Should student journalists be treated like any other professionals at a national conference?
Over the weekend, six delegates from The Concordian made their way to NASH: an annual conference for student journalists. Boasting speakers such as Peter Mansbridge, Lisa LaFlamme, Terry Milewski, Laurie Graham, Chris Jones and more, the conference—and subsequent JHM Awards—could be seen as a formal, professional event.
The black-tie formal wear of the gala would seem to say so, as would the long list of prestigious journalists. However, at its core, NASH is a conference for students: specifically, university students. With that in mind, can a “young professional” conference truly be professional at all?
The schedule included bar nights, and drinks were offered at all the meals and keynote addresses. The hashtag on Twitter (#nash77) seemed to hint more at tomfoolery than any kind of gravitas.
The deciding factor may have been hidden at the bottom of our welcome bags: two bright red, solitary condoms. These were also included in last year’s gift bags, paired with a few dental dams.
We readily admit that our masthead is divided. Was it appropriate to give condoms to university students at a “professional” conference?
On one hand, the conference was not intended for professionals; it was a student conference. And if you get a large gathering of university students together, at an event that has billed social events at bars, where everyone will be staying in one hotel, doesn’t it make sense to provide condoms? At best it’s a preventative measure, at worst, a tongue-in-cheek joke about the nature of college events.
At the same time, it could undermine the image of those who are attending the conference, and the conference itself. How can one expect the conference to be taken seriously if it includes sex items in loot-bags? Are these really young professionals ready to enter the workplace, or party-obsessed teenagers who still need a lesson on safe sex? Why would professional speakers come to a conference that is billed as the “hook-up” event of journalism—especially when organizers acknowledge that aspect so blatantly?
At what point are we students, doing what students naturally do, or young, professional journalists, deserving to be treated as such? There may not be a perfect middle ground; especially where sex is concerned.