CJA associate board brings award-winning journalists to second networking event of 2016

For the first time since its formation nearly three years ago, the Chicago Journalists Association’s associate board added a second networking event to its calendar of yearly activities.

Along with taking non-journalism side jobs, the Chicago Tribune’s Peter Nickeas encourages the students and recent grads to read fiction as a way to help with one’s creative process. Photo credit: Stephanie Choporis

Coming off of a successful event at the Billy Goat Tavern in May, the group held its back-to-school-themed night for college students and recent graduates at the South Loop’s M Lounge on Thursday, Oct. 6.

CJA associate board chairman, Stephanie Choporis, said she wanted to keep the momentum going and, if possible, come back with an even bigger and better lineup of professional journalists. With some help from her organization, she thinks they may have achieved that goal.

The night featured the following professionals: Anthony Ponce (Backseat Rider podcast, formerly NBC), Peter Nickeas (Chicago Tribune), Bill Moller (WGN Radio), Andrea Watson (DNAinfo), Kurt Gessler (Chicago Tribune) and Liz Stanton (Kartemquin Films).

Former NBC reporter-turned-podcast creator, Anthony Ponce (right), gives advice to a DePaul University graduate student. Photo credit: Stephanie Choporis

“I’ve been excited about each group of journalists we’ve had for these events, but I was particularly excited about this group,” Choporis said. “I thought we did a great job representing different mediums and folks who are dabbling in non-traditional yet interesting journalism routes.”

The intimate night followed a similar format to previous networking events, where mingling preceded a Q & A panel. Roughly 10 aspiring journalists from schools across the Chicago area – including DePaul University, Northwestern University and College of DuPage – came out to heed the professionals’ advice. Choporis said she keeps the groups small so guests have plenty of one-on-one time with the journalists.

Liz Stanton of Kartemquin Films (left) and award-winning broadcast journalist, Bill Moller, chat shortly before the Q & A discussion. Photo credit: Stephanie Choporis.

As students scribbled in notebooks, Ponce, who recently quit his reporter/anchor position at NBC to become a full-time Lyft driver and podcast creator, kicked off the panel discussion with the first big piece of advice.

“Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger,” he said about pursuing unconventional options.

The conversation covered a variety of topics from accuracy vs. deadline to properly approaching sources. Despite changing mediums, Stanton said knowing how to interview will remain constant.

Gessler thinks the current state of journalism is losing certain elements, such as earning trust from sources and spending time with them. Nickeas recommended taking non-journalism side jobs to better relate to people.

The event marked the associate board’s third networking event in the past two years. Next on the group’s agenda is a trip to Social Media Week to learn about the latest social technologies.

“I’m really proud of the activities we’ve partaken in throughout the year,” Choporis said. “I want to continue offering these kinds of opportunities to Chicago-area journalism students.”

The associate board currently consists of 16 college students and recent graduates from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, DePaul University, Columbia College Chicago, Augustana College, Southern Illinois University and North Central College. Membership is free.

Students or recent graduates interested in joining should contact Choporis at stephanie@chicagocja.wpcomstaging.com for more information.