Friday, October 2, 2015

Six ways to get back on track by Halloween. Make that seven.

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Several years ago, a student in my first-year student seminar stayed a little bit after class to talk. This student looked and seemed pretty disheartened: slumped shoulders, scowly face. I could see the signs of a student who was ready to toss in the maroon towel.

"What happened to you?" I asked.

The reply: "Halloween."

Having experienced a few UMass Halloweens back in the day, I knew where this student was. Sure, that weekend celebration can be a lot of fun. But if you're not in good academic and emotional shape, Halloween can become your semester's Waterloo. It's the mid-point, the point where it becomes clear that you've taken on, or neglected, way too much. You might not be happy with your grades so far. Add in the usual stresses, roommate meltdowns, parental pressure, exhaustion, dead goldfish and you may be asking yourself: "What the heck am I even doing here?"

Don't let this happen to you. Here are a few tips for staying, or getting back, on track in October.

1. If you're stressing, ask whether you're experiencing a temporary bump or real signs of depression. College is a big transition, and the twenties are a time when these symptoms often first manifest themselves, so it's a good idea to consider whether you might need some professional help. (And if you have had professional help in the past, it might be time for a tune-up.) If you see these symptoms in a roommate or friend, don't be afraid to reach out and encourage this person to get some help. This is how community works. You can start by connecting with the UMass Counseling Center. The center can offer you counseling services and work with you to manage your issues.

2. Talk to a teacher. Sometimes, actually, a lot of times, when you're stressed out, things look way worse than they actually are. A chat with a faculty member can help you get some perspective. The Journalism Department is your home on campus, so start here, with a teacher you have  in class. If he or she is not around, try me, Raz or Kathy.

3. Whiteboard the stuff that's stressing you out. Sometimes I have a student jot out all the issues he's struggling with on the whiteboard in my office. And I mean everything. Courses, job, career worries. All of it. The board sometimes looks like a weird physics formula. Then we sit back and look at the list, and the student figures out himself what he can do about each item. He or she usually is able to figure out some fairly easy solutions to many of the issues. (There's just something about getting these things out on a whiteboard that helps. We're using Realtimeboard in Entrepreneurial Journalism, check it out.)  As we physically erase those points from the board, the bigger issues come into focus, and then we try to figure out how to manage them. I've worked with probably hundreds of students, and for most, the problems center on time management, course management and fears about the future.

Which leads us to points 4-7.

4. Develop your own time management system. There are tons of time management tools out there and you have probably have tried a lot of them. My system is patched together from a lot of sources, including Getting Things Done (I love you, oh, labelmaker), and Julie Morgenstern's Time Management from the Inside Out. But everyone has different time demands, and in the end, it's what works for you. Here's what I advise to squeeze more time out of your week.
  • Get up an hour earlier. You folks tend to sleep, ah, rather late. Most working grownups are up by 7 a.m. or earlier. (Just sayin'.) Try getting up earlier a couple of days a week and see what happens. If you can't do an hour, try 15 minutes. Or a half-hour. If you can do this every day, you'll end up with several more hours in your week. You may also find yourself less rushed, and better able to cope with the day. Some students make this happen by purposely signing up for early classes.  
  • Work on Friday. Most people have very few classes on Friday afternoon. Instead of taking an early weekend, spend a few hours on Friday afternoon on schoolwork. Even a couple of hours can make a difference in your performance and stress levels. 
  • Get your week set up on the weekend. Take a half hour and check in on all the assignments due and tests for the week, and book your study and assignment work times as though they were haircut appointments: non-negotiable! If you're picky about food, spend a few hours on Saturday getting some dishes cooked and in the freezer. Figure out your outfits for the week. 
  • Figure out what's the most important thing this semester and make that your time priority. Everyone takes on way too much. Don't try to do everything at once. Set some priorities. Remember, a semester is 13 weeks long. You can always do something next semester, or next year. If you need to drop something, do it. It's okay.
  • Get your tech under control. If you're an online addict--and let's face it, we all are--and can't stop wasting time on social media, leave your phone at home and go to the library. WHAAA? Okay. I know that's not going to happen. BUT. There are plugins and apps like Freedom that will limit your access to distracting sites. Give them a try.  
5. Be pro-active about managing your courses.

  • Don't take two big writing courses in the same semester. Oy! It looks easy at first, but once you get into the reporting and writing stages of your stories, you're going to be singing this Ray Charles classic. 
  • If you are falling off a cliff in a class, don't just stop attending. People fall off cliffs all the time, but they recover. You can recover, too, if you deal with it instead of hiding out. (The prof will probably see you around the ILC anyway. Awkward.) Talk to the prof. Don't BS it, but explain that you'd like to recover. If you can, figure out a recovery plan for yourself (Use a line like: "I can get this homework made up by next Monday if you'd still accept it and that's okay with you.") No prof likes flunking a student, but it's up to you to show her that you want to be an active part of the class community.

