West Coast Pop: Observations from NABJ 2010

♦ The Things We Do For Our Dreams…♦

Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be

—George Sheehan

SAN DIEGO (JSC) — I have spent the better part of the last seven years of my life trying to figure out who I am, what I want to do, and where I’m headed. I turn 31 in less than six weeks, and I have held all of two jobs that paid me more than $8.50 an hour and only one of them offered me any kind of benefits. I have lived most of the last 11 years with a hideous sense of regret that I may have, for lack of a gentler term, fucked up my one legit shot at building a great career when I bailed out of Journalism because I thought my shit smelled like spring daises and cinnamon and refused to take the criticism of my journalism instructor at Michigan State in 1999. I have felt like I basically have been playing catch up ever since that day I angrily stormed out of that classroom. Those who know me, know my struggle and how this has eaten away at me. Well, over the last two years I have been doing a ton of catching up and this week has seen the most forward movement I have made as a journalist since 1996. As you see from the Dateline, I am checking in from the left coast. San Diego. The home of beaches, the Chargers, Rey Mysterio Jr., and Jayo Felony. Let’s Go.

When I decided to go back to get my Master’s Degree in 2007, I essentially had no clue of how this whole thing would turn out. By that point, I was a couple of months removed from the disastrous end of my time in Lansing and then subsequently getting dicked by Radio One when they suddenly reneged on hiring me. I knew I wanted to stay in radio, but dammit if I was ever gonna set foot in another urban station. I felt dumbed down, dejected, demoralized, and deflated. I had to gather the mental strength to do this because, well, this was essentially my last chance. Since entering Wayne State, I have been reborn in a lot of ways, and just plain born in others. The fire has been relit for me as a writer. But I was never exactly fond of criticism, just ask Fred Fico. I didn’t like being told that my writing wasn’t the best thing since the Iliad. I still don’t like it, but I have grown to accept it. Not a damn person will hire a writer who can’t be told he’s wrong. This is why I often say that Jason at 30 would punch Jason at 19 in the face. One of the few things Jason at 19 did that was smart was join the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). The problem was that I never did a damn thing with the membership until now.

Here I am now, two years after struggling through my first graduate class at Wayne State, sitting in a hotel conference room some 2,340 miles away from my living room in the midst of thousands of young successful (or successfully minded), talented black writers, producers, and air personalities who all have the same goal: Getting Better. Some have already reached the heights of success, others (such as myself) are hungrier than Precious on a long car trip. This is the 35th annual NABJ Conference and Job Fair. Essentially it’s the black journalist equivalent of the Conclave. I’ve been here since Wednesday afternoon and here’s a breakdown of what I have seen and experienced.

  • To my friends back East and in the Midwest, don’t believe the hype about Southern California being desert quality hot. When I hopped off that plane at 3:00p Wednesday (12:00 Noon PDT), I stepped outside to the sight of copious amounts of Palm Trees, beautiful mountains and houses, convertibles…and a wind that made it feel like Detroit in late October. It hasn’t been warmer than 70 degrees since I got here.
  • The hotel that the convention is being held in, the Manchester Grand Hyatt, is INCREDIBLE. The views, the rooms, the pool, all look like stuff out of a friggin’ movie.
  • The convention is high level professional and proof that when we want to, black folk can not only do things right, but do it better than anyone else.
  • You would be amazed at how approachable and friendly a lot of the major TV and News personalities are. Extra points to the crews from ESPN and CNN, in particular ESPN’s Mike Wilbon. Wilbon, the co-host of Pardon The Interruption and NBA analyst, is as cool as a damn fan, and is old-school as all hell. The cat you see on TV is a fraction of what he really is. I was able to introduce myself to him and he immediately started to put me up on game about the industry and life. Then came the NBA and Sports convo. While you’ll have to personally ask me what we talked about, just know that what we were saying is far more suitable for HBO than ESPN.
  • Speaking of ESPN, I was talking to the recruiter from ESPN and she asked me “Would you be willing to Relocate?” My response: “You see I’m in San Diego.
  • My apologies, but I have never been in a place with more attractive, professional, driven black women ever. Good Grief. No Hoodrats allowed out here.
  • I met Natalie Sentz formerly from WDIV (Channel 4 in Detroit) out here. It admittedly caught me off guard seeing her out here, considering I (like many of you) thought she was white…or in the very least, she wasn’t black. Trust me when I say this…she’s black and pretty damn cool people.
  • I had an interesting run in with Don Martin, the Vice President and General Manager of Fox Sports Radio. He was apart of a panel during a seminar on sports broadcasting when I basically found myself standing next to him in a crowded room. He cracked some joke about LeBron James, to which I immediately responded w/a reference to Jesse Jackson calling him a “Runaway Slave.” Laughter ensues and so too does a conversation about radio and what my goals were. I was told to contact him next week. Winning moment.
  • I’ve also had winning moments with ESPN and CNN, along with potentially Gannett while I’ve been here.
  • I would need to stay out here a minimum of 2 weeks to get accustomed to the Time change. Seriously, my brain is stuck on EDT (and for the last time Detroit is in the Eastern Time Zone, not Central). It’s great in the early morning out here. 7:00am here is 10:00am for me. I’m fresh as a f—ing daisy. Problem is that 12 Midnight here is 3:00am for me. #iFail
  • This has been an overall cool experience, and I still have one more full day here, aside from not staying in the host hotel, this has been amazing! If I’m able to get to Philadelphia for next year’s NABJ (which falls a week or so after Phi Beta Sigma’s Conclave in Atlanta), dammit I’m there.

In closing, while I may not hop on the first of two flights (I have a connecting flight in Houston) back to Detroit on Sunday morning with a job, I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was three days ago, and truthfully, I may be closer than I think. I just know this much, without the love and support of my family and an exclusive group of people, I wouldn’t have been able to pick myself up off the ground three years ago when I left Lansing. Now if you excuse me, I have another seminar to hit before going through all these business cards, firing off resumes and returning phone calls. The road to being successful is not easy, it’s long, and you may go broke and borderline insane in the process. But when you reach your goal, whatever the hell it is, it will be 100% worth it. I’m not there yet, but after this week, I’m a hell of a lot closer.

Until Next Time, From San Diego, That’s The Way It Is. Friday, July 30, 2010.

Th251st day since the Detroit Lions’ Last Victory

Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare to Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B. Σ

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Jay Scott Smith

What’s Happening! The name’s Jason…but for the sake of this blog, you can call me Jay or Jay Scott. I am a 37-year-old Journalist, Detroit Native, Man of Sigma, and Charismatic Enigma…That About Covers it for me! lol You wanna get in contact w/me, well, here you go! G.O.M.A.B. to my Blu Family! (ΦΒΣ/ΖΦΒ)

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