Send me to JAWS CAMP!

Attending the Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS) conference is a rewarding experience for a lot of reasons, including learning, inspiration, networking, friendship and fun. But articulating why your employer should pay for you to attend the annual Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) might require some hard facts. This memo gives you a few tips on making your case.

Remember when talking about CAMP to employers not to call it CAMP. Yes, we have fun and go to a scenic location, but it’s more than a getaway weekend. For your boss/supervisor, it is more strategic to refer to it as the Journalism and Women Symposium Conference and Mentoring Project and in second reference as “the conference.”


Here are some recommended steps for preparing your request.

  1. Write up a request to your supervisor based on some of the talking points below.
  2. Be specific about costs. A working estimate is $1,000 for registration and expenses depending on travel from your location. Knowing your place of business, you may prefer to request reimbursement for travel and registration or just one or some negotiated amount. In a lot of newsrooms where salaries are capped these days, negotiating to go to the JAWS conference might be seen as a good compromise and beneficial for both employee and employer.
  3. Include a suggested timeline for your promised brown bag or other follow up with the newsroom so you can share your learning.
  4. Are there any sessions at the conference or other elements that might generate something you can propose writing for your outlet? We will be posting the 2015 conference program as it develops on the website so keep an eye out for specific sessions that would apply.
  5. Ask for a time to discuss the request in person with your boss. If you have an informal newsroom, walk up and hand the request in writing directly to your supervisor and make your elevator pitch on the spot. Or get her out of the office for coffee to chat it up. Then back up the first pitch with an email. Your boss may need something written to take to her boss to get approval.


Here are some talking points that might be helpful to include in your memo:


The mission of Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS), started in 1985, is to support the professional empowerment and personal growth of women in journalism and work toward a more accurate portrayal of the whole society. That is important to every news organization that wants to accurately reflect their community in coverage, create a diverse workforce, and invest in their staff to do the best work possible.

What happens at CAMP?

The Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) will be taking place this year at the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, Mont., from Oct. 9 to 11. The annual JAWS conference focuses on strengthening core journalism skills, building personal brands and careers through social media, tech training, improving gender parity in our profession, empowering women in leadership and management, and encouraging a more accurate portrayal of the whole society. Participants will enjoy a dynamic weekend filled with practical training, inspiring speakers, motivating career development sessions and rewarding networking and mentoring opportunities. This year we also have a special daylong training in data visualization, an important skill for digital platforms. Keep an eye on the website for news about specific panels and programming that might be a great session for you to highlight with your boss.

How much does it cost?

The early bird rate for member registration, which includes all training and most meals for three days, is $345; the cost goes up to $375 after June 30. The hotel rates are very affordable: $87 per night for a single/double occupancy; $102 for triple occupancy. Airfares vary depending on location, but once at Glacier Park International Airport, the hotel provides a free shuttle.

Who comes to CAMP?

Over the past 30 years, many leading women have inspired CAMP attendees. Recent highlights include Jill Abramson, Executive Editor of The New York Times; Pulitzer Prize winner Sonia Nazario; Madeleine M. Kunin, former Governor of Vermont; Keesha Gaskins, Senior Counsel of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program; and Gloria Steinem, feminist, journalist, and social and political activist. Take a look at the CAMP page on our website to see details about past conferences and speakers and send your boss the link if that helps make your case. And if it’s helpful to have the names of newsroom managers who have sent staff to the conference before, we can provide you a list for the boss to call.

Who joins JAWS?

With 1,000 women in our community, we represent a wide swath of the journalism field. Our members are fresh out of school, deep into beat reporting and at the top of their fields. We work at The New York Times, Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Al Jazeera America, NBC, U.S. News & World Report, NPR, Missouri School of Journalism, Poynter Institute, and at countless news outlets, colleges and journalism institutions across the country. Here are a few of the spectacular women proud to be JAWS members:

  • Trailblazers Geneva Overholser, Jean Gaddy Wilson and Peg Simpson
  • Sports journalism icons Jeannie Morris and Melissa Ludtke
  • Feminist author Caryl Rivers and Women’s e-News founder Rita Henley Jensen
  • BlogHer Co-founder Lisa Stone
  • Famed AP court reporter Linda Deutsch
  • Columnist and commentator Mary C. Curtis
  • Media critic Alicia Shepard, former NPR Ombudsman
  • New York Times financial journalist and author Diana B. Henriques
  • Poynter faculty and leadership coach Jill Geisler

Why me and what can I bring back for you?

~ Journalism and Women Symposium provides a uniquely supportive network of mentors for journalists getting started. I would benefit from that mentoring over the three-day conference by connecting with experienced journalists who can coach and advise me.

~ The training is practical and useful, providing information and tools like Google apps, digital mapping, social media strategy, increasing reader interaction and source development that can be used on my beat and in my job. I can bring that learning back to my colleagues and organize a brown-bag lunch within two weeks of my return to share with my colleagues and create a multiplier effect.

~ The speakers are inspiring, providing great role models for journalists doing important investigative work that makes a difference. I aspire to do great journalism, and would like the opportunity to meet these trailblazers and disrupters so I can become one, too.

~ The connections made at CAMP continue all year, creating an ongoing support system for journalists once back in their home newsrooms. Being able to connect with other women in other newsrooms would help me learn best practices, improve my performance and become a role model for others.

~ The range of talent of CAMP attendees is impressive and many of these women are looking for their next career opportunity. I can help identify women who might be great additions to our own staff as an ambassador for our newsroom.

~ The mission of JAWS to accurately cover society resonates among all journalists, regardless of their beat or location or news medium. I can learn from others and specific training on diversity coverage and apply that ethic to my work.

~ The cost is reasonable and this is a worthwhile investment in my development. Compared with other conferences, the JAWS conference provides a wide range of training, including tech skills, investigative tips, writing coaching, leadership development and diversity training.


A note about freelancers coming to CAMP:

If you are an independent freelancer, think about possible articles you can either report from the conference or from Whitefish or Missoula. Environment stories? Politics? Follow up on Jon Krakauer’s recent book about campus sexual assaults that focuses on U of Montana? Also lots of interesting dinosaur research and digging in Montana.

If you make a good pitch with plenty of advance notice, you may find an outlet willing to cover all or most expenses, or the cost would be partially offset by the fee for the article.