6. Get a study strategy for tough courses and large lectures. They're a fact of life at UMass, so you need a system. Here are some links that might help.
  • Take advantage of the Learning Resource Center. Most of the big first and second year courses have tutors available all the time. Why would you NOT take advantage of free tutoring offered on a walk-in basis right in the DuBois library?
  • Team up. Find a couple of partners in the class and get a study group together to manage the course. You may find this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
  • Create a study guide for difficult material. A student in my first year student seminar came up with a very good plan. She hand-writes notes in class (research shows people who handwrite notes retain the info better than laptopping), THEN she types them (one more chance to process the information). THEN she carries them with her and goes over them a couple of times before the next class. This is the way you learn and internalize new or difficult concepts. Don't try to cram the night before a test. It won't work.   
7. Don't worry too much about the future. The future doesn't care that you're worried about it. Focus on how you're managing today. Don't ask whether you're "good enough." Ask:  am I doing my best work today? And if you're not, what do you need to change? If you are, the future will work itself out. Nobody knows where this economy is headed, or  who you'll be, or what your own interests will be in ten years.

What we do know is that the skills of good research and writing, critical thinking and a strong work ethic will always be in demand. And the relationships you build today can become a fun and valuable part of your life.

Journalism alum Elisa Thomas gave some advice at a networking discussion recently.

It was simple: "Everything's going to be okay," she said. "You're going to be all right."

I couldn't believe the response. The whole room lightened up. It was like a giant weight was lifted from everyone's shoulders to hear this.

But she's right. I've seen it. Students grow in ways that they can't even imagine during the first year of college.

You don't need to have all the answers right now, so don't worry if you don't have them.

I'm asking my First Year Seminar students to offer some tips of their own in the comments section, and if you have ideas, please post them below.

Now get to work on that costume. I'm lovin' these ones below..
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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Internship search chronicles: your digital professional credentials

If you're gearing up for an internship search,  here's my list of digital professional credentials. I've had a few students come in for resume work and tell me they'll get to their Linkedin profiles later. Big mistake. Have everything perfect and ready to go (including a professional photo) before you send out the resume.

1. A functional resume. This is a little different from what Career Services advises. I recommend it because it emphasizes your skills, and gives you a chance to sell these skills to an employer right out of the box. You can find a model of this resume in the Career Tips handouts on the right hand sidebar of this site. Remember that your campus media work is not an "activity," but "experience," and get it up high.

2. A solid LinkedIn profile. Spend some time on this. (You'll find LinkedIn advice in this blog, read through the posts!) Develop a well-written and edited summary with lots of keywords, and an emphasis on your solid skills and results.  Get a good professional photograph. Talk to profs or former employers or internship supervisors and ask to Link In with them, and ask if they'd provide a recommendation for you on your LinkedIn profile.

3. A digital portfolio with links to your published work. You can do this with a simple Wordpress site, or with a site like Pressfolios. Be sure to put a LinkedIn badge on your page. Get the code for your profile at Your badge size options and the code is in the lower right hand column.

4. PDF's of ten of your best clips, in case an employer wants them printable. These should include breaking news, enterprise stories, features---a range of your best work--stored on Dropbox so you can access them anywhere and e-mail or print them as needed. This gives you the flexibility for employers who want hard copy.

5. Business cards. You can get these at Staples, or online at On this card, you should have the LinkedIn address and your portfolio address.

Here's a post from Romenesko about how graduating journalism students should present their clips to potential employers. 

I'm available to help you out on Thursdays. Sign up online via my calendar at the top of the right hand column on this page. See you soon!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Straight talk about internships from UMass Journalism students

Hannah Yoo, at her summer internship in New York with some guy at ABC World News Tonight
I am so proud of our UMass Journalism interns, because they show how far you can go when you're willing to work hard, take a chance and apply. Sometimes students don't apply for big things because they fear rejection. This is a big mistake. My advice: apply already. What's the worst that could happen? And often enough, students are pleasantly surprised and they get the gig.

March and April are busy months as students figure out where to apply. We go over (and over!) their resumes and cover letters and talk about interviewing strategies. Then, we wait to hear if they've been accepted.

But the best month is this one, when I get to hear what they've done during the summer. Internships are often a life-and-career changers for students.

This summer, our students interned all over the place, from the Student Press Law Center in Washington, DC, to WBUR, WCVB, WGBH in Boston, Elle magazine in New York. Artscope in Boston. Each summer, I ask everyone to post about his or her experience, and, below you can find the accounts from this summer.

