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For all things #MVJ2021.

MVJ Executive Director: The Success of Our First Convention is Our Unity

By #MVJ2021, News

Open Letter from MVJ Executive Director Zack Baddorf

MVJ Community,

First of all, thank you.

Military Veterans in Journalism would be nothing without you — our members, our supporters, our teammates. We were honored that about 350 people showed up to attend our first annual convention. We’ve heard from many of you that you enjoyed hearing directly from Jake Tapper and Brianna Keilar at CNN, Jeff Jarvis at CUNY, Sara Shahriari at INN, and many others in the media world who shared their insight and knowledge with us. The DAV Career Fair and Knight Foundation Happy Hour were also big hits.

This convention was the culmination of about two years of work serving the veteran community. A range of news outlets, non-profit organizations, educational institutions and philanthropic organizations came together in a show of support (and sponsorship!) for our organization and our mission to get more vets in news. It was truly humbling to see the manifestation of our work on the virtual stage throughout our two-day convention.

My co-founder Russell Midori and I founded MVJ in 2019 thinking we’d basically meet up with some fellow vets in a bar and swap business cards. But the need is so much more than that. It’s been truly awe inspiring to see a range of partners step up to help support our community.

While the convention was going on, I was in Dallas taking part in the fifth and final session of the non-partisan George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Veteran Leadership Program. I was honored to have been selected for this program to hear from a variety of high-level professionals, educators, and experts in veteran and military family transition issues.

Throughout the program, I and the other veteran leaders met with President Bush and Mrs. Bush as well as retired U.S. Marine Corps general Jim Mattis and Deborah Birx. Hearing from a range of speakers and from my fellow vets left me inspired to do more for the MVJ community.

We’ve accomplished a lot in these past few years and we have much more on the horizon. I am truly grateful for the Bush Center’s belief in me — which, more than anything, is about their belief in Military Veterans in Journalism.

My biggest takeaway from the leadership program was realizing just how much we can accomplish together. Our convention — the first of many to come — demonstrated that to me in action. Seeing all of our amazing partners share their knowledge and unite behind our cause made me immensely proud to be part of this organization.

Again, thank you. Together, we are growing our community and creating opportunities for our members. Our shared energy and focus will help us accomplish our mission of getting more vets in news.

Zack Baddorf
Executive Director, Military Veterans in Journalism

American University professor teaches investigative skills at #MVJ2021

By #MVJ2021, Resources

by J.P. Lawrence

Think “investigative” was the mission that award-winning reporter Chris Halsne gave to veterans and troops working or interested in journalism.

Halsne, a professor at American University, provided the advice in a webinar in the final hour of the Military Veterans in Journalism’s inaugural convention on Oct. 21.

The investigative journalist spoke to attendees about how to acquire government-held public records, the kind of evidence that is the bread and butter of investigative journalism.

“In 30-plus years running broadcast investigative news,” Halsne said, “I can’t think of many blockbuster, award-winning stories that changed laws and how the community saw certain things that didn’t start with a good public records request.”

Conducting investigations is different from reporting breaking news, said Halsne, who managed special-projects units in Seattle, Denver, and Oklahoma City and has won three National Press Club awards.

If there were to be a disaster, a breaking news reporter would report on the events of the day, but investigative reports get to take a step back and take a look at the larger picture and take accountability for who was at fault. “Were there any warning signs to prevent what happened?” Halsne said.

Halsne shared the results of his investigation on how bullet-proof vests worn by police failed to protect their wearers. During three decades in television, he also completed investigations across different subjects such as the collateral damage of a government program to poison booby traps to kill coyotes, and the dark side of sports.

“Investigative reporters are vacuum cleaners,” Halsne said. “You gather what’s there; nine times out of ten, it’s nothing. The one time it is, you dig your teeth into it.”

Attendees of the online webinar included veterans and servicemembers at various levels of experience in journalism. Allison Erickson, a writer and a former Army officer, said she joined the webinar for industry insight on how investigative reporters are used in the newsroom.

“When do you run or request reports? Is it clockwork?” were questions she said she was interested in.

Halsne said he regularly requests information from the various levels of government and has probably filed about 10,000 queries. He also shared his tips about the correct time to speak to an organization about an investigation that’s being done on them, how to handle hostile public information officers, and how to structure Freedom of Information Act requests.

