SEO for Journalists: How to Increase Visibility to Your Stories Naturally

SEO for journalists demystified: Learn everything you need to know about how to increase visibility to your online articles and more in this informative blog by Katie-Leigh Corder on SPJ.As journalists, we are expected to adapt to many different and rapidly changing technologies and techniques in order to increase views, shares, clicks, etc. which attract users to our online articles and websites. At the same time, journalists don’t want to fall into the ‘clickbait trap.’ Still, journalists need to prove that their articles are engaging readers, and that’s where search engine optimization (SEO) can help.

What is SEO?

Think of SEO as free visibility for your site if you do it right. Many people assume SEO is purely marketing or ‘robotic’ writing and doesn’t relate to what they’re trying to accomplish with their online presence; however, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to Internet Live Stats, “Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average (visualize them here), which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.”

Knowing that people are increasingly searching for practically everything on search engines, how can you become more involved and benefit from these searches? How can you dive into this technical world of optimizing your content while keeping your journalistic ethics in check?

Here are the main areas of SEO in which every journalist should have a basic knowledge so they can implement in their online stories:

Keywords

One of the most important areas of SEO involve keywords and queries—basically what people are searching for and how popular those searches are in search engines. Let’s say you live close to Pueblo, CO, and wrote a news article about a developing wildfire. Obviously, you want people to read your article especially since other local outlets will be ‘competing’ to break the story first. To increase your chances of visibility and higher ranking in search results, you’ll want to conduct keyword research.

Not so long ago, Google had a really awesome, free tool called Keyword Planner that gave you the average monthly searches of keywords; however, instead of an exact number, such as an 170 average monthly search volume, it now gives you a range, such as between 100–10,000—that are ultimately useless for our purposes here. Because of this, I would recommend using limited, free tools or biting the bullet and purchasing an account with Moz or other sites that include keyword research capabilities.

The goal of keyword research is to understand how many people are searching for keywords that are related to your article’s topic. The higher the searches and lower the competition, the more likely your article will receive better visibility and visits. Other tools involve typing in queries in Google and seeing what Google suggests under your search as well as related searches near the bottom of the first page of the search engine results page.

You can find more specific queries people are searching for—called longtail keywords—through Ubersuggest and Answer the Public; sites that are really helpful in determining what people are searching for.

After choosing a keyword or two that people are researching, then you can move forward to the next section.

On-Page Optimization

After writing a great article and conducting keyword research, you want to make sure all of your hard work doesn’t go to waste. By inserting those keywords into certain areas on the back-end of the page, you are following the main ‘rules’ of SEO. Here are the seven areas of a page you should focus your SEO efforts on:

  1. Headline
    First and foremost, the page title of a news article is very important. Not only must you engage users to click on your article, but you must make sure it accurately represents the presented information. It should also include keywords that will increase its ranking in search engine results. But it’s easier than you think.After determining your keywords you can simply plop them as close to the beginning of the headline as possible. For example, let’s say ‘Pueblo Wildfire’ is a trending and breaking news story. People around the area and in the state are searching for ‘Pueblo wildfire’ to stay up-to-date with developments. One way you could approach this is by including ‘Pueblo Wildfire’ into the forefront of your engaging title: Pueblo Wildfire Consumes X Acreage in Less Than a Day.
  2. URL
    Not only should the URL be short and concise, but you should place your main keyword into the URL, as well. For example, using the keyword from above, you could create a custom URL such as: domain.com/pueblo-wildfire-acreage. Mind you, your site may default to adding category names, tags, and/or dates in front of the customization; however, Google has dropped the requirement for news articles to contain numbers in their URLs.
  3. Meta-Title
    Meta-title (aka page title) and headline are sometimes interchanged with one another. The meta-title refers to the title that a user will see if he or she hovers the mouse over the page’s tab, as we can see in the example below:
    This is where you can see a page's meta-title if you hover over the page's tab in your browser.Like the page title, you’ll want to include your keyword near the beginning of the meta-title. Also, you’ll want to include branding in it, such as the example above (usually found at the end of your meta-title): “KRDO.com | …”This is what your meta-title will show up in a Google search results page, using the same example from above:

    This is what your page's meta-title will look like in search results.

