Run as fast as you can! Journalism, as we know it, is changing! Print news is dying, and surely the field will never be the same.
How many times have you heard this warning? As communication and writing students, I’m willing to bet the tally exceeds the number of times you can count on one hand. Our professors are always lecturing us on the ways in which the Internet and technology are molding the media — for better or worse — and stressing the importance of getting our names out on the Internet to build our online platforms.
Let’s face it: we all know by now that our social media profiles should start with Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr (or a combination of all three). But after that, where should we turn? How else can we expand online, network to our fullest potentials and take advantage of the resources the World Wide Web has to offer? How do we set ourselves apart and become better journalists at the same time?
It turns out the answer to each of these questions may be found in unexpected places. The following list details the little ways you can continue to put yourself online, develop your Internet base, and improve as journalists, writers and soon-to-be job applicants.
Part blog, part aggregator and part interactive publication, Storify is possibly my favorite new tool out there. Storify, as the name suggests, provides users with creative ways to give narratives a voice. Users create stories mainly by curating material from the Web: social networking streams, blog posts, multimedia and virtually any other content you can find.
Not only can you can build and develop your own entries, but as a member, you can subscribe to other Storify blogs to monitor the latest social trends and become part of a dynamic, up-and-coming new media movement.
Aside from the sheer addictiveness in combing the Web for tweets, Instagram photos, and YouTube videos to compile a new narrative, Storify is a fantastic alternative to the traditional personal blog. You can use Storify to objectively report breaking news or simply as a place to curate content most interesting to you: recipes, social movements or even the latest Hollywood gossip. Storify posts add character and depth to your online portfolio as a journalist and news enthusiast. Storify trains you to view the news more fluidly and graphically, with an eye toward the value-added content the Web has to offer. Being familiar with the site will also help you stand out among others who boast their proficiency in social media and budding technology, especially if you hope to land a job in online journalism.
We are all familiar with the rules of a resume — keep it brief, updated and practically in your back pocket. But in today’s fast-paced society, the journalism field places an emphasis on “knowing the right people,” so you’d have to carry your bulky work briefcase with you everywhere in case you run into your dream boss on the subway, in a public restroom, at the gym or walking your dog. A better idea is to create a Wiki page using Wikispaces, a mostly free hosting service and web community. Creating a personal Wiki with Wikispaces requires little to no web experience (though most of us have at least some, these days) and allows members to build their site using as many pages and files as needed.
For student journalists, launching and maintaining a personal website will give you an extra edge against the competition. Sure, you may only have three clips to showcase and a short email describing your awesomeness, but every little bit counts. With a Wiki page, not only will you and your work be “Googleable,” but the next time you actually find yourself in an impromptu interview with someone who wants to hire you, text or email him or her your Wiki link on the spot (you do have a smartphone, right?) and promise to follow up with your resume as soon as you’re able. Not only will you look professional, but you’ll illustrate to that person you are serious about expanding your platform online.
As the catechism goes, the more you read, the better you will write. Reading has taught me about new topics and ideas and pushed me to hold my writing to higher standards. Launched in 2007, Goodreads is a welcoming home for readers seeking to find new novels to devour, keep track of what’s on their bookshelf, try their hand at recommending and reviewing books and connect with other individuals. I know what you’re thinking…this is just another way to procrastinate on deadline or shift the focus from your personal writing to someone else’s. But actually, Goodreads has encouraged me to read more and in turn has improved my writing.
Now, I know what you’re thinking next: “I already read on my own, in the (little) spare time that I have. Why do I need a Goodreads account?” Well, aside from the fact that Goodreads makes networking a breeze, it will improve your online credibility. The more established you are online, the more well-rounded you will appear to a potential employer. Caught blubbering when your potential employer asks what you enjoying doing for fun? Tell them you love to read (since you do!) and about the last book you rated on Goodreads.
I’m sure all of us have aimlessly let StumbleUpon, the popular web crawler, entertain us with stupid videos and useful sites at one point or another (probably to prevent our minds from numbing from school work). The search engine of sorts takes all the work out of surfing the Web, and does so with an intelligent machine-brain: by “Liking” or “Disliking” what users stumble across, the site makes accurate predictions about what cool content you’ll enjoy from places on the Web that you never knew existed. By connecting with other Stumblers who share the same interests, your StumbleUpon adventure infinitely multiplies.
So how can you utilize StumbleUpon’s fullest potential? Start stumbling, of course! Again, a profile on StumbleUpon widens your Internet, well, net. The site helps you learn about your interests and, in a broad field like communications, you will be more marketable if you know where your passions lie. If you don’t know your passions yourself, StumbleUpon can also help — spend a few hours exploring the Internet to find what piques your curiosity and what you want to research more.
I also advise turning to StumbleUpon when you find yourself face-to-face with writer’s block. Don’t have a clue about what your next blog should be? Stumble a foreign topic to learn about it. Not sure what Internet content has gone viral lately? Browse the most popular stumbles. Need to clear your head before you proofread? Indulge yourself in a baby-animal-learns-to-walk video. By the way, I’m a huge fan of those.
Lectures, Powerpoints — we get enough of those in class. But what happens when you mix amazing public speakers, profound ideas, swanky slideshows and ways to change the world? TEDTalks happens. The non-profit set out in 1984 to bring together movers and shakers from the technology, entertainment and design (TED) fields at a conference, and since then has been devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” Every year, the award-winning organization challenges influential speakers to give “the talk of their lives” in 18 minutes or less. The best of these talks are then organized TED (which now has over 900 videos available) for to Internet users to peruse and share for free.
You can take advantage of a time when technology is shaping the future at a rapid pace using TED. Aside from learning about AP style and headline writing, student journalists should be educated about the world, simply put. TEDTalks will provide you with the extra knowledge that impresses even the most uptight dinner party guests — tidbits that go beyond the scope of basic news coverage. As student journalists, we can also help spread these ideas by drawing inspiration from TEDTalks about emerging global issues, new perspectives on society and advice in just about any field. A “TEDTalk a day” will enrich our minds and, by extension, our journalism.
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