Former Vermont Cynic staffers—a New York Times writer and CDM Group exec—talk shop with current Cynics
Vermont Cynic alumni Eric Lipton of the New York Times and Josh Prince of The CDM Group spent Saturday with current UVM reporters, editors and visual journalists, talking over ways to improve their work, get creative and land jobs.
“My entire professional career is like a direct line from the Cynic,” said Prince, chief creative officer of an organization that bills itself as the world’s largest global healthcare communications company.
Lipton—Cynic editor-in-chief in 1987 and now a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter working for The New York Times in Washington, D.C.—said he had a chance to exercise his creativity at the UVM student newspaper.
He encouraged current Cynics to do the same.
“Something you must have in order to have a creative life is the ability to write and the ability to think critically,” Lipton said. “You have your lives in front of you. You can go so many different ways with your creative skills.”
Lipton comes to UVM about once a year to offer journalistic advice to Cynic staffers. Prince said that he comes not only to offer career advice but to recruit for his agency.
Natalie Williams, the 2014 Cynic editor-in-chief, said she was impressed with the daylong workshop.
“It was great to be able to speak with really accomplished people who got their start at the Cynic,” Williams said. “Eric and Josh provided really constructive feedback and successfully made us think about what impact we want to make as an organization.”
Prince said he remembers his days at the Cynic fondly.
“All of our lasting friendships were forged at the Cynic,” he said. “Once a Cynic, always a Cynic.”
UVM media students are accustomed to spreading the word via WRUV-FM, UVMtv and The Vermont Cynic. Last week, however, they went on a brief media blackout to take part in a super-secret segment of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
The UVM student media program helped facilitate the segment, in which six students helped to surprise a South Hero family that Ellen—yeah, we’re on a first-name basis now—had chosen to receive a gaggle of gifts as part of her “Cash at Your Door” segment.
To keep the Jan. 22 surprise gift-giving a surprise, Ellen’s producers forbade the students saying a word, especially through social media. The students restrained themselves. They got a backstage pass to the proceedings in sub-zero wind-chilly weather, and some even went on-camera to deliver the gift cards. (See the embedded snaps.)
“It was a very cool experience but also incredibly cold,” Williams said. “We were in South Hero, by a lake where the weather was well into the negatives.”
Dawson, the Cynic’s video editor, echoed those sentiments:
So here’s my account. We obviously were the people who brought in all their gifts. It was extremely cold. We must have heard everyone from California say “Its 70 in Burbank” at least 20 times. Our manager was this guy named Phil. Great guy, but no sense of direction. We had to call him and redirect him a lot. We even missed the house the first time.
It felt great to give this obviously deserving family all these gifts. The amount of gifts you see on screen wasn’t even a quarter of the gifts that they actually got, there was an entire van full of gifts. We must have been going from the van to the family, back and fourth, for five minutes.
We had Phil describe the process they have every family go through to determine if they’re worthy of these prizes. Very simply, they have a mock telemarketer-type person call and ask them some questions, and from those questions they can discern when they’re usually home and what the situation is with the family. But he said they always say, “It’s a one in a million chance this will happen to you,” when in reality it’s quite a good chance, relatively speaking.
It feels really good to give to these people, who obviously deserved it. The crew from Ellen were all really great, and they all do really want to make these people happy.
Check out the video to see the UVM media crew in action.
So there you are, going through college, studying hard, getting good grades and producing fabulous work.
What do you have to show for it?
The answer should be: AN AMAZING ONLINE PORTFOLIO!
Potential employers today are going to look you up. When they do, you don’t want them to find pictures of you in less-than-professional moments. You want them to see you at your best. There’s lots of advice out there about what to put into a portfolio. However, if you’re in college—and you’ve made it this far in today’s post—you likely know what you want to display. If you don’t, all you need to do is stop by your college’s career center to ask the professionals there what they think you should be sending into the world.
Once you’ve chosen the work that you want the world to see, you’ll find it easy to produce blog-style portfolios on free platforms like WordPress—which hosts this blog—or Google’s Blogspot, each of which has its pros and cons. You can create pages with words, photos, images, videos and links galore.
In my news-writing course, I ask students to collect their work into an online portfolio. Many of these students have gone on to turn their blogs into professional-looking websites that showcase their work and help them get jobs.
Here are just a few portfolios of UVM students and recent UVM grads. Some began in my course; some didn’t. Each is a brilliant showcase of work that presents them as professional and eminently hirable.
- The course-specific portfolio of a current UVM student. This portfolio shows what students produce by the end of the semester in my news-writing course.
- A student’s portfolio featuring newspaper layout and design.
- A student’s writing portfolio with an introduction designed to get her a job. This one drops the “WordPress” name, but it’s still a WordPress site. The writer has simply bought her own domain name–featuring just her name–something that you can do through WordPress.
- A former student’s photography portfolio.
- A former student’s multimedia portfolio.
Each of these sites were put together with WordPress or Blogspot. You could have yours up and running within the next hour.
Get to it!
Hundreds of news outlets today are reporting the story about USA Today reporter Natalie DiBlasio, the 2011 Vermont Cynic editor in chief, whose outreach to a reader helped a woman find her missing son.
The story—which started circulating around social media a day before becoming official, widespread, old-media news—started with DiBlasio’s USA Today article about recent frigid temperatures gripping the country. The story was accompanied by a photo taken by Associated Press photographer Jacquelyn Martin of a homeless man, who identified himself only as “Nick,” warming himself by a grate in Washington D.C.
The man turned out to be Nicholas Simmons, a 20-year-old who disappeared from his home in upstate New York on Jan. 1. His mother, Michelle Hannah Simmons, reached out to DiBlasio, who contacted the photographer. Together, they helped Nick’s mother track him down.
As of this afternoon, stories about DiBlasio appeared in everything from the USA Today-affiliated Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, where people who knew Nick originally saw his photo, to the Canadian National Post. DiBlasio said she has also been invited to talk about her experience on the Jan. 6 episode of Inside Edition.
So, yes, it’s a weird journalism-jobs landscape.
Media outlets continue to bleed talent in the form of layoffs, buyouts and staff cuts, and a story out today on the Poynter website makes a case that, while newspapers continue to retain their position at the front of the traditional media pack when it comes to online advertising revenue, newspapers will lose more than half of their share of digital ads in the next five years.
But the news about news isn’t all gloomy. Persistent, talented students can graduate into amazing careers. Just ask Jessica Bartlett at The Boston Globe, Molly Shaker at Good Morning America or Connor Boals, formerly of Thomson Reuters and now a producer at the mobile-first startup NowThis News.
It doesn’t hurt to have a great internship, of course, both for U.S. students and those overseas. Belgian college student Lana Mortelmans wrote us recently to offer her insight into the global journalism sitch.
One takeaway message: Would-be journalists are struggling everywhere, yet optimism drives them on.
A JOURNALISTIC FUTURE. FOR US. BY US.
By Lana Mortelmans
Sixty journalism students are supposed to graduate this year from the AP Hogeschool in Antwerp. Most plan to work in the journalism sector, but more than 80 percent say they are afraid that they won’t find a journalism job. The media, their teachers, other journalists—everyone tells them how hard it is for journalists to find a job. The students are scared.
Perhaps they shouldn’t be. Every AP student has found an internship, and the vast majority believe that a good internship can facilitate the search for a job. Most hope to land a job in print media. But can they?
Though Belgian media is actually holding up well in comparison to other countries, print suffers more than other forms of media. This year, the circulation of Belgian newspapers decreased by 14 percent, with popular newspapers leading the decline. Last month, it was announced that another 205 Belgian newspaper journalists would be fired. The number of newspaper mergers keeps increasing. Belgian radio consumption decreased by 7 percent last year. Belgian television is doing better, with a decrease of just 3 percent.
Without new, energetic talent, journalism will be doomed. It’s up to our generation to make sure journalism will survive.
We all chose to study journalism because we’re interested in media. It’s a fact that the number of available journalism jobs is decreasing, but if we are demotivated now, we certainly won’t find journalism jobs. We should be proud to be journalists. I would be proud to call myself a journalist. And I’m sure I will be soon. I can’t wait to see my own journalistic work published. I hope that my fellow journalism students can find similar motivation as they step into the job market.
I hope that my fellow journalism students can find similar motivation as they step into the job market.
Lana Mortelmans is a 20-year-old journalism student in her third and final year at Artesis Plantijn University College in Antwerp. She hopes to become a television journalist.
We here at the UVM Journalism and Media blog don’t often tread into PR-land, but here’s a great reason to do so. The video branch of University Communications this week put out a fun video titled “What it’s like here,” which really does provide an accurate and upbeat version of the kinds of activities and lifestyle that students can expect when they come to UVM.
Don’t miss a quick shot of two WRUV DJs at 1:08!
Katy Cardin, the just-departed news editor at The Vermont Cynic, has spent the semester writing with the USA Today collegiate correspondent program, which gives undergraduates the opportunity to write for a national publication and get advice from USA Today journalists. While it’s not necessarily easy to get into the program, collegiate correspondents tend to gush a bit about their experience, so it’s worth taking a shot.
We here at the J-Blog—and, I mean, literally, all of us—caught up with Katy and asked her to tell us more about the program.
How did you get the position?
For the first round of the application process, I had to submit my resume, a cover letter and some sample clips. I didn’t tell any of my friends or family except for Devin Karambelas, the Cynic’s managing editor, because I didn’t want to jinx myself. Superstition at its finest. When I got accepted into the second round, I had to write an original piece based on a recent article in USA Today—within 48 hours. I wrote about the ways students can get into trouble for posting inappropriate things on social media sites. Apparently they liked it, because I was accepted into the program after that.
What do you do as a collegiate correspondent?
My job basically is to think of topics that are important to college students across the nation and report on them. I have to come up with my topic a few days before my deadline, and I write one story a week. I actually have less than a week to write the stories, too: It’s more like two to three days.
I have to find specialists in the areas that I’m writing about and interview them, as well as get in touch with students all across the country, which can be difficult to do in such a short amount of time. When I submit my stories, I include hyperlinks in them as well so they can be somewhat interactive. I also do conference calls with the editors and guests at USA Today once in a while, which is a really interesting experience that not a lot of people get.
What’s the experience like?
It has been a really rewarding experience so far. I feel honored to be a part of this program, as the editors told us that they had a pretty large pool of applicants to choose from. It makes me feel like my writing is getting better and better each year and with each experience. It’s also great to be in touch with the other correspondents who are all passionate journalists and be able to help them and ask them for help with my stories if I need it. I can’t wait to continue with the rest of the program.