Thank you to fellow Gatepost editors

This academic year has been a roller-coaster ride for me.  At this time last year, I thought I had it all figured out – I was loving my English classes, I had been a full-section news editor for The Gatepost since February 2012 and was going to continue in that position the following academic year.  And I had a great summer ahead of me – I had a summer internship at Siver Insurance in Lancaster, Mass., was going to be freelancing for both The Clinton Item and The West Boylston and Boylston Banner and even helping a local elderly woman from Cuba start her memoir.

Then the fall 2012 semester rolled around and it wasn’t long before I realized I wasn’t happy as an English major.  And for a while, I wasn’t sure if I was happy at Framingham State.  But thanks to a few Gatepost editors – who also happen to be some of my good friends – I figured out that FSU is the school for me, and that I’m better suited to be a communication arts major.

Kerrin: Thank you for always being there for me – when I’m happy, when I’m sad.  I honestly don’t know what I’d  do without you.  You not only helped me through what was a really tough semester for me, but you’ve made me laugh my hardest when I need it the most.  Thank you for being an incredible role model and making me want to stay at The Gatepost just so I can keep working with you!  I know you’re going to be an amazing editor-in-chief next year, but I’m already dreading what the year after will be like without you.  Here’s to another year together – let’s make it count (I know we will)!

Spencer: Thank you for realizing that I needed to talk to you about where I stood at the end of last semester.  Even though I couldn’t give you a solid answer for a while as to what my plans were for next year, our talk made me think a lot about not only my future at The Gatepost, but in journalism in general.  And I can’t thank you enough for getting our staff to the College Media Association’s spring national college media convention in New York – that experience reminded me that working for The Gatepost has helped me gain the skills I need in order to be a journalist.  You have been an exceptional editor-in-chief, and I’m going to miss you and your passion for journalism (and even your cheesy jokes), but I know you’re going to go on to do bigger and better “things” after you graduate.

Kathleen: Thank you for being the best co-news editor.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate our little talks about journalism (Gatepost) experience and trying to convince me that switching to communication arts was the way to go (you were right!).  Thank you for making me want to be the best news writer I can be.  I’m going to miss you and your Boston accent (and your bun) next year, but I know I can always read your blog, and someday, your work in Cosmo.

I’m looking forward both to my summer internship at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and starting a new year at Framingham State in the fall as a communication arts major and an associate editor for The Gatepost.


Seeing it from the eyes of a New York City first timer

After going up and up, in elevator after elevator, reaching the top, stepping out into the cool damp night, finally, the glittering city unfolded below them – black, pink and red.

On the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, on Sunday, March 10, 2013, a little after 10:50 p.m., three student newspaper editors looked out at the city beneath them.  For one of them, it was her first time in the city she’d only ever seen in movies or photos.

Climbing the Empire State Building is only one of the adventures the three young women had together while in New York City.

In the city for a long weekend, attending the 2013 College Media Association’s spring national college media convention in New York City (March 9-12, 2013), at night, after they’d sat in on numerous journalism-related seminars, the friends explored New York City and made memories that would stay with them.

Earlier on the night of March 10, the trio, which included The Gatepost’s Associate Editor Kerrin Murray and News Editor Kathleen McDonough, searched for the perfect place to eat.

While they searched, walking around Times Square, they stared at the huge advertisements and the unbelievably bright flashing lights that lined the streets.  They often crinkled their noses at unfamiliar and putrid smells that sometimes filled the city air.

They walked passed giant Cookie Monsters and Toy Story Woodies, were prompted by street vendors to attend “free” comedy shows (which were only free if they spent so much on drinks).  The editors even ended up crossing the street with the Duggars from The Learning Channel’s “19 Kids and Counting” (they were scheduled to appear on the “Today Show” the following day).

“I felt like an ant and I couldn’t imagine being there on New Year’s Eve – it was already so crowded,” said Murray.  “I felt like a packing peanut.”

“I loved Times Square and all stores,” said McDonough.  “It’s a big city of lights and I got lost in it – it was such an explosion of people.”

Finally, the editors decided to eat at Food Network star Guy Fieri’s restaurant Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar in Times Square, located at 220 West 44th St. between 7th and 8th Avenues.