    There are character limits you should follow. According to Moz, “Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag, or as many characters as will fit into a 512-pixel display. If you keep your titles under 55 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly.”

  4. Meta-Description
    Another item to focus on is the meta-description, or the brief description that shows up underneath URLs in search results:This is what your page's meta-description will look like in search results.

    Include keywords in the description but acknowledge these are most useful for click-through rates, so you’ll want to include between 150–160 characters and make it as unique and descriptive of the page as possible, see Moz for more details.

  5. Images
    In addition to correctly sized images for social-media purposes and showcasing an interesting visual, you’ll want to make sure two elements behind the image are included: the title and alternative tags:

    • Title Tag
      The title tag isn’t important for SEO purposes, but if a user Pins the image then the title tag will—most of the time—fill the description text area. Also, including a title tag ensures your page is Section 508 compliant for those that use screen readers, or if the image doesn’t load correctly, then that text will still show up to describe the image.
    • Alt Tag
      The part of the image that IS crawled by search engine bots is the alternative tag (alt tag). You’ll want to ensure your keywords are included in this tag along with an accurate, natural-sounding description of the image—write as a human, not as a bot. Your images will stand a better chance of showing up in image search results, as well.
  6. Body Text
    Ensure your researched keywords are included within the body text of your article, as well. You’ll want to write as you normally do, but include the keywords a few times throughout your content, which is necessary to increase visibility to your article.
  7. Tagging and Categories
    If the site you’re contributing to is a large site or has lots of past articles, then it’ll probably have a variety of tags or categories to help with organization and search. The tags and categories you choose to better describe your article will help define the URL at times as well as where it is within the site. This also helps with SEO as it gives a better idea of the covered topics in your article.

Sharing

After completing your research, refining your article with keywords, adding engaging images and titles, and publishing it, you’re ready to share it on your site’s social media accounts! Ideally, users will click on the article, engage with others—and not try to bite each other’s’ heads off, and, most importantly, share it on their walls for others to interact with. You’re increasing the visibility of the article and the company’s brand, which is a great indicator that people are visiting your article to read about that certain topic.

Linking

  • External Linking (link building)
    Google will see your site as reliable and trustworthy if other equally trustworthy sites link to you. Think of it as a vote of confidence … one that will increase your site’s rank and visibility.Using the Pueblo wildfire as an example, you write an article with great stats, interviews with locals and professionals, and included great visuals. You use highly searched for keywords, include an engaging title, and share it on social media. Now let’s say another reporter who works at a media outlet farther away from the wildfire wants to write about it, as well, and loves your article. The reporter decides to link to your article from his/her article to give a more localized feel for his/her article.

    With more external sites linking to pages on your site, Google will see you as a trustworthy source and move your page up in rankings for certain queries.

  • Internal Linking
    Another way to increase visibility to the pages on your site—and to make it easier for Google to crawl your site—is to link to other, already published pages within your site that are relevant to the page you are working on.Let’s say there was a past wildfire in your community that you reported on a while back, and you want to reference it in your story about the current wildfire, so you bring up the past wildfire and link to it. This allows users to not only learn more about wildfires in the area, but allows Google to crawl your site better and give ‘SEO juice’ to both your current and past wildfire articles.

The number one factor in ranking and visibility is the quality of your content. Make sure your content is accurate, sounds natural, and doesn’t lead your audience on.

You don’t have to be a SEO expert to implement these strategies into your online content, and the more you practice these tactics, the easier and more natural they’ll become. At the same time, as technology and online methods continue to evolve so will SEO. It’s a good idea to stay up-to-date with where SEO is going to ensure your efforts are paying off (see my earlier post about the best sites to follow for SEO and other technical updates).

Learn everything you need to know to get started with SEO in Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO.

The author in Colorado Springs, Colorado earlier this year. (Photo via the author)

(Photo via the author)

About the Author:

Katie-Leigh Corder is a SEO & Audience Development Specialist at F+W Media in Fort Collins, CO. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011 with dual bachelor’s degrees from the School of Journalism and Media and the Department of History and is originally from Oak Island, NC. She’s been a member of SPJ since 2014 and loves the Society’s JournCamp trainings! Follow Katie on Twitter @kvcorder or her website at katieleighcorder.com.

Attribution of top image: By Periodicoelcolombiano (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Why am I here?

Victoria Blake

Victoria Blake

As part of Generation J’s ongoing series of guest essays, Victoria Blake of Tarleton State University looks back at the path that led her to journalism.

Recently, I was asked to write a few questions for a class that included some practice interview questions. One of the questions I created was, “Why did you pick journalism?” I had some time to reflect on this and thought about where I was three years ago.

At that time, I was considering astrophysics or mechanical engineering.I found the idea of searching for improvements in technology interesting. On the other hand, I also found intricate and difficult topics like LGBT psychology interesting. This idea a few years ago led me to choose the issue for my high school senior research paper no matter how much flack I received for it, as LGBT was not yet legalized and many people personally opposed it where I went to school.

But as I have progressed in my writing — and inevitably college career — and switched to journalism two years ago, I found out why journalism was an interesting path to me. I could pursue many things without sacrificing the most difficult details. I could be in a field that rewards details while promoting creativity.

When I researched and wrote about the LGBT community and the challenges that it faces, I found the gritty details are what make it so fascinating to me. Like in astrophysics, the details were nearly everything.On the other hand, the taboo and things that others may not have considered can be interesting to write about. The more I thought about it, the more I began to care about journalism as a career.

I remember that high school paper did not end so well. Some people disagreed with its content, but that was not why I pursued it. , What I was in pursuit of was more information being known about Transgender reassignment surgeries and the spectrum of sexualities that exist. I wanted to share personal stories that haven’t been spoken of much before this point in history.

I’m graduating in a year, and I continue to think about a quote by Geraldo Rivera: “The courage in Journalism is sticking up for the unpopular, not the popular.” At the same time, I feel I can be creative, and the ideas of progress are something I truly believe in.

Kind of like a science career, one that I truly believed I would see through to the end of college,  journalism is a never-ending cycle of learning. I love that.

Now, as I interview people for a prospective story, I continue to ask, “Why am I here?”

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The importance of truth in the social age

The Guardian's offices in London. Its editor C.P. Scott promoted the pursuit of truth, saying: "Comment is free, but facts are sacred." (Photo: Bryantbob/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

The Guardian’s offices in London. Its editor C.P. Scott promoted the pursuit of truth, saying: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” (Photo: Bryantbob/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

As the world of social media has evolved, so too has the dissemination and the curation of journalism, from how we inform and engage our audiences to how we enhance the stories that we tell. Every day, we find ourselves flocking to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other places to help tell these stories, to enhance our crafts, and to reach our audiences in new ways.

Yet as we do, there are equal cons to the pros that have become established in the world of social media, and it concerns the information that exists. We are in an age where anyone can publish anything, and that anything that is published can be taken as fact.

Journalism is adjusting to the world of open information in the social media age, and as it does, I am reminded of this quote: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

That quote came from C.P. Scott, an editor of The Guardian newspaper in Britain during the 19th and 20th centuries, and established the foundation of the paper’s editorial philosophy, and indeed my own.

The SPJ Code of Ethics also has a phrase that is ubiquitous to finding fact: “Seek truth and report it.” It still remains an integral part of journalism even as it evolves in the digital age, and it is something that is worth preserving and promoting, even as questions about what the facts are remain present. Indeed, the Ethics Committee suggests that the rule be applied to all types of journalism, irrespective of platform.

Facebook and Twitter have been useful in the release of information. However, on the same scale, that doesn’t mean that most of the information should be taken at face value. Its important to take the time to verify it, to ensure it is authentic, so the public can be informed of the facts, whether its a phone call with the source, or other means.

The time you put into ensuring accuracy will help you build your relationship with your audience, and present the complete story — with all of the facts. We should not be afraid to question the information that we see, because the questions that come from what is seen can help create a better informed society.

