Don’t Be Afraid of Constructive Criticism

The First Writer and Editor: 'Take out that part?! Are you nuts? How is the stampede scene at the end of the cave going to make sense without it?!'

 Courtesy of Cartoon Stock

Today, I had a writing meeting with my Online Journalism professor. I was so scared for this meeting, and have been dreading it for about a month now.

I quickly realized after my meeting with him that this was the most helpful experience I have ever had in my three years of college.

Now, my professor is credible. He has done some amazing things during his career. He has traveled and interviewed some pretty intense people. He writes for Forbes. He is  extremely knowledgeable about, well, pretty much everything.

So, you can understand why I was scared. Yet I knew I would come out discovering something new about myself. And I did. After my professor edited one of my articles right in front of me, I had a revelation.

I have always been very insecure about my writing. I never knew if this stemmed from my other insecurities, but I could never put my finger on why. I had people tell me before that I am good. Teacher, professors, my friends. But I still felt insecure.

My professor explained to me why I felt this way. I continue to struggle with letting go of the rules of English writing installed in me for the first 12 years of my schooling. My writing had no flow because I was reluctant to break these rules.

For example, I usually never start my sentences with conjunctions. I never know when to start sentences with “because’. Basically, my writing was too formal for a journalistic setting.

I was taking the rules I learned in english and applying them to journalism. My teacher told me that communication to the audience matters more than the rules do. AP style is a given, but write to get a message across to your audience. I realized that I rarely do this now after years of english and creative writing.

Now, I know I have already posted on the differences between english and journalism writing. So, my message is this: do not be afraid of constructive criticism. Let people tear your work apart. I did, and I got some awesome advice out of it.

No matter what field you go into, journalistic writing or creative writing, you are going to have editors. This is a fact of the business. In my experience, editors usually edit your work on their own terms and on their own computer. Never be afraid to ask your editor to edit and article with you.

I think a lot of people are afraid to have their work criticism, but there is a difference between criticism and constructive criticism.

A lot of the time people just want to help you become a better writer, not tear you down.

Check out this article on editing tools, and go out there and have some peeps read your stuff. You go this.

 

 

The Wonderful World of EBooks

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am a print person. There is just something that feels so right about holding a book in my hand, and turning actual pages.

Ebooks do have some advantages. I do own a Nook that I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. I have probably three books on it, and they are all books that I couldn’t find at Barns n Noble. They are also a lot cheaper than print books. I found that using them for academic reasons is super helpful. This is because you can make notes and highlights and save them on your device. My Nook saved my butt during Philosophy of Ethics. I mean, some of those readings were real rough to understand. The built in dictionary was so very helpful.

Though it can be hard to let go of your love for print books, it is naive to think that Ebooks aren’t changing the way people consume books. Acknowledging Ebooks is vital if you plan to work in the book industry, and jobs are available in the world of Ebooks.

I have recently become interested in Ebooks, despite my preference for print. The main reason is because I am making an Ebook for a project in my Digital Writing class.

So, in my research, I came across this nifty article from Chronicle Books. It goes through the six steps of how an Ebook is made, and what Ebook employees at publishing houses do in order to put one together.

The things that surprised me the most is how much work goes into converting a book into electronic form. If its an older book, locating the files can be a struggle. Clearing the rights can be as well.

The possibilities are also endless with Ebooks. So much creative design goes into putting it together. The format has to be correct, and most Ebook publishers strive to make them look as close to print books as possible.

However, so much can be added into Ebooks. Audio can be included, pop-ups, photos and other images, and even video. A lot goes into putting together an ebook that remains close to a print book, yet adds more to the reading experience.

I find this fascinating. Publishing houses are constantly looking for writers and editors, but they are also looking for people that can utilize technology to craft beautiful Ebooks. Does’t sound like a bad job to me.

