Sincerely, Leaders of Color: How to survive and thrive at ONA

Taking care of yourself and making room for others can help you find the conversations that change your career

A quote from the author, P. Kim Bui, that says, "Gatherings of any kind ... are about more than learning skills. They're about networking and meeting people to learn from."

(Background photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash)

About this series: Sincerely, Leaders of Color is written for everyone in the journalism industry who cares about creating a more supportive environment for journalists of color to do their best work. Have a question for the team? Drop it here and watch for it in a future column. This column is proudly sponsored by the Executive Program and the Tow Knight Center at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, and our guest writers budget is sponsored by The American Press Institute.

Thousands of journalists will swarm Los Angeles this week for the Online News Association’s annual conference. For many of us, it’ll be the first large in-person journalism event since The Beforetimes.

I’ve been a board member of ONA and it is one of the organizations that has made a big difference in my career. I owe ONA as an organization a lot, but I owe ONA as a community even more.

As you all jump on planes or cars to head to ONA, some tips about surviving and thriving at conferences, from a veteran conference goer.

The hallways are the spot.

Gatherings of any kind for journalists and creative professions are about more than learning skills. They’re about networking and meeting people to learn from.

So, yes, attend the sessions. There are many great ones this year! But RSVP to the parties and take a break in the hotel bar. Say hi to that editor you’ve admired, but only talked to on Twitter. Introduce people who are interested in similar things.

Speaking of conversations, make room for others to join.

An important tip I learned from the OpenNews team. Operate on a Pac-Man philosophy. If you are in a circle, always leave a little space for someone who might want to join in. Leaving physical space invites safety and is welcoming for folks who might be a little more introverted.

Follow up with folks you meet. But not right away.

We will all collect business cards and hurriedly written notes of people to follow up with. If you can, write on their card what you wanted to talk to them about, because you will forget. Some folks, on their business cards, specifically leave space for this reason.

And then really do follow up, just wait a couple days for folks to get back to work and out from under their pile of emails.

If you do not have business cards, that is OK! Just find the person on LinkedIn or Twitter, whichever the other person uses more often, with a gentle reminder of who you are. Sometimes my first note to someone is “Hi! It’s Kim, the woman you were talking to about CRMs for audience. I would love to talk more about this, can I book time with you?”

Everyone is hiring. Or looking for a job. Or both.

The recruiting fair is great, but do your mentees a solid, now is the time to make introductions in person, to help them. Robert Hernandez and I are friends because Reggie Stuart introduced us years ago. While I never got hired for that job, meeting in person cemented a lifelong relationship.

Remember to take care of yourself!

Take time. Drink water. Sleep. Eat. No, I mean eat a meal, not a variety of snacks. Take a walk around downtown to recharge. Or wander the exhibition hall for swag with just one friend. Whatever it is, these are a few very intense days, and even more now, when we have all sort of forgotten how draining social interaction can be.

I typically schedule at least one breakfast and dinner with friends that is offsite. It’s a chance to recharge and catch up.

P. Kim Bui
Leader of Color

Reading list

A reading list of past SLOC essays and articles that might help with this week!

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  • P. Kim Bui

    P. Kim Bui is the director of product and audience innovation at the Arizona Republic. She’s focused her career on leading real-time news initiatives and creating storytelling forms for digital, print and broadcast companies catering to local, national and global audiences. Prior, she was editor-at-large for NowThis News, focusing on original, social reporting and breaking news. She was also deputy managing editor for reported.ly, a digital media startup specializing in social journalism. She’s been a speaker, trainer and teacher on leadership and digital journalism at universities, conferences and gatherings worldwide. She writes a newsletter for emerging leaders and managers, The Middles: themiddl.es


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