Katharine Viner, the editor-in-chief of The Guardian, in an essay about social media and facts earlier this year, put it this way: “The truth is a struggle. It takes hard graft. But the struggle is worth it: traditional news values are important and they matter and they are worth defending.”

Even though Twitter, Facebook and other platforms provide pros in the world of journalism, it is important that we must promote these traditional values and ethics, and continue to put them into practice, for they allow us to be better journalists for the people that matter most — our audiences.

Seek truth and report it, because while comment is free, the facts are still sacred.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of the SPJ Digital community, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He is also a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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Simple yet essential

When producing journalism, the most simple ethics rules are the most important to remember. (Photo: Pixabay)

When producing journalism, the most simple ethics rules are the most important to remember. (Photo: Pixabay)

As we prepare for careers in this ever changing media landscape, some of the most quintessential things to remember can be items that can easily be taken for granted. In this digital age we find ourselves in a competitive environment, trying to be the first to get the story to audiences, through as many platforms as possible, be it either social media or conventional means (radio, television or the web).

The same rule can apply to ethics — the bastion of journalism. It is important therefore to pause to remember the elements, though simple at first, that guide the production of ethical journalism. These lessons, at the core of the journalistic curriculum, are lessons that will be with you for the rest of your career. Though they are simple, they are the most important to remember.

These lessons, outlined in the SPJ Code of Ethics, are composed of four goals all journalists should strive for — seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent. These are not just journalistic aspirations, but rather, they are good basic journalism practice. They can be accomplished in simple ways.

Be impartial: No matter the subject you’re writing, be it a local story, a political story, or an entertainment story, you need to tell both sides fairly, and allow for everyone concerned to have an opportunity to respond. The language you use in telling your story should be like telling a friend what happened. It is language that should not be editorialized. Your friend wants the facts, and your friend should be entitled to them.

Be accurate: It is better to be right than to be first, in spite of the competitive nature of today’s dissemination of news. The Ethics Code says that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. If you’re uncertain of something, make sure its right before reporting it. Tell your audience that you’re trying to verify it, or if you encountered trouble along the way. Take the time to ensure everything is correct.

Producing an accurate piece of journalism is like completing a research paper for a class — it is better to produce something that is thorough, instead of something that is incomplete.

Be considerate: While audiences want to know the story, there is a debate that plays out in newsrooms when it comes to certain stories. The Code of Ethics says: “Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.” You need to justify the reason for why a source or certain angle is pursued, and if it will benefit the public knowledge for that day’s particular story.

Be cautious: Don’t pay for access for information, and avoid special treatment for any source. Also be careful of outside activities that may affect your credibility. If the content is advertising, label it as such. It isn’t about the advertisers or special interests, its about your audience, and the ability to be informed, educated and engaged.

Be honest: Journalists are humans too. We make mistakes. We don’t like making mistakes, but it happens. When a mistake is made, own up and make the correction. Tell your audience what was wrong, and convey what was right. Honesty is the best policy, and a forthright journalist is an honest journalist, one that audiences will keep coming back to.

Even though the digital age is changing how we bring news to audiences, the rules of producing ethical journalism remain the same. They are simple at first, yet they are the most essential thing to remember in your careers — something to remember, not just today, but every day, and something never to be taken for granted.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of the SPJ Digital community, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He is also a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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Alastair Cooke: Transatlantic storyteller

Alistair Cooke, the journalist and long time presenter of Masterpiece Theatre. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko/Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Alistair Cooke, the journalist and long time presenter of Masterpiece Theatre. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko/Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

The idea for it came from a connection — a desire to bring Britain and the United States “closer together in understanding and affection.”

The program was Letter from America, which was first broadcast 70 years ago. The idea came from Alistair Cooke, known to many Americans as one of the presenters of the long running PBS program Masterpiece Theatre, produced at WGBH in Boston.

Letter from America aired on the BBC World Service from March 1946 until February 2004, shortly before Cooke’s death the following month in New York.

