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.