Form a design perspective, putting together an Ebook entails a good eye for design. Keeping the headers and typography consistent is crucial, as is breaking up print so that the eye of the reader can rest. For my Ebook, I plan on utilizing bullet points, headers, and sub-headers. A serif font is often good for bodies of text, while a different one can be used for headers. Type can also be utilized to convey a message, depending on your subject.

If you are interested in making your own Ebook, check out this video. I will be researching how to put one together myself here soon.

What Reading Does for Your Brain

This week, I wanted to talk about something a little different from my past posts. A couple of semesters ago, I decided to take Psychology 101 during my awesome days at community college. I learned a lot of very cool things in that class, but the one thing that has always stuck with me is how reading is basically amazing for the brain.

This ABC article does a great job of explaining what I mean, but basically reading is new to humans. Well, relatively new. Humans only developed reading as a skill 5,000 years ago. That’s pretty new if you look at the how long we have been around.

The brain is so cool. Like, honestly. The human brain is astonishing, and it is ever-changing. Our brains do not stop growing like other parts of our bodies.

Reading a novel activates different parts of the brain. It ignites our imagination, while simoultaniously activating the parts of the brain that process words. Reading has been show to improve connections between these various regions of the brain. It’s like cardio for the brain.

In fact, reading exercises your brain to a point where it can actually change it. Fiction is fun, and exercises the brain more than reading boring facts ever will. So put down that text book once in a while and go read something you will actually enjoy.

This may be unrelated, but I have always struggled to read in my free time during a school semester. This semester, I have been reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (amazing book omg) while I have been commuting to school on the bus. Just that little bit of reading has helped my writing a lot during classes.

17 regions of the brain are activated just by reading a book. I know during the age of the internet, reading is becoming harder and harder for people, but go read a book. It doesn’t have to be Lord of the Rings, don’t take something huge like that on. Just a simple novel. Trust me, they are out there.

Help your brain out.

The State of the Industry

One thing that I hoped to accomplish by starting this blog is to inform future writers on the print media business. So, I found some very good resources on the news and book industries.

The first reading I found was by  Pew. Just from this one reading, I discovered a lot about the industriesI hope to work in. Knowledge is always a powerful tool in arming yourself for a job.

The statistics dealing with the change in the newspaper industry are staggering, but really they aren’t surprising. Both print and digital newspaper circulation fell 7% in 2015, making it the worst year for newspapers since the Great Recession.

Advertising also fell 8% in both print and digital as well. Newsrooms have had to cut employees at higher and higher rates. The only crutch newspapers seem to have are small groups of very dedicated subscribers, and those are slowly declining as well.

All of these things I have learned as a student. It is scary. I may have thought about changing my major a couple of times, but somehow I stick with it. I might save this topic for a future post.

Anyways, I have received a lot of advice from professors and media professionals alike, which can be seen in other posts. The journalism industry is indeed changing, but journalism itself will not be going anywhere.

I think the main way to make sure good journalism is still around is to somehow get the public to care enough to begin a public fund for news agencies, just like NPR. I feel that multiple benefits could come from this change. Maybe that is just because I really, really like NPR.

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Anyways, This article was also very informative on the actual trends of the book industry. Though we like to think that print books are safe, digital books till are becoming increasingly popular. Instead of ignoring this fact, it’s time to prepare for it.

Non-fiction print book sales are falling. No surprise there. The internet provides free and easily accessible information at a much higher rate than print books do.

E-books are also affecting fiction genres, and the increasing popularity of the newest and greatest e-readers push people to buy them more often.

Also not surprising, but I think the main take away is this: it is no longer useful to be living in the past. I love me a print book more than a digital one anytime. The same goes with newspapers. There is something about holding a book that brings a lot of comfort to me, and to a lot of people.

The thing is that it doesn’t matter if I have a deep connection to an actual book being held in my hand. I still need to accept the trends, and learn how to prepare myself for jobs that may not fit my emotional need, but pay the bills.