“It’s super helpful to better understand the processes for records requests,” said Dan Lyons, a photo editor at Chalkbeat, a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on education. He said he also thought it was helpful to learn tips like using official letterheads for FOIA requests to give them more legitimacy.

The webinar capped off the inaugural MVJ convention. The two-day event included videos and panels by Jake Tapper and Brianna Marie Keilar from CNN, Kelly Kennedy from the War Horse, Xanthe Scharff from the Fuller Project, and Paul Szoldra from Task and Purpose.

Google demos free new digital journalism resources at #MVJ2021

By #MVJ2021, Resources

by Allison P. Erickson

Journalists learned to use the latest digital resources from the Google News Initiative during the MVJ 2021 Convention. Mary Nahorniak, teaching fellow with the Google News Lab program, highlighted search modification, viewing, and support tools. 

Google News Lab, with its mission to “to collaborate with journalists and entrepreneurs to drive innovation in news,” uses the Alphabet Inc. subsidary’s behemoth search, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning technologies to power a resource platform packed with relevant news industry research tools. “All the tools are free, all the trainings are free. This is Google’s effort to support and connect with journalists,” Nahorniak said. 

Nahorniak covered five specialized search engines: Google Scholar, Dataset Search, Public Data, The Common Knowledge Project, and Fact Check Explore. For each tool, Nahnorniak framed the tool’s specific usefulness in the process of story development or refinement. 

For example, she described Google Scholar as a great place to begin background research, as the tool essentially searches through two sets of material. The results usually return a starting point to find experts with nuanced perspectives on topics. 

With Public Data, researchers can search for existing datasets from other organizations and begin to grasp the larger picture of a story.

““Every data point is a story. These are all people behind this,” Nahorniak said, referencing a graphic comparing two data sets. “[When you are] starting to wrap your arms around a concept, this a great place to do it from a data perspective…I love that site for a little bit of backgrounding.”

She demonstrated advanced search tools like searching a specific file type intended to help save researchers time and effort. Stars and Stripes Middle East Reporter J.P. Lawrence said, “I’m most interested in using Google to find military powerpoints used in training. I know a lot of data is conveyed via powerpoints.” 

Nahorniak taught attendees to use Fact Check Explore to get a sense for information being shared in an area. In the cases of misinformation, journalists may feel compelled to write a clarification for the record, and Fact Check Explore helps winnow the wheat from the chaff. 

Nahorniak also trained the group on Pinpoint, a tool for identifying information buried in a document or set of documents. The tool includes an audio transcription service reporters can use to convert audio from interviews into searchable text. 

““Let the tool do the heavy lifting so that you can spend your time and energy on the things that only you can do, writing, creating, interviewing, searching for stories, searching for angles,” Nahorniak said.

After a hands-on demonstration with the Google Earth Timelapse feature, which Nahorniak described as adding the fourth dimension of time to data, participants came away with ideas to grab military-adjacent visual shapers. One participant suggested using the tool to view growth around military bases over time.  

The tools are free and accessible both through the Google News Initiative Training Center and through other resources shared by Nahorniak. Reporters will need to request access to Pinpoint.

Nonprofit newsrooms put focus on mission, impact

By #MVJ2021, Resources

by Genaro J. Prieto

The Nonprofit News Panel on Day 2 of the Military Veterans in Journalism convention presented a discussion on why nonprofit news matters for communities and the nation as a whole. 

Sarah Shahriari, the Director of Leadership and Talent Development at Institute for Nonprofit News, opened the discussion by describing innovation and community engagement tools employed by the 350 non-profit and non-partisan news organizations INN supports. 

“INN members are really working to convey the truth, to build community ties, and to inform people in their communities so they can make decisions about their own lives and about their civic life,” Shahriari said. 

Xanthe Scharff, the CEO and Cofounder of The Fuller Project – a global newsroom centered on women, said the mission-focused nature of nonprofit news sets it apart in the types of journalists it attracts and the way outcomes are measured. 

“When I got into non-profit space I already had a bias for this sort of work…this mission work,” said Sherman Gillums, who sits on the board of the veteran-focused non-profit newsroom, “The War Horse.” Gillums said he was driven by the work of “Speaking truth to power…and making the public a part of it.”