If you're a UMass Journalism student, I hope you'll consider an internship next summer. Come to my office and let's talk.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Apply now for 2016 competitive internships! Workshop 9/24

If you've done a few local internships and you're interested in a higher level, BIG DEAL  internship,  at a place like The Boston Globe, The New York Times or The Washington Post, this is the time to apply for next summer. Here's  a list of these internships. Here's info from the American Society of Magazine Editors 2016 Internship Program.  and I will help you build your application package if you need it. It's a personal goal of mine to get a UMass Journalism student into the super-competitive Boston Globe Summer Internship program. Let's kick a little private school butt, shall we?

These programs get hundreds of applications for about a dozen slots. It will not be easy and odds are that you won't get in on the first try. Apply anyway. You'll learn a lot, and the judges will remember you next time.  I'll be holding a workshop for these competitive internships on Thursday 9/24 at 4 p.m. in the Journalism Dept. Conference room in the ILC. Bring your laptop and we'll do some work.

Before this meeting, please take a look at the posts below and be sure that you have a solid resume prepared according to my Career Tips Handout in the right hand column of this page, as well as a pressfolios or wordpress site with your clips, and a solid Linkedin profile. Get your Twitter feed up and running and tweet some smart things. (I recently had an editor tell me she would have hired a student, but that she wished he was a better tweeter.)

I want to see the package that you'd be sending out, and we'll make sure it best represents you and your work. There will be snacks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Baking social into your journalism

At nearly every Amherstwire meeting, we start off with a presentation by social media editor Stephanie Ramirez, who pops our metrics up on the board. Google Analytics tells us which stories got the most readers in the past week (UMass Polo Team. Who knew?), and where those readers came from. (Facebook, mostly.) Then she takes us into our social measurements: Facebook likes and shares, Twitter followers and sharing. All growing, but how do we grow them more?

Each week, hopefully, anyway, we get a deeper understanding of the "social flow" of our stories, which ones "catch fire" and which ones don't, and we talk about why. Students pass around tips about how to get stories out there on Twitter, and other ways we might increase traffic.

The all-time record for social shares is Christina Gregg's Love Letter to UMass 2014, her graduation farewell, which was shared more than 5,000 times on Facebook and who knows how many on Twitter. Alums shared it with other alums and the rest is history.

Our publishing model has been: write the story then share it and see what happens.

But we might be looking at it the wrong way, I realized as I read today's Digiday post on the two popular data reporting sites, 538 and The Upshot.  We should probably be considering the social strategy as we develop our stories, at least for some of them. Granted, this post is about data reporting, but digital publishers of all types of content could learn from this post.

Here's the takeaway from Upshot editor David Leonhardt:

“We don’t think about how to take a print story and make it work on social. We just start by thinking about what works on social,” said Upshot’s Leonhardt. “The question is: ‘If you were going to produce a piece of New York Times-quality journalism that was designed for social, how would you do it?’” The answer, he said, is to start with content that is conversational and driven by numbers and visuals.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Using Twitter to get smarter

I'll be working with Amherstwire editors over the next few weeks to pick new editors for and figure out next year's game plan. I'd like to take the editors to New York for  the College Media Association conference next spring. We will also be building out our  digital tv site,, which will host student content produced in our broadcast courses, now that the fabulous new tv studio is up and running. And we want to do more work with other campus media; first goal is to integrate WMUA content into the page, starting by streaming their newscasts.

We're also hoping to do a redesign, using the Largo Project, a Wordpress template specifically for news sites, developed by the Institute for Nonprofit News, and available to use for free. So there's a lot going on.

Do we know what we're doing here? Not always. We try things and sometimes they work. That's digital entrepreneurship.

But increasingly, I'm finding that Twitter directs me to solutions. Here's how it can help you become a better journalist, and certainly help you keep up on digital developments.

Follow conferences: Every major journalism association hosts a conference each year, and nearly every panel presented is tweeted. You can find videos, PowerPoints, links and other great sources of information by following the hashtags on Twitter.

We're talking about some tremendously valuable information for  a young journalist, from groups like Investigative Reporters and Editors and NICAR, the Society of Professional Journalists and The Online News Association .

Today I'm following a conference I'd never heard of, the International Journalism Festival, taking place in Perugia, Italy. In between lovely photos of gelato and piazzas are tons of tweets from panels, with links to great info.

From following the #ijf15 hashtag, I found this Medium post by Mindy McAdams about her experience judging the Society of News Design competition--with a lot of great and not-so-great examples of  text and visual storytelling. This post really illustrates quite nicely what makes a well-designed multimedia news story, and what does not.

#NICAR15 is the hashtag for the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference for data journalists and digital reporters, which is an invaluable confab for  journalists. Here's the link to the audio of the panels, which include topics like The Art of the Interview, and Social Media Sleuthing, along with TONS of info on reporting. Here's a roundup of  Five Best Picks of the conference.

