Jermaine Rowley being interviewed by Simone Amos of Tuskegee University who was on the student project, EIJ News. Photo by Linda Shockley

Jermaine Rowley Shares His Experience at Excellence in Journalism 2018

Jermaine Rowley, a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park, attended the 2018 Excellence in Journalism Conference in Baltimore, as part of DJNF’s Emerging Journalists program.

By Jermaine Rowley

I walked to the back of the grand ballroom at the Baltimore Hilton Inner Harbor last year in awe. News professionals bustled from table to table talking to representatives of prominent news organizations:  Fox News, TEGNA, USA TODAY, Axios and more. A thought went through my mind, “This is it.”

I picked up my badge at the registration desk and turned around ready to engross myself in everything the Excellence in Journalism conference had to offer. Little did I know, the next three days would make me a much better journalist and networker.

Back in September, the internship coordinator at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism sent me an email saying the Dow Jones News Fund would pay for registration to the EIJ conference in my hometown. I had just become a crime reporter for The Diamondback, our independent student newspaper, so I figured this would be my chance to learn more about investigative reporting from some of the best in the field. I filled out the application and days later, I found out I was chosen. I felt excited and blessed.

After my initial excitement, though, I started to feel nervous and intimidated about sparking conversations with other media professionals. Linda Shockley, DJNF managing director, told me I should introduce myself to as many people as possible, especially fellow student journalists because it can lead to opportunities in the future.  Inspired, I worked up enough confidence to hand my resume to Andrew M. Seaman, news editor for LinkedIn. After that breakthrough, it was so much easier to network. Shockley also told me to develop an elevator pitch — knowing exactly what I do in my roles as a student journalist, which also helped me to network.

I have dreamed of interning for USA TODAY, so I headed for their table at the career fair. After talking to their recruiters and displaying my writing and videos, I met Mizell Stewart III, who oversees talent recruitment at USA TODAY Network. As soon as I left, Shockley returned to the table with me and endorsed me. Moments later, my mentor, Rafael Lorente, associate journalism dean at Maryland, took me back to the table and vouched for me. The recruiters were amused, not annoyed. It made me realize I should never feel afraid to have mentors and peers promote my skills and abilities.

I got the most beneficial advice from the editor of, Michael Koretzky. He offered tips on how to make your resume stand out by highlighting your accomplishments, removing an objective and including references. The biggest takeaway: treat an interview like a regular conversation. I found this a good way to relieve anxiety before and during an interview.

The Surviving the Unthinkable supersession was eye-opening. Panelists included the publisher of the Baltimore Sun, a military journalist and the executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. It focused on the aftereffects of witnessing tragic events. As a cop reporter, there’s a high chance I will cover a traumatic event and it’s good to know where I can turn for help.

Students will leave EIJ feeling accomplished and ready to tackle the field.

This experience encouraged me to apply for more conventions. I recently applied to ProPublica’s Diversity Scholarship program — 20 need-based scholarships for students to attend upcoming journalism conferences. I applied to go to the National Association of Black Journalists convention.

After attending my first major journalism conference, I feel more prepared for future ones. I also plan to work on student projects at conventions.