industry news

4 productive summer projects for j-students

Summer is here and the living is easy– unless you’re a journalism student. For you, the summer means extra time to catch up in your ever-changing industry. You have no time to waste. Here are a few ways you can effectively use your summer to enhance your news site and/or journalism skills.

1. Start a blog | Individual project | Level: beginners

When employers Google your name, what will they find? The more often you blog, the higher up your name will rank on the search results. But blogging is about more than SEO. Blogging will strengthen your mind, your thoughts. A blog is a place for you to develop ideas you have about improving your news site or publication. If you build a community on your blog by linking out to others, then your ideas can be criticized and improved upon by commentors and other bloggers who respond to your posts.

If you don’t want to blog about the journalism industry, blog about your passion. If you have a second major in economics or a minor in women’s studies or you love horseback riding, blog about that. The more you blog, the more you will develop your voice as a writer.

Get started:

No matter what you choose to blog about, there are rules. Because your blog will become a professional marketing tool for yourself. Take it seriously. Be responsible. Don’t write anything that would get you fired, destroy your personal brand, or come back to bite you in the butt. “Dear-diary” style blogs are only useful if meaningful lessons come out of them that others can relate to. The best rule is to stick with a theme, topic or style.

2. Redesign your portfolio | Individual project | Level: Intermediate

The summer is a perfect time to revamp your portfolio — or, if you don’t have one, start one. You can make your portfolio part of your blog or design a portfolio separate from your blog. Although it can be done in a program like Dreamweaver, it’s better to do it in a CMS so that keeping your clips up-to-date isn’t a hassle.

Key elements to have on your portfolio site:

  • A short bio
  • Links to your social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, your blog)
  • Samples of your work, both writing and multimedia. Keep it limited to your absolute best pieces. Don’t make your potential employer sift through dozens of pieces to figure out which is best.

Although I’ve always agreed with the concept of having a resume on your site, I’ve since second-thought it. A resume should be tailored to specific jobs for which you’re applying, not a just a broad list of accomplishments. Your LinkedIn will suffice as that list of prior experience.


3. Add a wiki to your news organization’s site| Group project | Level: Intermediate

This is something I’ve been thinking about since I read Daniel Bachhuber’s post about it in February. Why should news be disposable? Hard-hitting topics are continually developing and your community can help build upon the information you have through a wiki:

At the moment, if I as a student want to have any idea of what’s going on in student government, what bills are being voted on, and where my money is being used, I’d have to do some sleuthing. The most recent articles about the ASUO in the Daily Emerald will get me started, but I’d have to search across multiple sites, sift through a lot of information, and draft my own conclusions.

Instead, a landing page for the ASUO (and, a la the Guardian website, with nested topics) that was provided, developed, and maintained by a student news organization would be the first place I would go to get myself better acquainted with where the student government was currently at.

Wiki options:

4. Develop a plan for a web-first workflow | Group project| Level: Intermediate

When your publication starts publishing regularly again in the fall, will you have a web-first plan in place? It may seem like I’ve over-emphasized it, but going web-first with your articles is just a small step toward maintaining a fresh, continuous flow of content on your site.

The summer is the perfect time to experiment with your web-first model because your publication likely only prints once a week or not at all. Develop a plan, train your staff and troubleshoot it. To make it a little easier, learn from my experiences with going web first. A few of the major problems we’ve had that you’ll want to plan ahead for:

  • Who/how will you copy edit during the day?
  • Who will post photos with your articles? Will you wait to post until you have photos?
  • (Get your photographers in the habit of posting photos to a Flickr account so they’re readily accessible to post on your site as soon as the articles are posted)
  • Will all articles go online first? Which will you save for print and why?

If you need a starting point, see the following flowchart of our workflow and read about it here.

Just a jumping off point

This is just a start of the endless possibilities for what you can do this summer. Among basics are things like learning HTML, practicing shooting/editing video, teaching yourself how to develop an iPhone app, redesigning your news site, laying the foundations for a full-fledged multimedia project, or holding a week-long camp with your new staff to brainstorm goals and ideas.

As always, good luck,

Last post as CICM intern