I have known many people that work for newspapers as well as having a full-time job. This is always an option, but if you expect to get a full-time position with a newspaper, prepare for rejection. That is just a part of the new media world.

In this world, you have to stay up to date. For instance, I learned today that podcasts are the rising form of media right now. These are the kinds of trends to look out for.

 

 

Landing a Job in the Publishing Industry

My dream job is to work for a publishing house. My dream is to write a book one day.

I know I am not the only person in the world that has these dreams. Dreams can be dreamt all they want to. In such a competitive industry, how do we actually land jobs in such an industry?

I have done a fair amount of research on this, sometimes even when I should be listening in class. But hey, I’m preparing for my future.

I came across this article from the Society of Young Publishers. This article does a great job of giving advice about how to make yourself stand out. The basics are:

  • English degree is best
  • Degrees are a minimum requirement
  • Experience matters
  • Writing and spelling skills are crucial
  • Networking
  • Research on trends

It is also worth noting that publishing jobs do not pay very well. This is a market where you have to want to love you career, not just for the money.

I also found this reading on what authors should be aware of about the state of the industry. These are the things future authors must know how to do, sorry if this is repetitive:

  • Online Presence. Know how to manage websites across multiple platforms
  • Don’t be so quick to trust the mainstream media  on trends. There is also some very goo data in this reading on trends, but I will have a new post on that soon.
  • A Journalists favorite saying: know your audience. Research them. Love them.

In many ways, these tips can be compared to the Journalism industry as well. However, they are massively different. They do have one thing in common: both are competing with technology. Computers are even becoming programed to write articles!

That means jobs are becoming extremely competitive for actual humans. Do whatever you can to stand out. Gain experience. Take a coding class, or even teach  yourself to code. Write in our free time to keep up on grammar. There is a lot of free writing prompt apps I use to keep my writing fresh.

People often ask me why I got involved with writing for my school’s newspaper.

“You don’t get paid!”

“Newspapers are dying, why gain experience there?”

Yes they have good points, but I always tell them it’s all about experience. I didn’t start on the paper to get paid, I just wanted my stuff out there and published. Most internships I have looked at require published work, anyway.

The most important tool in gaining a job, from what I have experience during my college years, is experience. This really can’t be stressed enough.

Secondly, knowledge is key. Know what is happening in the industry. Not just from the news, but from actual people that work in it.

I recently had the opportunity to go to a Media Festival put on by my school. There, I got many pieces of advice from actual people that graduated in my major. Experience. Networking. Audience. Knowledge. These are the things I have not only heard from professors, but from professionals as well.

 

 

 

 

Being Digitally Challenged While Preparing for Media Jobs

I have always had issues with technology. I didn’t own a computer until I was 15, so I spent my whole life in the blissful world of books and the outdoors.

Recently, I read something in a class that troubled me. According to this article, the jobs that I am learning to prepare myself for right now are quickly becoming obsolete. Social media is on its way out. This is something that worries me, because social media makes sup a large part of most of my classes.

Now, it may be a no brainer that technology is where the jobs are. Looking back, I probably should have minored or at least double majored in a subject to do with technology. Computer science sounds great, but I knew I wouldn’t succeed.

I am the rare mellinial that struggles with computers. I really always have. Luckily, college has taught me more than I ever could hope for. Before college, I didn’t even know how to touch video editing. However, I came to the conclusion that the more digital skills I have, the better chance I have of getting a job. This applies for all fields of study.

I have two pieces of advice if you are struggle with the digital world.

My first tip is, if you are a student, participate in any student media that interest you. I write for my university’s newspaper, an even doing that has given me skills that classrooms couldn’t. I have learned how to take good photos. I have learned how to achieve good web-friendly headlines. I have learned what size of photos look best on the web. I have learned how to manage my social media accounts, and push content out effectively.

These skills may be simple, but they will help you a lot. Experience is the best way to get ahead in this industry.

