This year, I was a first-time attendee and winner of two journalism awards at the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) Conference in Baton Rouge, LA. I received an Honorable Mention for my FF2 Media feature story on Sonja O’Hara and Third Place for my entertainment blog. There are rare moments (and conferences) that leave a mark in your heart - this was one of them.
The NFPW Conference took place on June 27-29. Women and men journalists from all over the U.S. gathered for a weekend to share amazing memories together, attend journalism workshops and celebrate achievements.
It all started last year when I was asked to interview actress and filmmaker Sonja O’Hara. I was thrilled to talk to her as she had so many amazing qualities about herself and her work in film that truly inspired me to write about her and it showed in my work. Little did I know that a year later I would win an award for this profile feature. Every year NFPW awards selected journalists who have placed first in their state chapter. The state chapter for Illinois is IWPA (Illinois Women Press Association). I won five awards on a state level, three of which were first place for my blog, Sonja O'Hara's article and a PR campaign and I was automatically entered to compete in the national NFPW competition where I won the two awards and feel extremely grateful and proud.
My experience was incredible and unforgettable because of the people and journalists I met and because of the memories I made in Baton Rouge. The icing on the cake was being recognized and awarded for my FF2 Media story on Sonja O’Hara and my personal entertainment blog.
Prior to the conference, the organization offered three days of fun where attendees visited Louisiana plantations, took a trip on the Mississippi River and explored the beauty and soul of New Orleans. Journalists and their guests had the rare chance to experience the state like never before and visit the WWII Museum, Laura’s Plantation House and eat the finest local cuisine, among other fun activities.
On the first day of the conference, NFPW board members and participants were treated to an elegant opening reception at the Capitol Park Museum, sponsored by Visit Baton Rouge and Louisiana Seafood. With classical music, baby alligators, oysters, and arts and crafts, it was an unforgettable time. Day two and three consisted of journalism workshops, one of which was with Walt Handelsman, editorial cartoonist for the Advocate. He showed us his cartoon work for the paper and I was impressed with his work. He talked about the state of the journalism business and how he expresses current news in fun way that resonates with many.
The NFPW awards ceremony took place at the beautiful Hilton Capitol Hotel. The Heidelberg Ballroom was decorated with flowers and Mardi Gras beads; the sunset lit the room in an unforgettable red light over the Mississippi River. Journalists were set in round tables eagerly awaiting to receive their awards. When my name was called, I received the certificate from NFPW’s former president, Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas. The judges said that I should “keep writing as I have a unique voice” and that the story was “very well-written.” There was a slide displaying my work as I walked to receive my award.
Karen Stensrud, a public relations professional from North Dakota, won the overall sweepstakes award for a second year. Meg Hunt, a long-time journalist, non-profit managing director for an international organization, and media relations coordinator was named the recipient of the 2019 National Federation of Press Women’s President’s Award.
Another important awards ceremony that took place at the conference was the Communicator of Achievement Award. Some of the nominees this year were Eileen Wirth (Nebraska Press Women), Sadie Rudolph (North Dakota Professional Communicators), Cassy Burleson (Press Women of Texas), Cathy Jett (Virginia Professional Communicators), and Cindy Cruz (Illinois Woman’s Press Association). This year’s COA Award went to Eileen Wirth.
Wolf-Astrauskas passed on the NFPW presidency to Gwendolynne Larson, Assistant Director of Media Relations at Emporia State University. In recognition of Wolf-Astrauskas’ work, the Illinois Women Press Association (IWPA) gifted her with a beautiful custom-made vase. She will continue work as the NFPW Educational Fund Director and IWPA’s High School Competition Chair.
One of the most memorable times of the conference for me, in addition to the award banquet and the opening reception, was the private luncheon at the Old State Capitol Building with Jay Dardenene, Louisina’s commissioner for a speaker. I learned about the history of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the Old State Capitol building. I also got a tour of the building and I saw the ghost show which was very entertaining and educational in terms of the history of the building.
I left the conference with a lot of memories, great new experiences and valuable journalism connections. I felt proud to network and represent FF2 Media for the first time at the conference and be awarded.
Next year’s NFPW Conference will take place on June 18-20 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
© Nikoleta Morales (June 2019) FF2 Media
Top photos: Nikoleta Morales attends 2019 NFPW Conference (Credit: Nikoleta Morales)
Bottom photo: Nikoleta Morales and Former NFPW President Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas