‘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 silive.com.

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.

The Gatepost’s Kerrin Murray and Joe Kourieh talk social media guidelines

The Associated Press' and The Los Angeles Times' social media guidelines.

The Associated Press’ and The Los Angeles Times’ social media guidelines.

I sat down with Gatepost Associate Editor and Editor-in-Chief-elect for the 2013-2014 academic year Kerrin Murray and Associate Editor Joe Kourieh this past Wednesday night to discuss their opinions about social media guidelines and how they would implement them at their school newspaper.

This was the second time I’ve done a podcast with Murray and Kourieh – in the first podcast, the two editors debated about gun control (see “Podcast: Confessions of two Gatepost editors about gun control“). For the second podcast, the two didn’t provide and support opposing views, but they each answered four questions I had for them relating to the role of social media guidelines in news organizations. Also different from the last podcast, is that this time, we talked with Kourieh via phone.

Before we did the podcast, I also sent both editors a set of questions via email to answer separately. I’ve posted them below in Q&A format, before the podcast.

I wanted to talk with Kourieh and Murray about social media guidelines not only because our first podcast together went well, but for two other reasons as well: I learned a little more about the role of social media guidelines in news organizations in my Writing for Online and Social Media class earlier in the semester, and because of that, I’ve become more curious about the possibility of creating guidelines for The Gatepost.

One of my class’ early assignments was to analyze and compare and contrast the social media guidelines of two companies. I researched and wrote about The Associated Press‘ and The Los Angeles Times‘ guidelines. I’ve posted my take on them at the bottom of this post.

I took the above photo.


Social Media Guidelines Q&A with Kerrin Murray

Do you think it’s a good idea for publications, and student newspapers specifically, to have social media guidelines for their staff members?

KM: Yes. I believe that there is an unspoken rule or guideline automatically associated with social media and the Internet in general. People know that what they post online is up permanently for the world to see. More importantly, for future employers to see. It is important for The Gatepost staff to apply discretion and common sense when posting anything online.

Have you considered creating social media guidelines for The Gatepost? If so, is there anything you can think of off the top of your head that you would consider including in them?

KM: I don’t think there have to be rules limiting what they can and cannot post, but The Gatepost staff has to remember that while on social media sites, they are representatives of the paper. Promoting articles or photos is one thing, and talking negatively about the paper or how it is run is another.

Have you encountered any situations working for The Gatepost that made you think having social media guidelines would be beneficial?

KM: There have been a couple of questionable posts on Facebook. It is actually comical to see, because complaining using social media will not help – talking to your editor will. With these types of situations I think that “unspoken” guidelines should be enough. There shouldn’t have to be written rules explaining posts should promote their work and not be used for unwarranted complaints.

Do you think social media guidelines should be made available to the public? If The Gatepost had guidelines, would you want them published on the newspaper’s website?

KM: I think that social media guidelines should be available to the public. Our constitution is available for people to see on collegiatelink, and I believe that any of our guidelines should be available (just to show that our editors are held to certain standards while they are representing The Gatepost).

Can you tell readers a little about how you have used social media in reporting for The Gatepost?

KM: I use Facebook primarily to “like” articles online and also “like” The Gatepost page. I use Twitter to live tweet at events and also to retweet any post that is affiliated with an article or an event.

How would you like to see The Gatepost staff using social media? Do you think their social media presence should be the same regardless of whether they’re using social media for reporting or for personal use?

KM: I think that The Gatepost staff should use social media as they see fit and to use it at their discretion. I think that it is important to differentiate between their online presence as a Gatepost reporter and in their own life outside of the paper.


Social Media Guidelines Q&A with Joe Kourieh

Do you think it’s a good idea for publications, and student newspapers specifically, to have social media guidelines for their staff members?

JK: I think yes, it’s important that the Editor-in-Chief or Managing Editor establish guidelines for what’s approppriate for referencing their newspaper or members of it. I certainly don’t think these need to be very strict, more so just a set of guidelines on what you shouldn’t do (most of the things will be
obvious I believe).

How do you use social media? What platforms do you use? Have you used social media in your role as a student journalist?

JK: I’m not particularly connected to social media (I don’t have internet on my phone so Twitter isn’t nearly as useful), but I likely will be someday. For journalistic purposes, I have used Facebook messaging to contact sources, as well as arrange with our photos staff to take pictures. It’s useful because they have their own designated page and they can all see the same message, without having to talk to all of them individually. I’ve also found it very useful in contacting those who I don’t have email addresses or phone numbers for. Since many people have Facebook on their phones it’s getting to be just as quick a response time as a text message. Although, Facebook has begun charging for messages to people you are not friends with, which is annoying.

Have you encountered any situations as an editor at The Gatepost that have made you think having social media guidelines could be beneficial for the newspaper and its staff?