The New York City first timer enjoyed the Volcano Chicken – a grilled chicken breast with a spicy chipotle barbeque cream sauce served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, grilled seasonal vegetables and crispy onion straws.

Murray ordered the Rotisserie-Roasted Garlic-Rosemary Chicken – a wood stone rotisserie roasted half chicken with garlic, fresh rosemary, lemon sauce and mushrooms and served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

“The chicken and herbs danced on my tongue and the potatoes roasted in my belly,” said Murray.  “I was shocked when I realized it was half a chicken.  I also felt like I was on an extra vacation, because there were British customers at two tables next to us.”

McDonough had the Motley Que Ribs – house smoked St. Louis ribs glazed with Guy’s Signature Barbeque Sauce and served with crispy slaw and seasoned fries.  She also ordered onion rings.

“The ribs were okay, but the onion rings were out of this world,” said McDonough.

The restaurant’s atmosphere was quiet and comfortable.

For dessert, the editors went to the Cake Boss Cafe’s Discovery Times Square location at 226 W. 44th St.

From the street outside, the bright white-walled cafe appeared inviting and cozy.

Inside, a line of customers stretched passed the red counter and glass dessert display case, with order number tickets in their hands.

In order to decide what they wanted to order, the three editors had to squeeze in between the other customers to get a glimpse into the dessert case.

Surprisingly, the wait wasn’t long.  Both the New York City first timer and Murray ordered mini round cheesecakes.  Murray’s was topped with fresh fruit – kiwi, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, and the New York City first timer’s was topped with a giant chocolate-covered strawberry.  McDonough ordered three of the giant chocolate-covered strawberries.

They would have to wait until later that night to indulge in their creamy cheesecake and juicy strawberries, because as soon as they left the cafe with dessert boxes in hand, they spontaneously decided to walk to the Empire State Building to see New York City from a drastically different perspective.

On the 86th floor, the New York City first timer stared in awe at the city below her.  From the different spots where she stood, she could see a glimmering black Hudson River, a glowing Chrysler Building, the George Washington Bridge and Manhattan’s Financial District.

She could also see Ellis Island and the magnificent Statue of Liberty, as well as the Borough of Queens, the Queensborough Bridge, the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge Tri-Borough and Times Square.

It was an incredible feeling – to see so much of the city and yet feel so small.  She didn’t want to leave, but when she did, she knew she needed to come back someday.

“I was completely awe struck and my breath was taken away,” said Murray.  “I finally got some fresh air up there!

“It’s one of those moments – I know a lot of people have experienced it, but it was still so amazing,” she said.

(For photos, see my post An NYC first timer.)

Publishing features on Confessions of a Student Newspaper Editor

I’m going to publish three features I wrote for my feature writing class this semester on Confessions of a Student Newspaper Editor.  I didn’t ask to have them published in The Gatepost because the last few issues of the year were pretty busy for the Arts & Features section, and I knew I could publish them here if I wanted to.

The first one is about the Gallery of African Art in my hometown, Clinton, Mass.

The second one is a self-involvement feature about my first time visiting and experiencing New York City.

The third one is a magazine feature about Framingham State University’s Alternative Spring Break program and this year’s trip to Biloxi, Miss.  (This one will most likely be published next weekend.)

‘Make the transition from newspapers to magazines’ at #CMANYC13

I attended a seminar called “Make the Transition from Newspapers to Magazines” at this year’s College Media Association’s spring national college media convention in New York City (March 9-12, 2013).  I thought it would be a good idea to go to, because I had applied for an editorial internship at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine in Minneapolis, Minn. for this summer and wanted to learn more about the difference between magazines and newspapers, since I have only worked for newspapers so far (I have since found out I got the internship!).

Mark Mayfield, from the University of Alabama and former editor-in-chief of House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Southern Accents and Art & Antiques magazines (he was also a founder of USA Today), recommended doing both writing and editing.

He said the only way to transition to magazines and become a feature writer is to “write, write, write.”

He said the lede of a story should go from specific to general

  • Focus on a person, scene, etc. that illustrates the main point of the story
  • This is narrative writing, but don’t forget to explain why the subject (or person) is important

Mayfield said to make sure there is an ending, and usually one that refers back to the lede of the story.

