Gente de NAHJ: With weeks of pre-conference training, chair Yoli Martinez ran the longest convention ever

Yoli Martinez organized the second all-virtual NAHJ convention as the chair of the 2021 national conference. PHOTO COURTESY OF YOLI MARTINEZ

LOS ANGELES – For Yoli Martinez, life is about accepting new challenges.

As a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, she has taken on one of the most challenging roles of all in the midst of circumstances that most of those who came before her could not fathom.

Martinez, the conference chair of the 2021 NAHJ conference, was responsible for assembling the curriculum and events for the organization’s second-ever all-virtual conference. Last year, NAHJ announced it would take its conference online amid a deadly pandemic. As the coronavirus continued to spread around the U.S. and the globe over the past year, NAHJ decided to make the 2021 conference virtual as well.

But this year, unlike the 2020 conference which was co-hosted by the National Association for Black Journalists, NAHJ was on its own.

“It’s been hard for the past months, doing my full-time job, and then do NAHJ work for 4-5 hours each night,” Martinez said. “Much of it is planning, emailing people, making sure coordinating schedules, and trying to be very conscious of the fact that it’s already been a really tough year.” 

Martinez earned her master’s degree from the graduate journalism program at University of California-Berkeley. She credited her experiences working for The Wall Street Journal, The Marshall Project and, now, as a newsroom developer at the San Francisco Chronicle for giving her the tools necessary for any leader: organization, task management and a belief in what she does.

Unlike in years past, Martinez and NAHJ created a pre-conference curriculum that kicked off weeks ahead of the main event. That means for weeks, Martinez has been checking in on staff, sessions and making sure that the program runs smoothly.

“For the pre-training weeks of NAHJ 2021, it was so cool to login into the sessions and see the people do their presentations and the engaging they are getting,” she said.

Her guiding light this year, she said, has been the same thought that has been going around her head for the past seven months: “What are sessions that we are going to put on and that are going to get people jobs?”

Jorge Flores is a junior at California State University, Fullerton, where he studies political science and journalism. He is an intern at NBC Telemundo Enterprises and was recently elected president of the NAHJ student chapter at his school. Reach him at jorgeflores.fs [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter @jorgefles.

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