Cooke’s 15 minute weekly broadcasts reflected on the intricacies of American life and made sense of it, from its politics to its culture, not just to audiences in the UK, but around the world. He also was a master storyteller — writing on US affairs for many of Britain’s newspapers, notably the Times of London and The Guardian, connecting the UK with the US even as the mediums of journalism evolved.

Cooke also reciprocated this work with Masterpiece Theatre, by bringing adaptations of works by British authors as well as other original drama, from Poldark and Upstairs, Downstairs to adaptations of work of authors including Robert Graves, Joanna Trollope, Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Henry James, and Thomas Hardy.

Whether it was through the BBC, Masterpiece, or his work with various newspapers, it was never the aim of putting one country above another — merely, it was the desire to connect them both, and to showcase them, through the realm of storytelling. I find inspiration from Cooke’s work to apply to my own — work that is part of a legacy worth preserving and looking up to, especially as the role of journalism changes in the digital age.

It is a legacy also worth celebrating. The delegates of the Society of Professional Journalists did just that at the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans this past September, passing a resolution commemorating his work, and indeed that of journalists internationally, who bring the world closer together in understanding and affection, similar to Cooke.

It is a resolution I was proud to write, and I am even more proud that it was passed by the delegates.

Inspiration for those looking to go into journalism can come from anywhere. We take inspiration to not just hone our own craft, but to preserve that of others. Alistair Cooke’s work continues to inform, engage, and inspire, just as it did in 1946.

Long may it continue.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of the SPJ Digital community, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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Reflecting on EIJ and journalism

Cafe du Monde based in New Orleans, the site for the recent Excellence in Journalism conference. (Photo: justinsomnia.org/Wikimedia Commons)

Cafe du Monde based in New Orleans, the site for the recent Excellence in Journalism conference. (Photo: justinsomnia.org/Wikimedia Commons)

The famous author E.L. Doctorow had a saying about writing: “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”

The same can be said of the Excellence in Journalism conference, which took place this week in New Orleans. Journalism, in this case, is an exploration, and you’re constantly learning as you go along.

This week was a week where I was reminded of why I became a member of SPJ in the first place, from discussions on its work on pursuing an open government fresh after Immediate Past President Paul Fletcher’s letter to the editor in The New York Times, to sessions (be they keynote sessions from Martin Baron of the Washington Post and PBS talk show host Charlie Rose or educational sessions from SPJ members and others) about the enhancement of one’s craft.

It was also a week where SPJ itself made history, as for the first time since its establishment over a century ago, three women will lead the organization into the next year — President Lynn Walsh, President-Elect Rebecca Baker, and Secretary/Treasurer Alex Tarquinio, an event that signifies the importance of women in an industry that is evolving every hour of every day.

Yet, to me, there was something more significant about the week that had equal parring to a reminder of why SPJ is so important — a reminder of why journalism (and working in it) is important.

Recently, there have been many days where I’ve been in doubt. I’ve had days where I’ve wondered if in this ever-changing landscape if a career in journalism is viable, whether if the work I do is important, or if I’ve botched things entirely. I was worried. I was struggling. I didn’t know what to do.

I found a few things helped — the support and candor of family, friends and colleagues, and, though I was absent from the convention, the tweets that came from the events at EIJ. I had been convinced that I didn’t make a mistake. I began the week thinking that, and EIJ strengthened that notion.

Many of us are wondering what the future will look like — whether the aim to do the most good for the world around us can be accomplished, and if we can continue to be inspired to do that, when we are accustomed to hearing news of more layoffs and profound distrust in the media. After EIJ, as is the case every year, I feel energized and inspired to do the best I can, to help my SPJ colleagues nationwide to strengthen journalism, to help my industry peers explore its future, and to enhance this profession that I’m incredibly lucky to work in.

So if you’re in doubt, wondering if journalism is right for you, you can find solace, and indeed inspiration, from many sources, including the contributions from the dedication, passion, and perseverance of the Board of Directors, staff and members of this organization that is the Society of Professional Journalists.

Journalism is indeed an exploration, and you’re learning as you go, with a little help from EIJ.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of the SPJ Digital community, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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How weird do I want to get?

As part of Generation J’s ongoing series of guest essays, Emily Bloch of Florida Atlantic University considers why a different element of programming can help reinforce some journalistic principles.

