Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Journalism students: you need this.

In my day job, I teach journalism to university students. Specifically media law and online journalism.

It astounds me how many of them do not have an online presence further than Facebook.

And I need your help in deciding what they should be focusing on.

My friend Nikki recently wrote a post about a presentation she gave to an Online Journalism class about how blogging can kick-start a career... and she hit the nail square on the head.

"To put it simply, students have the power to be their own marketing managers. Their personal blog can be the “brand” they want to put out to the potential job market. It can give them an edge on another student, even when applying for internships.

In my day … potential employers only had my type-written CV, some clippings of published work and an interview to go by. Today, employers can – and are – Googling you long before they’ve invited you into their offices to ask about where you see yourself in five years.

And in that Googling, what are employers going to find out about you? Will they be impressed by your “voice”, your passion for fashion photography, cooking, your love of a good rant or will the just find a random Tweet about your disdain for a telco company.

And if you’re long past student age or inclination, then this is worth thinking about too. You don’t really know who’s reading your blog, Tweets or Facebook updates. Opportunities – freelance writing gigs, sponsorships, book deals – present themselves every time you make an electronic communication."

And I absolutely couldn't agree more. It is becoming readily apparent that people are consuming their news online. Newspapers are moving toward more editorialising and commentary, because people already know the news - it's up to them to provide more background, opinion and discussion because they've been scooped by the internet.

Internet, internet, internet... it's where we spend a huge chunk of our time. And yet students are promoting themselves less and less in that arena. And to my mind, it should be the first place they go.

So in wanting to upgrade and update our classes, I'm throwing it over to you - those of my friends that know the value of an online presence and can rock a social media platform like nobody's business. What do you think these students should get a handle on? What has worked for you in the online publishing arena? Help me get them off Facebook!

I think they need one of these as their very first port of call:

A Google Reader. Absolutely, unequivocally necessary. Be across a variety of news websites in one place. Get your news from different countries, differen sources... and it might stop me slapping you when I ask you where you read the most news and your answer is "". You want to be a journalist? You have to read much more widely than that, my friends. I know you don't pick up a newspaper. I know you can't answer more than two out of the 10 current affairs quiz questions I ask you. With this, you will.

Twitter. I am deadly serious. For those of us devotees, we know it is so much more than a place to tell everyone you've just picked your nose or eaten lunch. Every major news event (and some not so) that has happened in the last two years, I have heard about first on Twitter. Kevin Rudd being booted out? Twitter. Brisbane floods? Twitter. Egypt? Libya? Twitter. News as it happens, people. Every major network and organisation have Twitter accounts they update constantly. Get on it.

A blog. The fastest way to get yourself published. And I'm not kidding when I say employers are expecting you to be published several times before you finish your degree. There really is no excuse. And a blog is the fastest way to do it. So much an online portfolio, so much an easy-access example of your voice and writing style.

A blog about the group you've created at uni for journalism students to come together and collaborate. I created a journalism group at my uni when I was studying, to share tips and support, have fun get-togethers and be published online in a slightly more professional setting than a personal blog. If there is no journalism group at your uni, put up your hand to create one yourself. Looks amazing on your resume!

Stolen from my college buddy... thanks Brit! xx
Your own personal website. A one-stop shop for future employers to find everything they need about you (and not your collection of frat party tequila shot photos...). Here you can put your resume, contact details, examples of your work, showreels/YouTube channel, blog, and networks you're a part of.

So peeps, what do you think? Do you agree with these basics, and do you have any more? What about things like LinkedIn... I've never used it, is that a good resource? Do you think it's worth sticking it out with Google Plus? How have Twitter and blogging helped you? What can I tell these future newsmakers about how the online world works?


  1. Hmmm I had the same dilemma. I told my students to Tweet and blog. They seemed to be uncertain about how both worked. They do understand YouTube, so as you said YouTube channels might be a nice way of engaging them. Google reader or Stumble Upon are great ideas and Pinit may be able to engage some of the more visual students.
    I think having a LinkedIn account is essential when you plan to look for work - recruiters check it all the time.

  2. Great list, I'd definitely include LinkedIn, lots of opportunities have come to me through it, as far as I'm concerned it's the new resume.

  3. Linkedin definitely - it's like having your CV online - and a lot of business people may be scared of other social media but they're definitely on Linkedin.

    YouTube channel - particularly if they've got their sights set on TV journalism.

    Depending on what they blog about - I would keep the bio stuff in the same place as the blog - this won't work for everyone's blog topic but if they're aiming for magazines, and blogging about fashion and beauty, keep your portfolio in that same place as well.

    Twitter should be mandatory. Set up a hashtag and encourage tweeting during lectures - this is what the QUT group did - and they had the tweet stream streaming across my presentation!

  4. Fab list Stacey. I tell my students similar things but they look at me blankly. I'm going to point them to your post and see what the wise folk have to say! I agree with Nikki that you don't know who's reading your posts and I'm careful to be tread the line of sharing honestly vs being vindictive or sharing what I wouldn't share with my best friend. And the big one I would emphasise is the widely read one - it amazes me how students expect to get a job without knowing the major industry publications or what is going on in the world.

  5. Great list and all definitely worthwhile - including LinkedIn.
    However...with all of these things, they first have to learn how to EDIT. Otherwise they could end up with an overloaded mish-mash of work that actually does more harm than good.

    It's important to remember that in newsrooms and TV production (my background...not sure about print) there are still a number of people who have not embraced online media - and many of these people do the hiring.

    Content is and still always be king. Developing a cohesive brand that goes hand in hand with high quality work has to be at the front of their minds when they embark on any online identity. If they do that well, and follow all of the above, they'll be way ahead of the game.

  6. I have personally benefited from my blog by landing my first ever writing job. I use a Facebook page and twitter to share my posts and I know for a fact access to my blog is mostly via those 2 sources. I cannot even start to imagine how much more work it would have been for me to 'advertise' my brand without my blog.

  7. This is such a well written and informative post. I think you've hit the nail square on the head.