He said one-sentence ledes are good, and to use good quotes.

He recommended recording interviews, but writing down the time at which a good quote was said.

He said to have good supporting sources, and to end with a good quote.

Mayfield said to give a sense of place.

He said to become an expert on something.

He said to learn as much as possible about photography, graphics and design.

He said to read magazines that interest you

  • Learn the departments/sections of those magazines
  • Study the writing
  • Study the subject matter
  • Over a period of time, familiarize yourself with what has been published and what hasn’t

Come up with a unique idea and ask yourself, why should the magazine give you an assignment?  How would the publication’s readers benefit from reading this story?

Mayfield said to learn the publication’s masthead and to focus on section editors, and to only email – not call

He also said to learn how to produce a shoot.


I also attended the seminars “Headless in a Topless Bar,” “Chicken Salad II,” and “The Social-Media Resume.”  I attended each of the Keynote speaker sessions and also went to “The Sweet Spot: Landing a Journalism Job.”

For more #CMANYC13 tips, check out my posts ‘Thinking like an editor’ at #CMANYC13, ‘Passing the magazine test’ at #CMANYC13, ‘Becoming a pitch-perfect writer’ at #CMANYC13 and ‘Covering a catastrophe’ at #CMANYC13.

‘Covering a catastrophe’ at #CMANYC13

I attended a seminar called “Covering a Catastrophe” at this year’s College Media Association’s spring national college media convention in New York City (March 9-12, 2013).  Staten Island Advance Associate Managing Editor Clair Regan (who also works at Wagner College) explained how she and her newspaper covered natural disaster Hurricane Sandy.

According to the seminar’s description in the Official Convention Program, “The associate managing editor of the Staten Island Advance will share her experience as a journalist working on – and living through – Hurricane Sandy.”

She said first, she began preparing for storm coverage by warning readers, raising awareness, and minimizing harm.  She advised to do these things every day, regardless of there being a catastrophe.

She said it’s important to be able to multitask as a journalist.

On Monday, October 29, when the storm came, she said she multitasked – she was both in the office and out on the streets looking for stories as the storm moved closer.

Regan said because road conditions were dangerous, the paper decided not to publish a Wednesday edition (the Advance is a daily), but updates were continuous on the newspaper’s website

On Wednesday, October 31, the newspaper became an info center – people called to learn about recent updates.

Regan said that Thursday was the fourth day the majority of the town was without power and there was a gasoline shortage.  Phones were ringing off the hook at the newspaper office, which she said doesn’t happen a lot now.

The death toll grew from four to fourteen and rumors spread about the number of deaths.

On Friday, November 2, the Advance heard complaints about the slow response from city agencies and the government.

Regan said the paper received confirmation that President Obama would visit New York City to assess the storm damage – he went to Staten Island.

She said aerial photos gave readers a better understanding of the devastation.

Following the storm, there was an ongoing story of community, survival, generosity, and strength.  There was debate over whether to restore or rebuild.

The paper then started work for a hardcover book documenting the hurricane and its aftermath (It was expected to be out at the end of March; there are a total of 160 pages).

Regan said to always try to go and see what’s happening – don’t just write from the newsroom.

She said, as an ethics fellow at Poynter Institute, to figure out if you are a journalist or a human first.  She said she developed the ability to be both during Hurricane Sandy.

Regan said to multitask and have compassion.

For more #CMANYC13 tips, check out my posts ‘Thinking like an editor’ at #CMANYC13, ‘Passing the magazine test’ at #CMANYC13 and ‘Becoming a pitch-perfect writer’ at #CMANYC13.

‘Becoming a pitch-perfect writer’ at #CMANYC13

I also learned about how to pitch a story to a publication at this year’s College Media Association’s spring national college media convention in New York City (March 9-12, 2013).

According to the seminar “Becoming a Pitch-Perfect Writer”’s description in the Official Convention Program, “Whether you’re fresh out of college or a veteran journalist, the first step toward seeing your work published is creating a good pitch.  Explaining what you’d like to write is only part of the process.  You also need to know what editors are looking for and how to show them you’re capable of providing it in just a few sentences.  There’s no shortage of aspiring journalists out there, so get some tips on how to stand out from the pack and make you a valuable resource to editors.”

