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Vox Media thought leaders participate in AAJA, NABJ, and NAHJ 2021 conventions

A recap of three annual journalism conventions that drive our industry forward

This summer, Vox Media was proud to sponsor and return to the annual conventions and career fairs hosted by the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).

Here, we’re pleased to share key takeaways and learnings from conversations at each virtual event, including sessions with The Cut’s Lindsay Peoples Wagner in conversation with The Verge’s Mariya Abdulkaf, Vox’s Swati Sharma and Kainaz Amaria, Vox Creative’s Armando Turco, and Epic’s Mackenzie Fargo and Emma Gross. Vox Media co-founder, CEO, and chair Jim Bankoff also joined AAJA for an off the record fireside chat.

AAJA21, hosted by Asian American Journalists Association in their 40th year

Swati Sharma, editor-in-chief of Vox, joined Indira Lakshmanan, senior executive editor of National Geographic; Sara Kehaulani Goo, editor-in-chief of Axios; and Sewell Chan, editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune on the panel, “Boldly Moving Forward.” The conversation explored the evolution of the newsroom and Sharma used this history as motivation to improve the state of journalism for the future, putting the audience at the focus. “If you don’t have diversity, you’re failing at journalism,” Sharma stated as she explained how a “diverse and inclusive newsroom trickles down” into varied stories and reaches diverse audiences. Sharma’s key takeaway is to remember your mission: when you understand your mission, despite the difficulties, no one can take that away from you.

Kainaz Amaria, visuals editor at Vox, discussed her experience and the role of representation in visual journalism. Through these experiences she has navigated the intersection between representation and reporting explicitly when it comes to the intention behind visuals. Recognizing the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” Amaria holds the truth that photography is power. Said Amaria, “There’s a lot of gender bias and sexism…and there’s a lot of racial bias in how these photos are shaped. That’s why I wanted to get into it and see how these stories were being made.” With examples such as publications using Asians as the face in news reports on the coronavirus, Amaria highlighted the importance of intentionality and diverting tokenization and exploitation in photojournalism.

Swati Sharma is the editor-in-chief of Vox, and was named one of Washington’s Most Powerful Women of 2021 by Washingtonian. She previously worked at The Boston Globe and The Atlantic.

Kainaz Amaria is the visuals editor for Vox. She’s a former Fulbright Scholar and has experience in freelance photography with clients like The New York Times, Vogue India and Reuters. Previously she was an editor for NPR’s visual team.

NABJ21 Convention & Career Fair, hosted by National Association of Black Journalists

Lindsay Peoples Wagner, editor-in-chief of The Cut, in conversation with Mariya Abdulkaf, senior producer at The Verge, discussed Peoples Wagner’s journey from working freelance gigs in the fashion industry to running the top style and culture brand.

In their conversation, Peoples Wagner shared insight, anecdotes, and advice on her career progression through the media and fashion industries. Navigating inclusivity and identity, Peoples Wagner recalls moments in her career where she was met with economic and racial challenges. Frank about money and salary, Peoples Wagner emphasizes the reality of work ethic and fair compensation as a writer as she shares career differences. She also recalls the doubt she felt over being able to break into fashion because, “it felt like it wasn’t for me as a young Black girl” and later wrote about the lack of representation in the field, in “Everywhere and Nowhere” for The Cut. Peoples Wagner offers invaluable intel, like pitch resources, how to form and maintain mentorships, and imposter syndrome advice. Although she is fully booked when it comes to mentoring others, Peoples Wagner shares her parting advice: “understanding that things take time but as long as you’re being intentional and thinking of the work that you want to make as a whole, you’ll be fine.”

Lindsay Peoples Wagner is The Cut’s editor-in-chief. Prior to this she was editor-in-chief for Teen Vogue, making her the youngest editor-in-chief for any Conde Nast magazine.

Mariya Abdulkaf is a senior video producer at The Verge, program director for Vox Media Writers Workshops, and the chair of Vox Media Union’s Diversity and Equity Committee.

NAHJ 2021 International Training Conference & Career Fair, hosted by National Association of Hispanic Journalists

The “Doing Good with Advertising” panel at NAHJ’s annual conference featured Vox Creative’s senior vice president of content, Armando Turco. Adopting similar practices to journalism, documentaries and more, Turco professes that quality advertising embeds characteristics that don’t feel like a profit-making ploy but are educational and moral. Turco explains how a Vox Creative platform, VoxMedia IQ (Impact Quotient), is taking a step toward making this the standard as this program connects with partners and competitors to “walk the talk”: providing resources and intel on how to better meet their initiatives. In all, advertising today can not only influence those to buy a product, but a purpose, which reaps rewards for the company and society at large.

Mackenzie Fargo, Epic’s vice president of film and TV and Emma Gross, story hunter from Epic, presented to NAHJ, highlighting the various layers of TV show development and interview etiquette. They used the episode, “The Jaguar” from their anthology series, Little America, to uncover the processes of story hunting and interviewing. With their specialization of writing and adapting true stories for film and TV, they unpacked what it means to write as told by pieces and ethically capture the subjects highlighted. They then explored how to translate the essence of these stories into various mediums like photo essays, books, and podcasts. Through this conversation we learned the creative development and physical production of story creation that generate informative, telling, and inclusive TV shows.

Armando Turco has 20+ years of experience in brand content; he joined Vox Media as the SVP of content for Vox Creative with prior experience for Redscout, BBH New York, and was the VP Management Representative for McCann New York.

Emma Starer Gross is a Senior Story Hunter at Epic and currently based in Los Angeles. She has written for The Huffington Post, The Cut, Atlas Obscura, and The LAnd.

Mackenzie is the VP of Film & TV at Epic Magazine and focuses on adapting true stories as scripted projects. She recently produced the upcoming feature film 892 starring John Boyega and Michael K. Williams, and directed by Abi Damaris Corbin.

About Vox Media

If you’re interested in learning more about Vox Media — including our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to building a better media industry — please visit our websites. The company is actively hiring across our newsrooms and lines of business, and is also pleased to offer a slate of programs that elevate, train, or mentor promising talent such as the Vox Media Fellowship Program, Vox Media Writers Workshop, and on-demand training program Brainery.