By Sharif Durhams
Board Member, NLGJA
Reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

I attended my first National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association at the beginning of my reporting career, a time when I whispered to a newsroom colleague to ask whether he was gay and planned to attend the convention too.

That was a decade ago – the last time our convention was in San Francisco. I’ve grown both as a journalist and a person while at NLGJA conventions. I faxed paperwork in to buy my first house while I was attending one of our conventions. I leaned on colleagues who helped to talk me through job woes. I’ve gained skills that made me valuable to my newsroom, even in the midst of the turmoil that has roiled our industry.

I’ve met some of the journalists I respect the most at our annual gatherings. I’ve learned about battles in the LGBT rights movement that I’ve missed during the year. And I’ve made lifelong friends.

The convention provides an opportunity to see how life and journalism are different for colleagues who work in smaller markets than the one where I live and in cities that are much larger. I get to learn about the great journalism by and about LGBT people.

Attending our convention always provides me with a story idea to pursue, a new skill to practice or an idea to share with colleagues in the newsroom. It will also provide perspective about how our industry and how we as LGBT people have changed.

Each year, attending the convention reminds me of the value of NLGJA and all that it does to help me survive and thrive in this industry. And each year, I see a new group of faces at the convention who are learning the value of our organization for the
first time.

As an NLGJA member, it will be great to bring our convention back to San Francisco again to celebrate NLGJA’s founder, Roy Aarons. As a journalist, it will be enjoyable to return to the city where I first attended one of our conventions and to reflect on the past 10 years of my career. As a curious person, it will be fun to have this annual opportunity to be wide-eyed and excited about all that we have accomplished and about what may come next.

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