Today was the first day of the College Media Association we Beaconites are attending here in New York City, and here I am, sitting in the lobby of the Sheraton Times Square Hotel, ready to collapse after a very long day of journalism craziness! Our very early day started at about 6 this morning, when some of us got up early to get on line to reserve spots for media tours on Monday and Tuesday. Kate and I are going to Hearst Tower (or, Hearst Castle, as I deliriously told the sign-up lady this morning), where many magazines, like Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and Marie Claire, are published. So that will be fun! I am really excited to get a closer look at the magazine industry.
The first session I attended this morning was called “Tough Interview? You Can Do it!” presented by David Simpson, a college media adviser who has written for the Associated Press and many other publications. He was a really engaging presenter, considering it was 9 a.m. (more like 8 a.m. with the time change, which felt more like 5 a.m. for us West Coast girls!). He had a lot of really good tips for dealing with difficult administrators or PR people who don’t want to talk, or aren’t very forthcoming when they do talk to you. He emphasized the importance of being professional, which was a no-brainer, but I took away from him some really interesting points. One way to get the facts straight of any story is to have the source tell it in chronological order so you can catch any errors of logic or inconsistencies. He also said that while it’s important to be prepared, sometimes for whatever reason, you just can’t always be 100 percent put together, and so it’s better to admit this to the source so you won’t have to scam your way through an interview. Probably the biggest thing I took away from him was the importance of listening to your source, and not just thinking of your next question, because you may miss something important if you do. And if you are still really nervous for an interview, a little self-affirmation can go a long way.
I next went to “Just Do It: International Freelancing Post-Graduation,” which was given by a recent college graduate, Julia Waterhous, who decided to follow her dream of freelance journalism in India, and the steps she took to get there. The biggest thing I took from this presentation was the importance of courage and determination in following whatever dream you may have. As someone who loves to travel and learn about different cultures, I thought it was a really fascinating presentation.
The keynote speaker today was Willie Geist, who’s basically done every job there is in journalism, from writing to editing to producing to hosting all these different morning shows, including the 9 a.m. hour of The Today Show. He was such a funny and engaging speaker! He had some really great insights about breaking into the business. He said there is no set way to get involved in journalism. You just have to go for it and see where it takes you and where you may possibly end up. Also, a journalist must often be flexible and versatile to be successful. As he so eloquently put it, “15 minutes after talking about the sequester, I’m across the street making meatloaf with Martha Stewart.”
After some lunch, I attended a presentation called “Tight, Bright Writing and Editing,” by Peggy Elliott. It was mostly about how you can make your writing more concise and neat, which I personally really want to improve on. I learned about getting rid of redundancies, like “actual truth” and “future plans,” and the difference between “due to” (implies debt) and “because of” (cause and effect) in an article. I know I use “due to” a lot in my articles, so I was really happy I learned how different these two phrases actually are! Little things like these are what make the difference between good writers and great writers!
“Becoming a Pitch-Perfect Writer” was my next session, and this one was a bit different from others I had attended so far. It was about getting your foot in the door if you want to freelance for magazines or even newspapers. The key, according to the presenter, Rick Marshall (who was really funny and laid-back) is to know how to pitch your ideas to potential editors. He talked about strategies such as understanding the tone and audience of the publication you want to freelance for, keeping your pitch concise, being as timely as possible in regard to current events, and not overreaching with your credentials. Good things to know for any career you may choose to go into!
The final session I attended was a showcase called “Insider Tips from a Metro Editor on Snagging Internships and a Job,” and it was a really good session at first, with lots of helpful tips like getting in contact with potential editors for “informational interviews” cultivating as many relationships in the workplace as you can, and encouraging us to even seek out non-editors, like parents or friends, to help with article construction. However, when he opened it up for questions, it gradually turned into one big brag-fest where it seemed like everyone who asked questions tried to outdo each other in how many internships and how much real journalism experience they had. Oh well. Not every session can be a winner, I guess.
Right now, it doesn’t seem like my brain could possibly contain any more new information, but there’s still a day and a half to go! I am so excited to learn more as these days go on. Now, to a bit of R&R before tomorrow’s round 2!