June 3, 2023

Recap: #INBASpring23 Convention

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Illinois News Broadcasters Association Spring Convention in Springfield, April 28-30, 2023. You helped us have one of our most successful conventions ever. Here’s a recap of the weekend’s events. Share your memories of the convention on social media using the hashtag #INBASpring23.


10 a.m. – Creating an inclusive newsroom

Quick recap!

Requiring implicit bias training and eliminating unpaid internships can help newsrooms become more inclusive for journalists of color, a panel of veteran journalists said Sunday as the INBA Spring Convention wrapped up in Springfield.

Garry Moore, a retired news anchor from WEEK-TV in Peoria, shared several stories of racial bias he witnessed during his long career. In one case years ago, he noticed that several newscasts were ending with “kicker” stories — normally light-hearted or humorous pieces aired before signing off — were featuring odd events happening overseas. As it turns out, the producers were combing international news feeds looking for kickers. The result was a string of stories that showed non-whites doing stupid things.

Moore also recalled newscasts when the only Black people appearing on screen were him, President Barack Obama and subjects of crime stories. Journalists have to make an effort to be intentional about finding minority sources to include in coverage to show that minorities are everyday citizens, too.

He said implicit bias training in newsrooms can help eliminate these unhealthy minority depictions in news coverage.

“There are real consequence for having unchecked racial bias in newsrooms,” he said. “If our filter is dirty, then we’re not going to get the fair, accurate coverage that we deserve.”

Improvements can happen on the recruitment, hiring and retention side of the news business, too, said Brandon Pope, a Chicago journalists who serves as president of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Chicago Chapter.

At the beginning of the process, he said, news organizations need to stop offering unpaid internships, which are typically only going to be possible for students with healthy financial support, which often will leave out minorities.

And then, beyond just hiring minorities, news outlets need to make sure they have opportunities to do impactful work and to move up within the organization, which will lead to them sticking with the news business.

“(Minorities are) not just a face, but a real, living, breathing heartbeat in the newsroom,” he said.

The panel was moderated by Redrick Terry of KWQC-TV.


8 p.m. – Scholarship presentation

INBA member Laura Trendle Polus shared a touching slide show and video presentation about beloved association member and former TV journalist Molly Hall, who died March 31 at the age of 63. It was announced that an INBA scholarship will be established in her name and will be awarded for the first time next spring. Donations to the Molly Hall Scholarship Fund can be made through the INBA website.

In addition, four college students were honored for winning this year’s round of scholarships. Each was in attendance Saturday night to accept their $2,250 checks. Read more about the winners.

Later in the evening, the winners of the Student INBA (SINBA) Awards were announced for outstanding journalism by college students. Read more about the winners.

7 p.m. – A conversation with Cheri Bustos

Former U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, who spent 17 years as a journalist before eventually winning a seat in Congress, spoke on Saturday with the INBA’s H. Wayne Wilson about her careers as an elected official and a newspaper reporter.

The conversation was the keynote event of the INBA Spring Convention held in Springfield.

2 p.m. – Session 3 – AI and News

Quick recap!

Artificial intelligence apps, such as ChatGPT, have swept across the internet in recent months, and it has raised questions about whether they will replace journalists.

At this point, no, according to two guest speakers during an educational session at the INBA Convention in Springfield.

Margaret Ng, a journalism professor at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana said while AI tools can produce text that seems conversational and natural, there are important drawbacks. She said the apps are prone to errors and ethical lapses. In addition, much of the writing produced by AI is based on Western Hemisphere perspectives.

She also noted AI writing is often basic and flat, requiring a journalists to go out and gather more information to create stories that are actually enriching.

Still, AI is here to stay and it’s important that newsrooms adapt to their existence — even creating formal policies on how journalists should use AI, such as this policy from Wired.

“It’s better to work with it, than being fearful of it,” Ng said.

Ryan Restivo, who works for Newsday, introduced INBA attendees to an app he developed called YESEO. The app plugs into Slack, the popular instant messaging app for businesses, to let people utilize AI tools to assist with writing.

One popular use is to paste a journalist-written news story into YESEO, which will then analyze the story and suggest search-engine-optimized headlines that will likely catch more attention.

11 a.m. – Session 2 – The State of Education in Illinois (listen to an edited version of this session on the Teachers’ Lounge Podcast)

Quick recap!

A panel of education experts discussed an array of issues and proposed legislation affecting schools throughout Illinois. Journalists around the state should look at their local school districts to see how these issues play out there.

Paul Bruno and Cara Gutzmer, professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Samantha Smylie, a reporter with Chalkbeat Chicago, spoke with WNIJ’s Peter Medlin, host of the Teachers’ Lounge podcast. An edited version of this session will be turned into an episode of the podcast.

Some of the topics they covered:

Contentious school board elections and meetings: Bruno said with the historical low participation in school board elections, it typically didn’t take much money or voter turnout to change the political composition of a school board. With the increased focus on school board policies — mask mandates, curriculum and book bans, for example — interest in school boards has increased, which is good. The anger and vitriol associated with with those elections and board meetings is not good.