JK: We at The Gatepost tend to be pretty low-key and haven’t been faced with any social media misuse, but there have been rare moments when our editor told us that certain jokes made over social media have been risky. Guidelines would be useful in such situations, as it falls to the level of professionalism on the net intended by the individual, which varies greatly.

Would you consider creating social media guidelines for The Gatepost? Can you think of anything you would want to include in them?

JK: I think that we would easily be able to come up with a set of guidelines relating mostly to the appropriateness of mentioning The Gatepost or its staff members, but like I said, we wouldn’t particularly need it since we’re all sensible enough to know how we’re presenting ourselves.

Do you think social media guidelines should be made available to the public? If The Gatepost had guidelines, would you want them published on the newspaper’s website?

JK: I think the right place for the guidelines would be in our constitution, which is available to everyone. We could put them online as well, or just put the constitution online, if it’s not already.

How would you like to see The Gatepost staff using social media? Do you think their social media presence should be the same regardless of whether they’re using social media for reporting or for personal use?

JK: Social media posts are a great way to spread the word about stories, as well as get breaking news out before an article can be written. In fact, in the face of truly breaking news, as the events with the Boston [bombings] investigation showed us, many people tend to pay more attention to social media than actual news reports. That being so, it’s crucial that social media posts of breaking news are at least somewhat factual and attributed. And I don’t see this being a problem, for as social media evolves, those who use it in the best ways will be rewarded and will follow suit. Since we’re on a small, quiet campus, Gatepost staffers tend to have plenty to back up their posts of breaking news. Staffers can create whatever type of persona or presence they would like online when in personal use, so long as they maintain professionalism in all posts aimed toward and relating to The Gatepost.

Is there anything else you would like to comment on relating to either social media guidelines or social media used for journalism in general?

JK: Read the newspaper too!


Social Media Guidelines Podcast with Murray and Kourieh



The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times Social Media Guidelines

Overall, the most obvious difference between The Associated Press’ and The Los Angeles Times’ social media guidelines is length. While The LA Times’ guidelines appear to be clear in terms of what the newspaper’s Standards and Practices Committee expects of employees, they do not go into the level of detail The AP’s guidelines do.

The AP’s guidelines indicate they are meant to help “advance” their brand and employees’ own personal brands on social networks. AP journalists are encouraged to have social networking accounts because the company believes they have become “essential” for reporting. Similarly, The LA Times’ guidelines express that staffers’ professional and personal lives are “intertwined” online, as they are offline, and therefore also encourage employees to have and maintain social networking accounts. The AP’s guidelines recommend journalists have one account per network that they use for both personal and professional use.

While The AP’s guidelines include a section dedicated to privacy, The LA Times’ have one bullet point under their “Basic Principles” section suggesting that even if journalists use privacy tools allowing them to decide who can view profile pages, they should assume everything they write online is public. The AP’s also state that, but connect privacy issues to journalists’ opinions possibly being linked to the company.

The LA Times’ have a bullet point under their “Guidelines for Reporting” section about employees identifying themselves as LA Times’ journalists. The AP’s state the same for its employees under its “Accounts” section.

The AP’s also include a section dedicated to retweeting on Twitter that indicates retweets with no comment from journalists can be seen as unfairly representing one side of an opinion, and list examples of how to properly retweet. The LA Times’ have a bullet point under their “Guidelines for Reporting” section about retweeting, which states that journalists should treat retweeting as they would treat publishing information in a “more formal publication.”

The LA Times’ also have a bullet point under their “Basic Principles” section about “friending” a source or joining a group, and state that journalists need to fairly represent both sides of an opinion or debate. The AP’s also say this, but suggest employees avoid interaction with newsmakers on public pages, and state that managers should not friend request subordinates, but employees can friend request their bosses or managers.

The AP’s also have a section about publishing material, which indicates journalists should link to AP content as well as content from other media organizations and shouldn’t post unpublished work. It also says that journalists are allowed to live tweet, but in terms of breaking news, staffers are free to tweet information only after they have provided “full details” to The AP. The same rule applies to exclusive material.

The AP’s “Sourcing” section states that journalists must verify sources found on social networks in the same way a source found offline would be verified – usually by calling the company or organization the source works for. It also says to confirm who is managing a social networking account before quoting from tweets or posts.

The AP’s “Interacting with Users” section says that AP encourages replying to people that comment on content, and that journalists must report errors or possible errors as soon as possible. If a viewer reports a correction that may or may not be correct, journalists should try to reply in either case. In the event of a controversial story or image, an editor should reply.

Their “Interacting with AP Accounts” section says staff members can retweet and share AP material, but shouldn’t like or comment on any.