#ISOJ is the International Symposium of Online Journalism, taking place this week in Austin. Lots of useful content here, from how millennials look at the news to the importance of  coding in a journalist's toolbox.
Follow organizationsRe/Code, NiemanLab, JournalismTools.

Use Twitter to find sources: Here's a piece by Daniel Victor, a staff editor at the New York Times, that tells how he used a Twitter search to find sources for a story.

How are you using Twitter to get smarter?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

This and that on the job and internship application process

We're heading into primetime for job and internship applications, so I thought I'd post some links that might help you either find a job or internship, or make that application the best it can be.

Here goes.

This post by Katherine Goldstein says everything I could say and much, much more. Read this once you have your cover letter draft done, and then revise accordingly.

Here's Matt Thompson on 10 Ways to make your journalism job application better than everyone else's. 

I'm telling first-year students and sophomores to have a strategic plan for that "third semester," aka "summer," in terms of building up to a competitive internship after junior year. To compete for the big ones, you'll need experience and clips at smaller outlets. And, as this useful post from points out, not just "a handful" of clips, but a really large body of work, whether that consists of stories for the Collegian or Amherstwire, or video clips.

When you have a large body of work to choose from,  it enables you to be more selective when you're looking for your best five clips to submit with an application. Plus, you're more experienced and skilled at the craft.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Career tips roundup

We're halfway through this semester's Journalism Launchpad class and the "How are you doing?" check-in board has gone from despair to cautious optimism. Love that! If you're about to graduate or looking for an internship, and you couldn't fit the Launchpad Class into your schedule,  check out the books we use in this class, What Color is Your Parachute? (I actually prefer the 2013 version...) and The Success Principles.

Here are a few online resources we're also looking at as students are identifying opportunities and preparing their resumes and developing their interview chops. (Practice, practice, practice.)

Do you talk too much?  It can kill you in an interview, and it can  hurt your career.

The Muse is a great little site with some good posts about careers and job hunting. Here's one with some great tips on how job hunters can and should use social media.  You can also follow my Journalism Launchpad Twitter list for more tips:
If there's a company you want to work for, you'd better be following it on Twitter. Here's a Mashable post on How to Find a Job on Twitter. 

Also from the Muse: This is what a video resume should look like.

And this: Five TED Talks to watch before your next interview.

From American Journalism Review: Four Skills Newsroom Recruiters Wish Candidates Had. 

How to Break Into the Magazine Business.

If you will be meeting with me for help finding a job or internship, do some homework first. I'm telling job hunters to check out the job boards on the right hand column of this blog and start hunting around. If you are looking for media jobs outside of New England, check out, where you'll find lists of newspapers, television and radio stations by state. Go west, young person! Reach out to previous internship supervisors for leads. Get networking. In the Launchpad Class, students are required to speak with ten people each week about their goals. Think about it. In one month, you will have spoken to 40 people. Got to be some opportunities in some of those conversations. That's what networking is all about.

You should also do a saved search on Career Services website with the keywords that work for you. (See my online video tutorial below for help in this.)

I'm telling people to come to me with a list of 15 places you want to apply, along with a full resume, prepared like the model in the Career Tips handout in the right hand column here, and a basic cover letter. You should also have a solid Linkedin Profile and  a Pressfolios page or Wordpress site with clips of your work. That's a good start!

Then come see me.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The job you'll have doesn't exist yet. Here's how to get it.

A fun story this weekend in the New York Times about the Denver Post marijuana critic Jake Browne. No, really. This is a thing. Here's the takeaway:
Mr. Browne, 31, is the first marijuana critic for the newspaper — which means he is paid to smoke and review pot.
And, over at Vice,  another writer covers the "Weediquette" beat. 

The Denver Post also has a marijuana editor, Ricardo Baca, who not only covers the weedy waterfront, but also produces a newsletter on the topic called The Cannabist.  

Now you could argue that this is one more nail in the coffin of journalism of substance. But Colorado is one of two states that is engaged in a grand experiment: legal marijuana. This has spawned phenomenon like "weed weddings" and cannabis tours. 

And reports like this one. 

Also, social ills, as this Redditor pointed out in a recent post asking Colorado Redditors about the negative aspects of marijuana legalization.
[–]zbobet2012 818 points  
Here is one that most people don't think about, or bring up, but working in downtown I see quite often. Homelessness is up. No really, there is a significant number of young homeless people who moved to Denver for the legal weed.
The local homeless person population in Denver was a lot of really down and out people. A city with frequent sub 0 (f) (-18c) nights isn't a great place to be homeless. Since the legalization though I see a lot of people begging who easily fit into the "drifter" category, though with winter starting to come on strong some have started to move on.
 So there's a lot to write about pot in Colorado.