The panel unanimously echoed the importance of truth and accountability, and the need to give a voice to those who typically are overlooked. Nonprofit news is especially valuable for its ability to impact issues through telling the story and capturing the moment.

The War Horse Managing Editor Kelly Kennedy said her reporting and leadership has been intended to bring light to the needs and perspectives of soldiers on the ground. “When things were going down in Kabul we thought about how it felt for the veterans to be processing it right now, and we ran a series of reflections every day that week from people just talking about how it felt. And it was a way to process the story and to deal with the trauma of it.” 

Sherman said, “We are going to keep doing this.  We are going to keep pressing truth as a friend to the public.”

Kelly offered insights for attendees about building their portfolio of clips, taking initiative, and suggested veterans can use the Warhorse reflections series as a starting point. She said, “You can’t wait for someone to make you an investigative reporter. You can’t do that. You have to become the investigative reporter.”

One audience member asked “would you say it is easier to enter nonprofit journalism as opposed to traditional journalism?” 

Regardless of a journalist’s military experience, whether reporting in combat or down the street, the nonprofit sector of journalism has its unique qualities. But ultimately the passion for telling the story truthfully and accurately is essential, and the work gives reporters the power to influence positive change and give voice to groups without wide representation.

The highest value of nonprofit news seems to be it’s power to tell the stories of those that might otherwise be forgotten. 

CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis shares insights into the new models of journalism

By #MVJ2021, Resources

by Kayleigh Casto

Military Veterans in Journalism continued its virtual convention Friday with a second day of panelists. Sharing insights into the new models of journalism was Jeff Jarvis, a CUNY Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism professor.

“Journalism is not a product, it’s a service,” he said. “We don’t just create a product called content to sell in a thing we call a publication. We have so many more tools at hand to listen to communities that have too long not been listened to, like veterans.”

Jarvis explained how communities became overlooked in journalism through the invention of high-speed printing presses during the era of Johanne Gutenburg, which created the idea of “mass media, mass marketing and mass culture.”

“The mass as an idea is fundamentally an insult to the public, because it says that everybody is all the same,” he said.

According to Jarvis, reporters have a unique opportunity to reinvent the field of journalism by understanding the needs of these underserved communities.

“Who are you serving? Who is it that needs your service of journalism? What do they need? Show the evidence of their definition of community. Show the evidence of their need as a community,” he said.

Reporters can help to foster the needs of these communities by introducing new perspectives in the newsroom, educating the community or facilitating informed public conversations. All of which promote what Jarvis called “a large canvas” for the future of journalism.

The session itself became a public conversation, with audience members offering ideas about models of journalism, and questioning Jeff directly.

Dan Lyons, a photo editor at Chalkbeat asked Jarvis about how local news models should engage with communities who are underserved or unserved by any news outlet

Jarvis pointed to the Institute for Nonprofit News and Chalkbeat as examples of where innovation can occur for legacy media organizations to follow. One example of such innovation, he noted, is Chalkbeat’s development of tools that compel reporters to decide beforehand why a story should be done, and afterward to measure the impact.

Jarvis elaborated on the future of journalism in revenue opportunities saying, “We have to reinvent the fundamental metrics of success in journalism and in media around quality and value.”

He described the use of membership models as a valuable way to fund reporting. Membership recognizes the reader as a community member while sharing their needs, interests and circumstances, furthering the affinity between communities and journalism, he said. But it was clear from the exchanges he sees many more viable models for funding strong reporting.

He spoke, for instance, about the work of organizations like Buzzfeed and Vice to sell skills rather than eyeballs on a story – as in, the skill of creating advertising their audiences actually care about. Those publishers take creative control over their advertising to do so, using the profits to fund their reporting.

Whether such skills can be applied in a revenue model by local news publishers, he’s still working on. “It could be that we establish a reputation for knowing how to serve people and listen to them well,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out how to do it or else, there’s not enough money in philanthropy…subscriptions…or the government to fund all the journalism we need.”

Several attendees wanted to know whether he was hopeful about the future of the industry.

“Yeah,” Jarvis said, matter-of-factly. “If I weren’t I’d be a fraud teaching journalism school…and the reason I’m hopeful is my students.” Jarvis teaches engagement at the CUNY J-School and says graduates of the program are in high demand because of the skills they bring to the newsroom. They understand “how to listen to the public and create a feedback loop that is more than data and clicks, but that is substantive and valuable.”