My next tip is simple: Lynda. This is an excellent resource to teach yourself new skills, and the amount of lessons are infinite. I know for a fact that companies use it to train employees.

These skills may be scary to tackle, but luckily you can teach yourself how to do anything. Learning to code is as easy as a Google search.

That’s the beautiful thing about the internet.

 

How Journalism Writing Differs from English Writing

From middle school all the way through high school, I was taught how to write essays. Five paragraph essays and in text citations dominated english classes. Senior year of high school, I finally took a creative writing class and learned new  concepts related to story telling.

I have loved writing my whole life. Poetry was my thing in high school. I even got some of  my poems in my school’s annual magazine.

When I got to university, I still had to write many papers in five paragraph MLA format. However, I was hit with a totally knew way of writing when I began my news writing class.

Now, it may be obvious that articles are written in a certain way. But to me at the time, I was mind-blown. My professor advised us to forget all that we learned previously about writing, which was pretty hard for me to grasp.

To put it simply, writing articles is simple. The fact that it is so simple might be what makes it so hard to grasp.

The first concept I learned in my first journalism class was get to the point quickly. We learn how to organize articles using the Inverted Paragraph scheme.

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Inverted Paragraph courtesy of Pinterest.

Basically what this scheme does is make us put what is most important first. This goes back to getting to the point. In journalism, you get to the point right away in the first couple of sentences. This is to get the main details across quickly because let’s face it, people don’t want to read entire articles.

The next thing I struggled with was not only getting to the point, but making the article brief. For the newspaper I write for, our word counts are typically 300 to 500 words. This isn’t really lot of room to get your facts in there, but it works.

However, this typically is for print publications due to limited space. Online, you have a lot more room. However, unless ou are writing a long-form article, it is still smart to keep it brief. It’s a lot less scary to readers.

Instead of citations, we attribute. Basically, “according to” is a journalist’s best friend.

Perhaps the thing I struggled with the most was AP Style. I honestly didn’t even knew it existed until I began my degree. Basically, AP style is a uniform rule book that publications usually follow. Not all publications follow it, The New York Times is an example, but most do.

Learning the tiny rules for every different thing you could think of was rough. There is a specific way to write address, state names, numbers, and titles. Buying an AP Style book is never a bad idea.

Notecards are your best friend when trying to memorize these various rules. Quizlet is a great resource, but nothing solidifies the information better than writing them  out yourself.

This is a great website about AP Style basics.

In high school, we learn to plan out our writing. First drafts are essential. This doesn’t really work in journalism writing. The best thing to do is sit down, write out your facts and informations, and fix the article structure later.

Also, the fact that the Oxford Comma isn’t a thing in journalism can be very hard to get used to. For those that don’t know what the Oxford Comma is, it is the comma that usually comes last in a list.

Dogs, cats, and birds. That comma before the “and” is the Oxford Comma. I can’t tell you how much this tiny detail used to frustrate me, but now I struggle with not using it when I should.  The debate over the Oxford Comma rages on, but know after writing for a paper for two semesters, I understand why it could be annoying to journalistic writers.

Overall, it you are planning to become a writer for journalistic purposes, get ready to learn new and scary things that contradict your high school english classes. It might be scary, but it also pretty fun.

What I’ve Learned About The Importance of Social Media

Social media is a factor in modern journalism and publishing that cannot be ignored. As a journalism student, I have seen personally how important it is to learn how to use social media to build a brand and push out content.

Many companies and businesses are looking for people that know how to use these forms of new media. It’s even evident when I look for internships.

I have had classes that require a social media post including our articles. For my college newspaper, we are required to have a Twitter account so that we can retweet and tease articles.

Not only does having these professional accounts look great to employers, but they help to make sure people are actually seeing your content online.

Yes, employers do check your social media accounts before they hire you. Of course you can ask them not to, but this will just end up making you seem suspicious. The best way to be prepared for this is to keep your social media clean and professional.

