By Jen Christensen
NLGJA Vice President, Broadcast
Producer, CNN

I’m attending the 20th anniversary of NLGJA this year, and if you’re a journalist or someone in the public relations field, I hope you will attend, too.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been attending conventions since 1996. That was back when I was new to the profession. I was working as a weekend assignment editor at an Indianapolis television station and didn’t know a soul in NLGJA. I’ll never forget standing at my first opening reception in a beautiful Miami hotel, worrying about how to start a conversation with journalists who seemed so much more accomplished than me.

Fortunately, it only took a minute for a photojournalist to bump into me and spill her drink. I was thankful for two things: one, it wasn’t red wine, and two, that incident started a conversation that introduced me to a wonderful new friend. Now, some 14 years later, I can happily say some of my closest friends and even my beloved partner are a part of NLGJA, and every year I look forward to making new connections (hopefully without having to wear someone’s drink).

This year, I’m attending the convention to make those kinds of connections but also to sit in on some of the best educational sessions I’ve seen a conference offer. Production tips, the newest social networking tools, the latest research shortcuts – in our rapidly changing profession, workshops such as those provide a great way to keep up or get ahead. That’s especially crucial now, when we all struggle with small staffs, tight budgets and little time for on-the-job training.

I’m attending because I can’t wait to hear from some of our profession’s most respected members. Listening to my colleagues’ war stories always leaves me inspired. I’m sure you’ve felt it too – after each NLGJA convention I return to my job re-energized by some exclusive bit of insight I’ve pick up there.

I’m going because I care about fair and accurate coverage, and about making a difference in newsrooms across the country. This is the one time a year I can devote my full attention to this mission. As a board member I want to make sure I serve the best interests of my fellow members. I can only know what those are by attending.

But most of all, I’m going to this year’s convention because I want to hear how our work and our lives have changed since NLGJA started 20 years ago.

I want to catch up in-person with the people who’ve helped shape my career and my life. And I want to add new friends to my holiday card list.

So this September, come to San Francisco. Register for the convention and come find me. I’ll be sure to save you a seat.

The NLGJA annual conference and LGBT media summit will take place September 2-5 in San Francisco.