#MVJ2021’s veteran showcase shares career-changing advice

By #MVJ2021, Resources

By Maximillian Boudreaux

Seasoned journalists provided career advice for the next generation of military storytellers during the first night of Military Veterans in Journalism’s inaugural convention on Oct. 21.

The Veteran Showcase panel was led by Justine Davie, a Marine veteran who produces the Ten Percent Happier podcast focusing on people becoming more fulfilled with their life.

The panel featured a diverse group of veterans with a wide range of skills in journalism. One of the mentors on the panel was J.P. Lawrence, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran who served from 2008 until 2017. Lawrence works for Stars and Stripes as a Middle East Reporter.

An important piece of advice Lawrence gave to other journalists: “Try to use networks that can get you around the networks.”

Clara Navarro also served on this panel of advisors. She served for two years in the Navy as a public affairs officer. During the panel she talked about her upcoming transition out of the military in January 2022. She will be starting an internship with National Public Radio.

“It’s not just your resume but it’s your clips, and there is nothing holding you back from writing to just write,” Navarro shared with the veterans in attendance who are seeking advice for how to break into the industry

Another journalism guru who helped round out this cast of storytellers was Davis Winkie, a North Carolina Army National Guard Veteran who works as reporter for the Army Times. He said his mission is to keep the military accountable.

During the panel, Winkie talked about how the Military Veterans in Journalism played a pivotal role in him landing his first job. He also shared how, at the beginning of his career, he was shocked to be getting some of the interviews he received. Winkie shared with the group that at times he would canvass people on LinkedIn for advice.

“My advice is to lean into as many groups as you can. Leaning into those groups really helped me learn the ropes,” Winkie said.

CNN’s Jake Tapper kicks off inaugural #MVJ2021 convention

By #MVJ2021, News

The two-day virtual event advocates for hiring and promoting more veterans in the newsroom

by Allie Delury

Military Veterans in Journalism kicked off its first annual convention in virtual style Thursday with a keynote speech from CNN’s Jake Tapper – a notable advocate for military troops – to discuss the diversity of experience veterans bring with them into newsrooms.

“Veterans deserve to have their stories heard, especially as America’s longest war in Afghanistan came to its unceremonious end,” said Tapper, before speaking about his own personal experience with war correspondence.

Currently serving on the advisory board for MVJ, Tapper introduced the inaugural conference by highlighting CNN’s involvement in veteran newsroom placement, proudly announcing that a former Army officer will be working on his daily show “The Lead.”

“Deadlines in uniform are a lot tougher than the deadline for my show at 4 o’clock,” he said.

Tapper outlined various attractive traits that veterans bring to newsroom, to include their deep-rooted government and military sources, the ability to work in austere environments, a knack for timeliness and strong work ethic, and a desire to bring objectivity to the newsroom “having been part of an apolitical arm of foreign and domestic defense.”

“You know war better than any TV anchor, no matter how many times he’s been embedded, ever will,” he added.

Following his remarks, the conversation continued with input from Brianna Keilar, anchor of CNN’s morning show “New Day,” who spent a large part of her career shedding light on military families in hopes of bridging the military-civilian divide.

“Our civilian audience is so incredibly curious about the military, but there is a difference between having empathy and feeling sorry for them. And that’s something that I think is an important needle to thread when you’re telling these stories,” she said.

Other notable speakers included Duffel Blog founder Paul Szoldra, whose work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, MSNBC, CBS News, USA Today, and ABC News. During the panel discussion, he spoke about cracking the code of getting into a newsroom and battling the many misconceptions about veterans and the military.
“Don’t go in with a chip on your shoulder – no one owes you anything just because you served in the military,” said Szoldra. “You have to come in and prove yourself just like anybody else.”

In the virtual audience was a mix of current and aspiring journalists, photographers, podcasters and freelancers who were tuning in from around the U.S. Of those was Dan Gorman, a licensed master social worker who previously interned and worked at Last Week Tonight, Al Jazeera, Hearst Digital Media, and Morgan Spurlock’s Warrior Poets.

“It was very, very difficult to break into a full-time position. Hopefully events like tonight help change that,” he said.

Reacting to Jake Tapper’s keynote speech, Gorman said he “hit the nail on the head” when speaking about the role of veterans in news.