Maybe it’s a good idea to not post pictures of the party you went to on Friday night. The way I think of it is this: if you don’t want your mom to see it, don’t put it out there for employers to see.

As a writer, I have had to learn to control what I post. Not only does this make you look good to employers, it also can help your credibility. For instance, maybe chill on the political posts. Yes, I know that is hard during a very controversial election season, but refraining from posting how much you hate Trump will make you seem less extreme one way or the other.

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Courtesy of Wikimedia

Now, back to using social media as a tool to get as many people to see your content as possible. My first tip is to tease, tease, tease. Don’t just share it. Provide a sentence to lure the reader in. Throw a hashtag in that tweet, too.

Know who you are trying to reach, and what the best time is to release content to reach that current audience. This would involve research and maybe actually talking to people. Hey, I never said it would be easy.

Getting them in to read it is only the first step. The next part is keeping them there. Multimedia is my absolute favorite thing. Don’t just have text, but include some photos, videos, and other forms of media. This makes you writing seem easy to engage with, and it is a lot less scary to look at than just a wall of text.

Add links to sources and other articles. Make it an interactive experience.

If you have a lot of text, break it up. This is how newspapers are written, and it translates well to web writing. People on he net don’t want to read huge articles. That’s just a fact of life.

As far as platforms go, it is crucial to figure out what social media fits your content best. Photography? Instagram. Quick and quirky news? Twitter. Those are some simple examples, but you get the point. Once you find that platform, lean everything you can about it. Don’t feel like you have to be on all forms of social media.

Social media also provides everyone with a chance to be reporters. It allows for voices to be heard, and more discussions in public discourse. In a world where everyone can be a reporter,we no longer have the old media system where publications and news outlets are  disconnected from their audience. Journalists can get their news out quicker and to more people at once.

Though this is a slightly outdated video, it does a nice job of summarizing what I am talking about.

 

In this digital age, it is easier than ever to know and understand your audience, as long as you know the tricks and platforms to use. Social media is a great tool that can be used by media professionals of all types, and everyday people. Don’t let it scare you.

To learn more about how social media and journalism are interacting, check this Atlantic article.

This Publishing Executive article also includes some great information on how to use social media to push out your work.

 

 

 

 

Why Newspapers Are Dying, But Journalism Isn’t

As a Journalism and Media Communications major, people often tell me I won’t find a job with a newspaper.

I don’t argue with this, because deep inside I know this is true. With the rise of the digital age in the late 90s, newspapers were not prepared for the consequences. Advertising in print became too expensive, which is how newspapers would make a bulk of their profit.

Online advertising became a lot cheaper than print, and websites like Craigslist can literally be blamed for the death of the newspaper. Now, all the blame can’t be put on Craigslist. Newspapers were too slow to get with the times, even though they had all the warning signs of where the print market was going.

So where does that leave my field of study? This vast filled of television, radio, website management and creation, public relations, and advertising? Well, the answer is simple: it’s not that journalism is dying as a field, it is evolving with technology like many other fields have had to do.

Take social media as an example. Every time I go on my major’s website, I see an intern position for some social media assistant for x, y, and z business. Why? Because this is one of the largest growing platforms used today to reach millions of people.

Sites like Twitter have revolutionized the reporting world, and made it easier to get breaking news out quickly and efficiantly. It also allows people on the street to act as reporters themselves.

If you go on newspaper websites now, most have implemented pay walls. These are those notices that come up when you have seen a certain amount of articles, and they ask you to start paying. This is one way newspapers have had to evolve in a way that would  bring in money.

In a world slowly loosing traditional journalists, reporters have had to take on multiple different roles to keep there jobs. We are expected to be good at photography, video, and managing social media. Luckily, my major includes preparation in all of these areas.

Comedian John Oliver sums it up pretty nicely.

Though I realize the world of Journalism is changing, I am worried about this. In a world loosing hard-hitting reporters, what will happen to our news? I guess in time we will find out.