If journalists feel that a tweet should be deleted, according to their guidelines’ “Deleting Tweets” section, they should contact a Nerve Center manager.

According to the “Corrections” section, after erroneous tweets have been corrected, journalists should tweet or post that a mistake had been made and explain it exactly.

Although The Los Angeles Times’ social media guidelines are clear and allow LA Times’ journalists to have social networking accounts, The Associated Press’ guidelines provide more detailed information about how its journalists can use social media, while allowing them the same freedom.


You can follow Kerrin Murray on Twitter: @kmurray7.

‘Thursday night Gatepost confessions’ video

Check out Confessions of a Student Newspaper Editor’s first video “Thursday night Gatepost confessions.”  It’s a spinoff of YouTuber hayleighcolombo‘s video “Shit Student Journalists Say” posted in January 2012.  My video captures a small portion of the insanity that exists in The Gatepost office on Thursday nights, when our staff copy edits articles and lays out each section’s pages in order for a published issue to be available to the Framingham State University community the following morning.

Gatepost News Editor Kathleen McDonough and Associate Editor and Editor-in-Chief-elect for the 2013-2014 academic year Kerrin Murray talk “Newsie Speak” in the news section, which is still decorated for McDonough’s birthday, which was a week before this video was made.  In the end, they decide to blame all of their newspaper-related problems and worries on The Gatepost‘s current Editor-in-Chief Spencer Buell.

I’d like to give a huge shoutout and thank you to my Writing for Online and Social Media class’ Professor (and Assistant Advisor to The Gatepost) Meredith O’Brien-Weiss for all of her help with this video!  I was having some serious technical difficulties, but she figured it out!  Thank you Meredith!  And of course a big thank you goes out to Kathleen, Kerrin and Spencer.

Here’s the video:

For more Gatepost madness, you can follow McDonough, Murray, Buell and O’Brien-Weiss on Twitter:





Sandella’s brings all the students to the yard

A student purchases a F’Real Reece’s milkshake at FSU’s Sandella’s.

The most recent feature I wrote for my feature writing class and which was published in The Gatepost was “Students pleased with Sandella’s food options” in the April 5 edition.

The article is a business feature about the status of Framingham State University’s on-campus Sandella’s restaurant and convenience store a little over a year after the restaurant opened.

I spoke with FSU’s Director of Sodexo Dining Services Ralph Eddy about Sandella’s, how students have taken to the new dining spot and how he hopes students utilize the space for future events and activities.

I have to credit my Co-News Editor Michael B. Murphy for this post’s title.  He thought of Kelis’ song “Milkshake” when we discussed making a teaser of the article for the front page of The Gatepost because one of Sandella’s’ newest and most popular features with students is its F’Real brand milkshake blender and F’Real’s milkshake and smoothie options.  (In the end, the article wasn’t teased.)

The above photo was taken by Photo Editor Allie Card for The Gatepost.

This week in the news: res hall fire, on-campus memorial removal change and FSU tuition and fees to increase, among other stories

Check out the news section’s work in the April 12 edition of The Gatepost.  Here are our most recent articles and their ledes:

The scene outside FSU’s North Hall, where a sixth-floor fire occurred on Friday, April 5.

“Almost all of the students displaced by a fire in North Hall on Friday were allowed to return to their rooms as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dan Magazu, FSU’s external relations coordinator, said.”

“Responding to a controversy two weeks ago, administrators say, in the future, they will be more communicative with students about the removal process for on-campus memorials placed around campus.”

“FSU plans to slow enrollment growth and student tuition and fees increases in 2014, Executive Vice President Dale Hamel told the Board of Trustees as a part of the FY2014 budget report.”

“The SGA election results for the 2013-14 academic year are in, and of the two contested races, Daniel Costello and Kevin Long were elected vice president and secretary, respectively.”

“President Timothy Flanagan said the administration is drafting a proposal for a multicultural center on campus that he will be bringing to the board for approval at its next meeting on May 14.”

“The Board of Higher Education (BHE) is pushing to be more involved in the Board of Trustees’ processes of selecting new university presidents and setting their compensations, according to Commissioner of Higher Education Richard M. Freeland.”

“On Tuesday, April 9, FSU’s Black Student Union came before SGA to request $3,601.96 in SGA unallocated funds for its Culture Show After Party.”

Please provide a brief summary of your resume and educational background.

I received my undergraduate degree bachelor’s from Boston Conservatory. Then I went on to get Master’s and Ph.D. at Brown University.”

Opinion Editor Sam Rawson’s article “NEASC to re-accredit FSU in 2014” was also published in the April 12 edition of The Gatepost, but it appears that only a portion of the article was posted on The Gatepost‘s website.  Check the website for updates.

The above photo was taken by The Gatepost‘s Photo Editor Allie Card for The Gatepost.