The year isn’t quite over, but 2016 has been one of the most divisive for the LGBT community, and LGBT journalists are no exception.

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) Convention and LGBT Media Summit descends on South Beach Sept. 8-11, and it brings with it hundreds of journalists, LGBT and straight. From topical sessions like the Orlando shooting and covering HIV/AIDS, there’s a multitude of options for journalists to choose from.

NLGJA Executive Director Adam Pawlus said the breakout sessions represent the diversity of journalism. The plenaries, though, are big highlights.

“Our plenaries draw the biggest crowds and we utilized that opportunity to plan interesting and important topics, like our political panel, the panel on the Orlando shooting and a panel on religious liberties,” he said.

The Orlando shooting in particular was less than three months ago, yet the NLGJA Convention made it a priority to cover it.

“The massacre at Pulse nightclub had a significant impact on the LGBTQ community. It raised questions about the way journalists cover an incident targeting the LGBTQ community and the role of LGBT media in covering news,” he said. “The convention planning committee saw the importance, timeliness and scale of the topic and created a plenary session during the convention.”

The Orlando plenary — Tragedy in Orlando: Making Sense of the Senseless — will answer some of the biggest questions some journalists faced when covering the Pulse nightclub shooting this summer. How can journalists put emotions aside to report on the largest mass shooting in recent history? A five-person panel that includes LGBT journalists who were reporting from the scene share what it was like to carry the heavy burdens and responsibilities they faced in Orlando, plus how their reporting was influenced because of it.

Related: NLGJA Honors Co-Founder

Other plenaries include The 2016 Elections On the Air: Unlike Any Other, Putting the ‘Move’ in Movement: a.k.a. Life After Marriage, and The Michael Triplett Series: Religious Liberty.

But with more than 30 breakout sessions, journalists have their pick of some of the most current and topical sessions to attend.

“Our breakout sessions are geared towards providing content on a range of topics that represent the diversity of the journalism,” Pawlus said. “[There’s] topics on sports coverage, covering the LGBTQ community, financial reporting and personal finance, covering HIV and AIDS today, career development, personal branding and an exciting workshop on drones.”

South Florida NLGJA President Jon Schwenzer will be the moderator on the drone session, These Are the Drones You’re Looking For: Newsgathering Drones.

Schwenzer, who has been the local president for 10 years, is currently a freelancer who does occasional media projects since he’s semi-retired. His first start in journalism came when he worked in the WRDU-TV28 newsroom covering Raleigh/Durham soon after graduation in 1971. For a time, he was in Los Angeles running the CNN news bureau and before moving to Victoria Park to retire, Schwenzer was the Director of News Gathering at the FOX Network in New York for both broadcast and cable.

Not all sessions are specifically geared toward LGBT topics, but do help LGBT journalists become better reporters, writers, and interviewers. Journalists can get an in-depth look at financial strategies geared directly to them in the Personal Finance for Journalists Bootcamp. A Certified Financial Planner will be on hand to show how media is changing, which means journalists’ finances are changing with it. Everything from retirement planning to education funding to debt management will be covered.

There are other professional development sessions, like how writers and editors can get along (Editors Make Everything Better) and the same for TV journalists (Producers & Reporters: What We Can Learn From Each Other). Schwenzer’s drone session will have a hands-on operator as attendees can fly the drone right on South Beach to see how journalists can use them in their everyday reporting and how the rules for drones are changing.

But the LGBT-specific sessions are not to be missed. There’s The Writing’s On the Wall: How Transgender Issues Go Beyond the Bathroom Door. The session will go in-depth on transgender rights, the ongoing legal battles that trans people face and the constant violence that the transgender community continues to rally against.

There’s also sessions on covering celebrities. When Sports Becomes News will dive into how to cover athletes that announce they’re gay and what to do when coaches or players make public homophobic slurs. Why Celebs Still Need Us, a Saturday lunch plenary, will talk about the role of journalism and social media. If celebrities can interact with audiences on a multitude of platforms, how can journalists still cover them? This panel features reporters who have the celeb beat talking about what they like and don’t like about covering celebrities and how they get by in the age of tweeting.

Attendees can stop by the Career & Community Expo on Friday, Sept. 9 to get connected with leaders from around the country. Professionals from print, online, broadcast and new media will be featured, both from traditional and independent media outlets. For those looking for work, the expo is the best place to meet employers looking to hire, plus get educational opportunities from NLGJA partners.

Executive Director Adam Pawlus expects around 350 attendees this year, which was similar to last year’s turnout in San Francisco. Schwenzer said the convention goes back to San Fran every five years since that is where NLGJA was founded. Next year’s convention will be in Philadelphia from Sept. 7-10, 2017.


If You Go:

The NLGJA Convention and LGBT Media Summit

Sept. 8-11, 2016

Ritz-Carlton South Beach Miami

1 Lincoln Rd.

Miami Beach, FL 33139


Register online at