Smylie said she’s keeping an eye on Illinois House Bill 2396, which requires all school districts to institute full-day kindergarten. She said the proposal would give students more time for in-person learning (so they can avoid homework) and more time to play and explore in an educational environment.

Gutzman said in the wake of the pandemic, there is an increased focus on mental health — for students and teachers. Schools should promote environments where people can check in with each other and have resources to take care of themselves.

The panelists were asked what important education stories out there that aren’t being talked about enough:

Bruno: Looking into how schools are able to keep up with all of the new requirements that are being put upon them and what happens to a public school district when the state’s evidence-based funding formula says the district is adequately funded. Does the school district think it is adequately funded?

Smylie: Looking into stories concerning students with disabilities. Many of the services for those students were cut back during the pandemic, and many of those students are still behind in their educational development. Longer term, Smylie is interested in how schools are helping students who are in foster care, are homeless or dealing with volatile financial situations.

Medlin said his underreported issue is early childhood education. Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently announced plans to invest $250 million into pre-K and other early childhood services to increase access to every corner of the state. Medlin mentioned there are many anecdotal stories of people waiting long periods of time for a spot in a pre-K class.

10 a.m. – Session 1 – Know Your Rights, Exercise Them Safely

Quick recap!


It was one of the pieces of advice shared during a panel discussion about how journalists can keep themselves safe during high-stress events like severe weather or a contentious protest.

Melissa Hahn, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and a former journalist, said reporter should have a “go bag” at the ready if they’re called upon to cover a potentially dangerous or hazardous event.

In addition to having the proper clothing — like a pair of boots so you’re not stuck wearing dress shoes through a tornado scene or floor — reporters should think about what they’re do in a no-electricity situation or other adverse conditions.

A few other highlights:

Colin Pereira, Committee to Protect Journalists: “The level of vitriol and aggression toward journalists increased dramatically (in the time following Donald Trump’s election as president. “… We are pretty shocked with what’s happening in America.”

Josh Loevy from the law firm Loevy & Loevy: When covering crime scenes, be aware of where you are. Are you in a public area? A non-public place where public events are happening? A private area? Generally, remember that reporters have the same rights as the general public.

Colin: Some advice for journalists when going into a potentially dangerous situation — “Take it slow.” Incidents and accidents involving journalists tend to happen at the beginning of a career due to inexperience and at the end of a career due to complacency.

Melissa: Establish good relationships with emergency officials in your market so that when big events happen, you’ll be seeking critical information from people who trust you.

Colin: Be wary of your digital footprint. Younger journalists tend to overshare personal details on social media. Are you telling people where you live? Where you go for coffee every day? That can be risky. Look into the “DeleteMe” service to protect your information.

8:45 a.m. – Where to go this morning …


Michelle Eccles McLaughlin

INBA is an organization that really caters to continuing education for professionals. It offers a relatively inexpensive way to learn new things, reinforce best practices and network.

Jeff Bossert

When I was working in radio for the first time, I had no idea whether I could truly handle the demands. But INBA made me curious and want to improve. Even now, when I’ve maybe worked a lot of hours or planned some stories that didn’t come together for one reason or another, what I learn from an INBA conference gets me re-invigorated about the business.

Alexis McAdams

INBA played a huge part in preparing me for my broadcasting career. The INBA conventions connect students with on-air talent and news directors who give feedback on now to improve your work. Through relationships I made at those conventions, I was able to obtain my first on air reporting job.

Brian O'Keefe

One of the greatest benefits for me has been getting to see and know other parts of the state. I’m not from Illinois and traveling to spring and fall conventions over the years has transformed dots on a map to memories of places that enhance my story telling process.

Nora Baldner

The support INBA gives to student journalists is vitally important as we all discover how technology is changing news dissemination, INBA monitors and actively encourages truth, transparency and accountability from students and their universities.

Molly Jirasek

One of my top goals in my career was to get to Chicago. Thanks to INBA I met Margaret Larkin. She remembered our great conversations about Chicago and first alerted me to a job opening in the city I might be interested in. Lo and behold, I got that job! INBA helped me reach my dream.

Andrew Tanielian

INBA taught me how to network in a meaningful way. The scholarship process taught me how to endure a hard job interview and thrive.

Mike Miletich

Joining the INBA was one of my best life decisions. I met some of the best broadcast journalists while I was still a college student. Plus, I ended up getting a job through the connections I made!

Jennifer Fuller

INBA is not only a great networking tool, it also provides advocacy and support for journalists in an ever-changing world.

Aaron Eades

As a student, it's often difficult to picture what working in the real world will be like. For me, the INBA bridged that gap by giving me the chance to talk to professionals who used to be in the same shoes I'm in now.

Bob Roberts

INBA is as much about friendship and as it is about achieving common goals. It provides two things individual newsrooms cannot: in-service training, and the ability to speak out on issues affecting the profession. But most of all, it brings newspeople together.

Ryan Denham

I recently attended my first INBA conference—and it won’t be my last. The combination of professional and student journalists learning together is electric. Everyone learns from each other and walks away with new friends (and LinkedIn connections). I know I did.

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