Interviewing musicians is a lot like interviewing zombies: they can be easily sidetracked, are often monosyllabic and they don’t always smell great.

It’s not their faults — the musicians or the zombies — they’ve probably had a long day with the press where they keep getting asked the same questions after having spent the last hour performing. Plus, they’re probably hungry. (As for the zombies, well, they’re zombies.)

But I’ve learned how to interview both through SPJ programming.

As a soon-to-be graduate, a former two term editor-in-chief and someone who’s been actively involved with SPJ for four years now, my one piece of advice I’d like to give to other Gen J-ers is to get weird now.

I’ve learned more from SPJ events funded by Sigma Delta Chi than I ever have in a classroom.

From knowing how to deal with lawsuit threats because of the First Amendment Free Food Festival — where you sign away your rights for a sandwich — to how to write a kick-ass obituary from the Death Race — where a Pulitzer Prize winner pretends to die, SPJ holds their funeral and students are given an hour to write an obit.

Emily Bloch says that programs like the First Amendment Free Food Festival and Death Race are essential in showcasing key principles of journalism. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Emily Bloch says that programs like the First Amendment Free Food Festival and Death Race are essential in showcasing key principles of journalism. (Photo via LinkedIn)

After learning so much from these events, now I’m the one who hosts and runs many of them. Last year, at the College Media Association convention in Austin, Texas, 50 student journalists attended Zombie Stories.

The premise is that participants walk in with a clean white shirt and have a set of zombies to interview. Ask a bad question, get squirted with blood. The cleanest shirt at the end of the day wins.

The event was a complete success and the zombie questions were so good, we ended up splitting the prize money three ways. Creative questions included “do different blood types taste different?” and “Do people taste different based on their life style? Can you tell if they are vegan?”

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, I’ll be hosting another round of Zombie Stories at CMA’s Atlanta convention this October.

If you can’t make it, hold your own — I’ll even help.

I love hosting these events, but I can’t be everywhere. I want to help other student chapters put on their own events. That’s also why I’m running for national board. To bring hands on programming nationwide.

I’ve already gotten money commitments and logistical help to bring these programs to student chapters that want them.

All you have to do is sit down and ask yourself, ‘how weird do I want to get?’ I hope the answer is ‘very.’

Emily Bloch is a senior at Florida Atlantic University and the president of her school’s SPJ student chapter. Bloch is also the SPJ Florida pro chapter’s student representative and serves as a student programmer for SPJ Region 3. You can reach her at emdrumss3@gmail.com, and interact with her on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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6 Low- to No-Cost Ways to Learn New or Improve Existing Skills

Education never ends for journalists especially those on the techy side. Understanding trendy technologies,  social sites, and learning new, necessary skills are all part of the job.
If you're looking for ways to learn how to use new technologies, then you'll love the blog post, 6 Low- to No-Cost Ways to Learn New or Improve Existing Skills.
But learning new or improving existing skills can be really expensive, right? Not if you know who to follow, what to learn, and how to find such opportunities:

  1. Stay-up-to-date with the latest technology and media news.

    By keeping up with the latest tech news and state of the media, then you’re less likely to be caught by surprise. One way to do this is by maintaining a semi-active Twitter presence and following related companies on LinkedIn to see most recent updates. There are many amazing sites that report on new technologies or the state of the media that you should follow. Here’s my take on four of the best media and tech news sites every digital journalist should know.

  2. Day-long workshops.

    Society of Professional Journalist's Journcamps.

    Image from SPJ.

    If you’re looking for a full day of training in the latest trends and technologies in journalism then you’ll love Society of Professional Journalists’ JournCamps. These events start with all of the attendees listening to a broad and relevant topic or issue in the media world. Afterwards, there are a total of four breakout sessions throughout the day where you can choose two sessions to take that cover specific topics.

    The Online News Association offers free sessions in their ONACamps, and check out the National Council for the Training of Journalistsresources, as well.

    Attending such low-cost workshops with top-of-the-line media experts is an amazing deal and experience.