Rick Marshall, a freelance journalist and editor, who has worked and blogged for MTV, informed seminar attendees that there is a lot of turnover in freelancing.

He recommended using a two-sentence pitch

Marshall said that before making a pitch, freelancers need to look at the outlet they’re pitching to in order to:

  • learn its tone
  • Do its writers write from first or third person?
  • What is the average article size?

When targeting a pitch, he said to email the publication’s editorial board, but more specifically, to email the person in charge

Marshall said to keep things short – be personable

In the first email, he said freelancers should either ask if the publication is looking for more writers or just send the pitch right away

He said to introduce yourself, mention other outlets you have been working for

He said to send two links to articles you have written, but he advised reading through them to make sure they are free of errors and said to also make sure the links work

He recommended making the first couple of pitches made easy to do:

  • A quick, new article
  • Don’t overshoot the first pitch – keep the estimated length to 500 words
  • Either do something that’s timely to something that has recently happened or write an evergreen that the publication could use any time

Marshall said to include your Twitter handle in the email

He recommended getting into the mind of an editor and explained that a lot of companies are downgrading to freelancing

He said if you don’t hear back in seven to ten days to reach out again – check in

  • If don’t get a response after two check ins, table the pitch for a couple of months

He recommended pitching elsewhere if don’t hear back

  • Can repitch to original publication, just let them know you pitched to them before

Marshall said not to ask about rates until somewhere in between the initial pitch and its acceptance

  • After first story, you can ask if rates will change down the road once you are given more assignments

He advised to avoid falling into a comfort zone with a company

  • Always be moving up
  • Network as much as possible

For more #CMANYC13 tips, check out my posts ‘Thinking like an editor’ at #CMANYC13 and ‘Passing the magazine test’ at #CMANYC13.

‘Passing the magazine test’ at #CMANYC13

I know it’s a little after the fact, but I have my notes typed up from a few other seminars I attended at this year’s College Media Association’s spring national college media convention in New York City (March 9-12, 2013) and thought it would be a good idea to post them.

I initially posted about the convention and about the seminar “Thinking Like an Editor” a couple of weeks after I went (see ‘Thinking like an editor’ at #CMANYC13).

One of the other seminars I went to in New York, was “Passing the Magazine Test” with Harriet Brown from Syracuse University.  According to the seminar’s description in the Official Convention Program, “When you apply for that internship or job at a magazine, will you be able to pass the editing test?  A magazine pro (Wigwag, American Girl, Redbook, New York Woman) walks you through a test so you’ll know the skills you MUST have.”

Brown had seminar attendees introduce themselves and say where they are going to school, what they are studying, what school publication they work for, what their position is and what their dream job is.  She explained she had everyone do that because if hoping to work in the media, they need to be able to speak up.

She said most magazines don’t use AP Style.  Rather:

  • Every magazine has its own style
  • Magazines generally use Chicago style

Brown said if applying for a job at a magazine, and an applicant has successfully made it through an interview, they will be given an Edit test, or a test in which the applicant is supposed to critique the magazine.  She said:

  • Editors are looking for whether applicants can think critically (i.e. tell us what you think of the last issue)
  • They’ll often ask what three things worked in a given issue, and three that could work better

–        Be specific

She said to have ideas specific to the publication at which you’re applying for a job:

  • Start thinking about what interests you, but then ask yourself if this audience would be interested in it
  • Think about audience – try to think of 3 subjects and ideas in 60 seconds

In terms of copyediting, she said to ask about the publication’s style

Brown said to study the publication’s web content:

  • Use good news judgment
  • Think about the news cycle

She said to look at blog posts to get a better sense of the publication’s audience and voice

Brown said to come up with ideas in terms of multimedia

She said to be specific when coming up with ideas for stories and to use expert sources

(Brown handed out copies of an example of an edit test)

On a personal note, I will be doing an internship at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine in Minneapolis, Minn. this summer.  Although I didn’t have to do an edit test following a phone interview (I was given a practice assignment that consisted of coming up with a list of 5-8 questions for a story and writing a 200-word or less profile on a chef), after this seminar, I felt like I had a better idea of what could be expected of me from the magazine.