“Veterans can and should tell our story journalistically. It’s not enough to say thank you for our service — give us the tools and platforms to tell what that service looked like,” said Gorman.

The two-day event will consist of a career fair, breakout sessions focusing on investigative and niche reporting, followed by a virtual happy hour to connect with other veterans in news.

Free tickets are available for the #MVJ2021 Convention

By #MVJ2021, News

The inaugural Military Veterans in Journalism convention is scheduled for Oct. 21 and 22, and tickets are free thanks to a generous sponsorship donation.

The convention will feature emerging voices in news media and world-class journalists presenting live information you can’t get anywhere else.

Jake Tapper will give the keynote address, discussing the value of putting veterans to work in America’s newsrooms. New and legacy media organizations will interview veterans at the career fair, trailblazing reporters will showcase their work, and news media visionaries like LaShara Bunting and Jeff Jarvis will participate in panels and present live webinars.

Conventions like this usually cost quite a lot of money to attend, and MVJ initially sold tickets for $40. But last week, JMA Solutions donated enough money so that everyone can come together to celebrate newsroom diversity completely free of charge. The convention is built for networking with professionals, and anyone with an interest in newsroom diversity is welcome to attend.

Sign up right now to reserve your spot at

CNN sponsors Military Veterans in Journalism’s inaugural convention, brings on vets as fellows in newsroom

By #MVJ2021, Resources

Jake Tapper of CNN’s “The Lead” and “State of the Union” also joins MVJ Advisory Board


New York (July 21, 2021) — CNN will be the key sponsor for the inaugural Military Veterans in Journalism convention, slated for October 21 and 22. CNN will also host two veterans as fellows in their newsrooms this fall. 

“CNN has demonstrated time and again its commitment to diversifying America’s newsrooms,” said Zack Baddorf, a Navy vet turned journalist who is MVJ’s founder and executive director. “Military Veterans in Journalism believes America’s newsrooms should reflect the diversity of our nation — which includes military veterans. We are very proud to be working with CNN to further this cause.”

In addition to sponsoring the convention, CNN will be hosting two MVJ Fellows in its Washington, D.C. bureau this fall as part of its News Associates program. The CNN News Associates program is a year-long program which rotates aspiring CNN journalists throughout the CNN Washington newsroom and prepares participants with skill sets needed for the next level. During their rotations, one fellow will be assigned to “The Lead with Jake Tapper” and one fellow will be assigned to “New Day” where co-host Brianna Keilar, a military spouse, has been committed to covering stories about military families. 

“Representation matters at CNN,” said Jeff Zucker, President of CNN Worldwide and Chairman, WarnerMedia News & Sports. “Diverse voices throughout our global organization enable us to be authentic and richer storytellers. We are incredibly proud of our partnership with Military Veterans in Journalism, and I personally look forward to further heightening veteran voices across all of CNN’s platforms.”

Anchor Jake Tapper joined the MVJ Advisory Board this month.  

A long-time supporter of veterans, Tapper was awarded the “Tex” McCrary Award for Excellence in Journalism in 2014 for his book “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.” The book recounted one of the most harrowing stories of heroism out of the war in Afghanistan. It is now a Netflix feature film.

“I am honored to support the mission of Military Veterans in Journalism,” Tapper said. “Our nation’s veterans bring unique skills and life experiences to newsrooms. It’s important that veteran voices continue to be a part of our national conversation on military and veteran affairs.”

Barbara Starr, CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, served as a founding Board member of MVJ. She now serves on the Advisory Board.

MVJ’s inaugural convention from October 21-22 will be a virtual gathering for journalists, non-profit professionals, newsroom leaders, and other supporters of newsroom diversity to share, learn and connect with each other while focusing on supporting the under-represented community of military veterans in journalism.

About Military Veterans in Journalism

Military Veterans in Journalism is a professional association that builds community for vets, supports their career growth, and advocates for diversifying newsrooms through hiring and promoting more vets. Learn more at 

About CNN

CNN/U.S., the leading 24-hour news and information cable television network and the flagship of all CNN news brands, invented 24-hour television news. CNN/U.S. provides live coverage and analysis of breaking news, as well as a full range of international, political, business, entertainment, sports, health, science and weather coverage, and topical in-depth interviews.