‘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.

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‘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.

‘Thinking like an editor’ at #CMANYC13

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I was lucky enough to attend this year’s College Media Association’s spring national college media convention in New York City a couple of weeks ago with a number of The Gatepost’s editors.

It was a phenomenal experience to say the least.  Not only was it my first time in NYC, but I also had the chance to attend some extremely informative seminars and keynote speaker sessions.  The keynote speakers included Co-host of the 9 a.m. hour of NBC’s the “Today Show” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Willie Geist, Vice President and Publisher of Teen Vogue Jason Wagenheim and Twitter’s Manager of Journalism and News, Founder of the digital journalism blog 10,000 Words and Author of “The Digital Journalist’s Handbook” Mark Luckie.  I also got to meet CBS’ “60 Minutes” Associate Producer Sumi Aggarwal at an informational session about landing a job in journalism.

The convention even had its own Twitter hashtag: #CMANYC13.

Among the seminars I attended, one of my favorites was the very first one I went to: “Thinking Like an Editor” with Bill Elsen, who formerly worked for The Washington Post and is now a consultant for three college newspaper websites.  According to the seminar’s description in the Official Convention Program, “You can be terrific at making story assignments, editing copy, writing headlines, designing pages and the other nuts and bolts of producing a publication – if you master the not-so-obvious.  Learn how to manage people, avert crises and generally not drive yourself nuts.”

I figured I’d share my own notes from the seminar:

Elsen remarked that being a student journalist is difficult – they have to go to class, they’re not just working for a newspaper.

He said there are two leadership skills student editors need to have:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Versatility

Elsen said student editors:

  • Can’t be just one thing (i.e. a reporter) anymore (both in their current roles and future ones).  They need to be able to be everything, including “mojos”: mobile journalists
  • Multimedia is and will continue to play a huge role in journalism

He said there are a few things student editors need to have in place at their papers:

  1. Mission Statement that says, “This is what we do, our job is to serve… (students, faculty, staff, alums, grandma even)
  2. Publish a staff manual containing jobs and their descriptions
  3. Make a localized stylebook – more than just AP.  There should be an online version and it should be made available to everyone
  4. Learn to accept constructive criticism
  5. Improve website
  6. Provide for the people who work for you, which includes:

–        Good time management

–        Making priorities

–        Gaining respect and being a leader

–        Being the best reporter, editor, photo chooser, video shooter, photographer and audio tech. (Elsen reminded students to not photograph someone in the middle of a picture, but on either side)

–        Provide skills

He said in terms of understanding ethics and legal issues (he advised students to learn about FERPA, which he said is the “biggest crutch used in the U.S.”):

  • Be careful
  • Definitely use “declined to comment”

Elsen asked, “Can you deal with people – especially your own age?”  He advised:

  • Don’t criticize other editors/staff members in front of everyone – pull them aside in the hallway
  • Compliment them in front of everyone

He said to use good judgment

  • Always ask for help
  • Make friends with computer people!
  • Meet with advisor on a regular basis (he said, “a good one will keep their nose out of business for the most part – it’s your paper not theirs)
  • Dialogue

He said responsibility to audience is:

  • Not to the university president, etc. – “grown up jerks who think we don’t know enough to write good, clean journalism”

–        Work around these people

Elsen said to cross train the staff to:

  • Have many kills
  • Be mojos

–        Focus on their skills first

–        Cross training is a great way to avoid last-minute issues

In order to avoid last-minute issues, Elsen advised to keep a scoreboard in Dropbox of everything for a given issue:

–        Page numbers

–        Headlines

–        What has and hasn’t been copyedited

–        What photos/graphics have/need

–        Links to websites

  • Managing editors are in charge of in order to keep track of what is and isn’t done

Elsen talked about what he called the “inverted inverted pyramid” – the order/organization of the newsroom:

  • Associate editors – maybe have one for print and one for online
  • Editors of sections and website

In terms of trainingnewbies,” he said:

  • They can’t email stories in – they should be in the newsroom with you, so you can go through stories with them
  • Assign freshmen to go around buildings, read bulletin boards and meet secretaries in order to develop beats (story ideas)

He said to have as manybudget” – planning – meetings as possible

He advised to not use Twitter too much

He said to never email criticism

In terms of dealing withproblem people,” he said:

  • Make clear what behavior is unacceptable
  • First time something happens, take that person aside and tell them
  • Establish a pattern – three strikes and you’re out

He said if university gives newspaper a hard time about having own website to:

  • Do it anyway
  • Be objective
  • Be truthful
  • Be accurate

To see an infographic I think is pertinent to aspiring journalists and student newspaper editors, go hereDesigner is unknown via visual.ly.

The above pictures are via http://nyc13.org/.