Eleven members of Policy Perspectives staff attended the National Journal Conference hosted by the Virginia Policy Review at the University of Virginia on Saturday, April 7, also attended by Cornell University, the University of Maryland, and the College of William and Mary. A few Policy Perspectives staff members give their impressions of the conference below.
Marissa Esthimer, Policy Perspectives Associate Editor: As a policy communications professional and a budding researcher, I came away from the conference full of great ideas to carry into my work. What has stuck with me most is the discussion about the power of constructive journalism, which gave me renewed hope for facts and reasoning in an era of “fake news.” I also enjoyed learning about the intersections of local, state, and federal policymaking in the area of education, from three leaders who have seen everything. Plus, it was great connecting with journal staff from other schools (I was happy to see students from my undergrad alma mater, Cornell, represent!). Hope to be back next year!
Cory Lancaster, Brief Policy Perspectives Staff Writer: Last weekend our Policy Perspectives staff attended the UVA National Journal Conference! It was such an incredible experience! I learned a billion new things. For example, did you know that Russian bots were responsible for the #notmypresident hashtag and protest? Or that psychometrics teaches the theory and technique of psychological measurement using artificial intelligence? Or that Facebook bears no cost for the journalism it earns advertising revenue off of, or that the primary way to combat algorithmic content targeting is information literacy? Well, I bet you knew that you should be shameless in your thirst for knowledge. We learned, laughed, and shared ideas with some of the most esteemed academic journals in the world. Not bad for a Saturday in rural Virginia.
Megan Mattson, Brief Policy Perspectives Executive Editor: We had a great day out at the conference. It was wonderful to connect with other schools and celebrate what each outlet is contributing to the world of public policy publications. What surprised me most about this conference is how often I have talked about it since going. We heard from a variety of speakers on a smattering of topics. I thought about constructive journalism. How can outlets focus on solutions instead of problems? This requires investigative journalism to dig into the solutions and how they may or may not work, which authors outside of the policy sphere should do. I thought about fake news and how little people across parties communicate online. How can we better that and provide a common ground for people to talk about modern issues? I thought about what makes news compelling to a reader. Strong emotions, both negative and positive, are compelling, and anger is more compelling than sadness. How do we as writers appeal to this without taking advantage of readers? I will apply the lessons I learned from the conference in my Policy Perspectives work and beyond.
Jennifer Spangler, Brief Policy Perspectives Deputy Editor: This year’s National Journal Conference was a fascinating intersection of many of my interests as a blog editor, including politics, policy, and strategic communications. The topics were timely and thought-provoking, and the conference speakers had each made impressive contributions to their chosen fields. I appreciated that the conference not only offered students the opportunity to learn from these experienced individuals, but also to learn from one another. Students from each of the represented schools were very supportive of one another’s work, and we were all eager to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work that we all do to produce our journals, blogs, and podcasts. The conference also renewed my appreciation for student organizations, such as Policy Perspectives, that allow students to explore their interests and contribute to something greater than themselves while attending school.