces both young and old greeted me warmly and made sure I knew where to go.
The first session was called Money Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make In The Gig Economy. It was facilitated  by Micah Materre who is a WGN Anchor in Chicago featuring panelists Khoa X. Ho, Vice President of Investor Services at Ariel Investments and Darryl Newell who is the Vice President of Seaway Bank.
Since this panel was all about money management for journalists, we learned plenty of information regarding savings, credit cards, and stocks and bonds. So much priceless information was given in this session and I even got a photo with Micah Materre!
She was so nice and personable!
The next panel, entitled Student and Early Career Journalist Forum was moderated by Tonya Francisco, who is a anchor and reporter on WGN-TV. This panel featured Audrina Bigos a reporter from CBS 2, George Lara who is the Director of Internships and Mentorships for Chicago Public Media, Leah Hope a reporter from ABC7 and last but not least Darleen Glanton, a columnist from the Chicago Tribune. In another post, I will go more in depth about what I learned in each session, because the jewels dropped in this session were too precious NOT to share!
The SIUC Chapter of NABJ
Art Norman and I, a legendary news reporter (with an AMAZING voice LOL) from NBC 5
 My most FAVORITE part of the whole conference was the panel entitled New Jobs in the Digital Age and What You Need to Get Them. It was moderated by Art Norman and was FULL of amazing and accomplished black WOMEN.♥♥♥
So much Black Girl Magic: Dr. Renee Ferguson, Natasha Alford, Kathy Chaney, Felecia Henderson, and Arionne Nettles. 
I heard these women speak and I knew that was table I wanted to have a seat at one day.
Much love to Kathy Chaney 

What truly warmed my heart was being in a room full of educated and passionate journalists of color, who were either just starting out in the business or veterans in this business.The advice that was given, the knowledge that was dropped! I can’t wait to share with you all about that but in the mean time… let me just revel in my moment.

This conference helped me figure out that my voice does indeed matter and that there is a place for me in the world of journalism and there are professional people in this world who know exactly how I feel and want to see me make it.

Moral of the story: The best investment you’ll ever make in life is always the investment you’ll make in yourself.