  3. Volunteer your skills.

    Volunteering increases your chances at finding a job. Learn why journalists should volunteer their skills to nonprofits.

    Image from Nonprofit Quarterly.

    Did you know those who are unemployed and volunteer have a 27% better chance of finding a job versus those who don’t? This is one of the many positives of volunteering your journalistic skills to a nonprofit whose mission you believe in. Not only does it allow you to learn new skills and become more experienced in existing ones, but you’ll also increase your network and improve your overall health.

  4. Free or low-cost apps for your smartphone.

    Smartphone journalism requires knowledge of useful apps and more.Smartphones are becoming more and more vital in the reporting world from professional lenses to video production applications. Practicing with such apps can definitely increase your expertise with them; if you’re reporting from the field and catching real-time video, you’ll be ahead of the curve. One of the free video apps for Android is KineMaster, which basically gives you a condensed production studio on your phone—from filming, planning, editing and publishing.

    Check out other top Android video editing apps recommended here. If you’re an iPhone user, check out some of your recommended video apps here.

  5. Online training in specific skills.

    Along with keeping up with the latest trends and news, finding sites that specifically train you in a desired skill are bountiful and extremely useful:

    Moz logo.

    Image from moz.com.

    • Moz offers countless trainings and blog posts about search engine optimization (SEO) and social. Diving into the SEO and understanding how it interconnects with other areas of a website is a very technical skill to undertake, but will vastly increase your knowledge and make you more competitive. Not only will you learn how SEO relates to a website and user interest, but you’ll have a deeper understanding of how the entire Web is connected.

    • From teaching yourself HTML to C++, you’ll find it all in free coding sites, such as Codeacademy. Learning such skills will help you be more competitive and worldly in your skills. Here’s a great blog post about “45 of The Best Places to Learn to Code for Free” if you are looking for other sites.

    Google News Lab logo.

    Image from TechCrunch.com.

    Google provides excellent training resources for its tools, and you can become certified in some of them (I recommend the Google Analytics one). Every journalist should know the basics of Google Analytics and be able to translate the metrics; however, some Google tools depend on what types of skills you want to learn. For example, Google recently developed Google News Lab, which includes various tools for journalists, such as Google Trends.

    adobe-tv-logo

    Image from tv.adobe.com

    • If you want to create interactives or other types of visuals and have access to Adobe programs, then check out Adobe’s awesome training videos! Understanding widely used Adobe programs such as Premiere Pro and Photoshop, is extremely useful for any type of journalist. Check out the training videos here. Also, if you’re still a student, or still have access to your student email, then you can register for the student and teacher rate for only $19.99 a month for The All Apps Plan.

  6. Curriculum being taught at top journalism schools.

    What courses are future journalists being taught in the top journalism schools? Keep an eye on what courses are leaving, staying, or going and then compare it to new technologies, trends, and events. From there, you can decide if you should train in specific areas. When I entered UNC-Chapel Hill’s journalism school, the sequences changed to more technical ones. Instead of following news writing as was my original plan, I chose the ever-changing world of multimedia and learned numerous technical skills.

It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and the state of the media, but it can feel overwhelming at times; however, you’ll discover the types of training and frequency that fit your desires and schedules throughout your career.

The author in Colorado Springs, Colorado earlier this year. (Photo via the author)

(Photo via the author)

About the Author:

Katie-Leigh Corder is a SEO & Audience Development Specialist at F+W Media in Fort Collins, CO. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011 with dual bachelor’s degrees from the School of Journalism and Media and the Department of History and is originally from Oak Island, NC. She’s been a member of SPJ since 2014 and loves the Society’s JournCamp trainings! Follow Katie on Twitter @kvcorder or her website at katieleighcorder.com.

First image at top from Jeremy Keith (Flickr: Device pile) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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A formidable dream: Mistakes college journalists make on their way to professional journalism

Guest Post By Victoria Blake @victoriablake22

When you start writing a paper, it is sometimes encouraged to write the ending first and the rest will become easier. However, when transitioning from college to professional journalism, this can be daunting. What if you don’t know the ending so you start with your beginning first? Could you end up making a mistake you wish you could take back?

