By Justine Griffin, JAWS Board Member
The first time I attended the Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) was in Vermont in 2013. I had no idea what to expect, as I had never attended a JAWS event before or met an active member face-to-face.
I was directed to the website by a former college professor and was curious after I looked around the site for the first time. I was surprised to see photos of journalists at the annual conference dressed so casually. It didn’t seem like the regular professional meetings I’d attended before.
I applied to be an emerging fellow that year. I wouldn’t end up getting it, and honestly, I’m glad I didn’t.
Knowing I couldn’t afford to pay my own way, I approached the editorial staff at my newspaper, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. I made a strong pitch why I should go, what I could learn and how I could bring back new tools and knowledge to share with the rest of the women — and men — in our young newsroom.
They paid for my trip.
I had the freedom to attend the panels I wanted to and spend time getting to know many of the JAWdesses I am lucky to call friends and mentors now, two years later. When I returned to Florida after CAMP, I was inspired to do better work.
I can’t wait to attend my third CAMP in Montana this year.
If you need more reasons to join us, here are my top five reasons why CAMP is worth it.
Atmosphere: This is not your typical journalism conference. We wear what we want. We talk about what’s important, which is not always what’s popular. Best of all, we drink wine, do yoga and spend plenty of time in the hot tubs or exploring the unique host town. CAMP is truly a destination — from the gorgeous hotels that house us for a few days, to the friendships we make, to what we learn.
Panels: The JAWS community is full of many vibrant and talented journalists. I learn something new from every panel. Each one is interesting and relevant to the current state of the media.
Networking: If you’re in the market for a new job, CAMP is the place to be. Not only do we pair members with mentors through a yearlong coaching program, but some of the women you meet at CAMP could call you one day wanting to hire you.
Opportunities: CAMP is all about collaboration. Ideas are shared and constructive discussion is encouraged. At my first CAMP, my first big investigative story was nothing more than some garbled notes in my reporter’s notebook. With the guidance of some of the women I met at CAMP, it turned into a 15,000-word published narrative seven months later.
Community: This is perhaps the most important part of CAMP. When I went to CAMP for the first time in 2013, I didn’t know anyone. But I left feeling a part of the family. A year later, I joined the board.