By Raji Ramanathan

When someone says, “I’m learning to come out of my shell,” he or she usually means it took them a while to get there. That might have been a few months, a few weeks, or in my case, a few days.


My first day at Convention for the National Association of Black Journalists, I was thrown into hot water. I chose to do a story on fun things to do in Minneapolis for convention participants. My mentor, our photographer, and I set out early in the morning with a good old cup of Joe to track down our spots. I had a list of locations but it was really on our ride to the Mall of America that we decided how the story was going to pan out. We spent the entire day traveling to popular spots within Minneapolis (and I basically earned myself a free tour from our lovely photographer, Carly Danek). On our way to each location, the three of us planned what I would say in my stand-ups. In the meantime, I also wrote that I would track once we get back to the newsroom. What I loved and appreciated was that my mentor and photographer treated me as a professional reporter the entire way. They could have changed my words, they could have easily said no to my ideas, but they respected what I had to say and rolled with it, giving input and advice when necessary.

Inspired by my mentor who is a multi-media journalist, I decided to write, shoot, edit and report my own package. Anything I didn’t know too well, I just learned on the go. They gave me a camera and asked if I knew how to use it. While I was not completely sure because it was a different model from my camera, I figured this was one of the few times I would get an opportunity to shoot my own video, so I said yes and took the time learn the gadget by myself. The mantra: Fake it till you make it.

I’m thankful to every mentor in the broadcast team because they did not have to be there for the students, skipping quality time from convention workshops and panels. But they stayed to help the students grow within their interests, to push the students out of their elements, and to cultivate confidence in the budding journalists. Anytime I finished a story, they didn’t let me off the hook. New stories were constantly being pitched so they needed reporters to cover those stories.

On the last day, we gathered together to reflect upon our work, our successes and our mistakes during the week. When wrapping things up, the coordinator and mother of the broadcast team, Denise James said, “Courageous doesn’t mean you don’t have fear. It means you do it despite the fear.” And I think that basically sums up my time in Minneapolis. I didn’t get a chance to get my toes wet, I was just thrown into the water and I worked hard to find my way around. I am incredibly grateful to the broadcast team and to UNITY for providing me one of the greatest opportunities to work under and alongside some of the best in the industry. I am so happy to call myself a NABJ Baby.

More From UNITY’s 2015 Reporting Fellow

UNITY FELLOW: Kicking Off with NAJA

UNITY FELLOW: Kicking Off with NAJA

After a 10-hour red-eye flight from San Francisco, I dragged myself out of the airport to the hotel. I knew Washington, D.C. was going to be much hotter than California, but I underestimated the humidity.

About Raji

Raji Ramanathan, 22, is UNITY’s 2015 Reporting Fellow. She is a University of California – Berkeley graduate. The fellowship was created in 2014 based on feedback from the first annual diversity caucus convened by the UNITY board. It is supported by funding from the Ford Foundation, and it allows college students to develop strong multimedia and cross-cultural reporting skills by attending five diverse journalism conventions this summer. Learn more about the fellowship here, and watch for the application in the spring in the Opportunities section of this website.

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