I asked Cessna Winslow, one of my professors at Tarleton State University, this question in an email: “What are the mistakes college journalists make going into professional journalism?”

Here are her responses.

  1. Be professional sounding in your written communication. Read: Proof your work for AP/grammatical errors and clarity.
  2. Be teachable! You are still learning. Make the most of your rookie season.
  3. Be open to new ideas and experiences.
  4. Be willing to do what may appear to be below-you tasks. You learn a lot from the ground level!
  5. When around people whom you don’t know, assume they are more important than you. Be kind and communicate respect. You never know who is watching you and if you may need their help in the future.

Number three, “be open to new ideas and experiences,” reminds me of an article from Poynter about “The 5 ways young journalists can thrive in the newsroom” and what to do when you’re almost there. The bullet point “Dream now” stuck out to me the most, as well as this quote: “You fell in love with journalism. You dreamt about it. You decided to follow that dream. Well, now you’re here. Give it a year or two. Or three. Give it your best shot. And if your dream doesn’t work out, move on to your next dream…”

Another article from the Columbia Journalism Review discussed “the fear of screwing up.” The author emphasized “too little fear is bad,” writing “Tough important stories aren’t just tough to report. They’re tough to take on. Who wants to risk a career-crippling misstep if they don’t have to?” It gives life and body to the idea that everyone screws up. Even when you don’t see it personally happen. The fear of “that could’ve been you.”

We do not know what happens later in dreams, life, or in fear. Remember when I started this column? Truth be told, I slightly lied. I had an ending in mind, but a very vague one. One that changed over time, morphed with the story as I kept writing the beginning and middle and kept going back to edit constantly. Another example is coding. It requires you to write the program with an end in mind: Where do you want you’re ending to be? What do you want it to look like in the end?

You began with an end in mind, and you made mistakes much like anyone else does along the way. Just hope that it wasn’t as big as not hitting “Save” after working several days on one project. With the new school year looming over us like a big cloud, grey or white depending on your perspective of school, let’s give it our best shot with an ending vaguely written.

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Peter Mansbridge and public broadcasting

It was the night of the 20th of October, 2015. I switched my TV on to C-SPAN 2 where they were simulcasting with the CBC, the public broadcaster in Canada, to air coverage of the country’s elections. The night ended in what many saw as a political upset — Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party would win a majority in Canada’s House of Commons, and he would become the next Prime Minister, replacing Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, who had been in power for almost a decade.

At the helm of the coverage was Peter Mansbridge, a longtime CBC journalist and presenter of its flagship news program, The National.

Tonight, during that program, Mansbridge announced his plans to step down from the role on July 1, Canada Day.

Mansbridge had been a fixture of Canadian journalism for decades, covering, according to the CBC, 14 of the country’s elections and conducting over 15,000 interviews. The National also attracts viewers in the US who watch CBC in border communities. Mansbridge has also been a fixture in the world of public broadcasting, championing the role that public broadcasters like the CBC, as well as NPR, PBS, the BBC and countless others, have to educate, inform and to enlighten.

We enter this profession not because we desire to seek fame or fortune. Instead, we enter the profession because we believe in the public service component of the work, whether we write, sit behind a microphone or step in front of a camera. Mansbridge, to those in Canada and indeed the rest of the world, epitomized the mission of journalism, and the idea and principle of education, and the role both can have for the common good, as do others in these organizations here and internationally.

I believe in the role journalism and education can have. It is why public broadcasting strongly aligns with my own values, and why a career in public broadcasting is something I want to pursue as I begin my own career in journalism. Like Jim Lehrer (now Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill) did on PBS, as did the producers of Morning Edition, programs from the BBC World Service, as well as Charlie Rose, Mansbridge set the tone for what journalism should be, and how much of a difference journalism can have in every day life.

Peter Mansbridge may be stepping down, but he will have a legacy that continues to inspire those to pursue journalism in Canada and around the world, to know that the work that is done can have the most good, and to know that no matter where the industry goes, there will always be a need for the people who pursue the work we love — journalism.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of the SPJ Digital community, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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