Special to South Florida Times

For two days, students were given insight into issues plaguing the media and other communication-related industries during the first Media Makers Unite Conference held at The Wexford Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Topics ranged from “down-sizing” to “right-sizing” and from budget cuts to scarce resources.

“We are doing more with less,” said Shernett Robinson, Western Bureau Chief of The Gleaner, Jamaica’s leading daily newspaper. “Our reporters take photographs, as well as report the news, and our photographers are writers.”

Robinson said today’s journalists must bring more to the job because budgets have decreased but the demand to fill news pages remained. “People aren’t interested in what’s going on behind-the-scenes. They just want to have their news stories in front of them,” Robinson said.

That message resonated with students, who welcomed the candid remarks about the industry and the professionalism of the panelists.

“It was definitely a worthwhile experience,” said Daviesha Hall, a senior studying public Relations at the University of the West Indies. “It took you away from the theoretical aspects of the industry and gave us a clear picture of the practicalities of the industry.”

The in-depth discussion by veteran journalists enabled budding media professionals to consider the communication industry with realistic expectations.

“This conference was designed to allow peer-to-peer exchanges between media managers and PR practitioners and engage students who are interested in our field,” said Trenae Floyd, Media Makers Unite conference coordinator.

“We did not want to sugar-coat the message, because it is important that students and current professionals realize the magnitude of the economic situation facing the communications industry,” Floyd said.

She said while this year’s conference focused on content sharing, the organizers plan to explore other business-related issues that directly affect the bottom line of media companies.

Floyd is assembling a team of journalists and PR professionals to help coordinate the next conference which will be held Nov. 11-12, 2011, at The Wexford Hotel in Montego Bay.

“It was an excellent conference,” said junior Rochelle Russell. “I’m looking forward to next year.”

The conference was sponsored by The Wexford Hotel, along with the Caribbean American Journalists and Media Association, Caribbean Today, Florida Memorial University, the National Association of Caribbean-American Journalists, Tulloch Media Communications, the National Black Public Relations Society and the Western Mirror.

For more information on the 2011 Conference, e-mail MediaMakersUnite@gmail.com.