Posts Tagged ‘Bethany Bella’


Tempted with fabrication? Write a novel.

Some say the cardinal sin of journalism is plagiarism, but me? I say it’s fabrication.

I won’t deny that plagiarism, even self-plagiarism, is stealing, deceptive, and unethical – but at least the information you swiped is true (unless the person you stole from is, in fact, a liar, which complicates matters even further).

In a journalism lecture this week, we watched the 2003 film “Shattered Glass,” a movie about the infamous journalist-gone-rogue Stephen Glass from The New Republic. Now, I hear, he’s attempted to reshape his life by becoming a fiction author (something he should have pursued in the first place) and trying to earn a law degree. Some guy.

Besides getting lost in Hayden Christensen’s eyes (Oh Anakin, you’re my only hope), I was struck by the nerve of Glass – befriending the newsroom, enticing every one of his colleagues into a web of lies, lies, lies – only to find out that he’d been making up stories all along.

And you bought that.

Which gets into a whole other ethical debate of fact-checking and the perils of speedy journalism. While, yes, the fact-checking system is setup to detect minor spelling errors and consistency mistakes, it’s not designed (nor should it be) for those who write with deceit.

But still, why cut out that vital defense between writer and reader? I’d argue that fact-checkers should be the last to go – not the first – from the newsroom. We’ve seen one too many times a reporter taking liberties, knowing full well that his or her writing will not be checked for error or valid fact.

The speed at which journalism has accelerated to can also become a temptation for those writing on a tight budget. If it’s just you and your keyboard – and an hour till deadline – who can stop you from fabricating quotes, people, and therefore truths?

Fabrication cuts right to the bone of journalism – the heart of the craft. Journalists pride themselves on being truth-seekers and will often sacrifice time, money, and sometimes even their lives to get a story out into our information age.

Those journalists who fabricate stories seemingly spit in the face of those battling fatigue, jail time, and exile for the sake of democratic free speech. Think about THAT the next time you’re tempted to insert fiction into your nut graf.

At the end of all this, if you’re still enticed by made-up stories? Become a novelist…just don’t be a journalist.

Bethany N. Bella is studying journalism, anthropology, and geography at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Clickbait vs. Long-form: What Do Readers Want?

I hardly ever click through on ‘clickbait’ – but that’s just me.

Maybe it’s because I know the tactic well, having studied the art of a compelling, click-driven tweet in my journalism classes at Ohio University. Or maybe it’s because all these “9 things you never knew about leaving guacamole in the refrigerator” articles are starting to wear me down, as a news consumer.

Where are the stories that make me think? Where are the articles so long they blur the line between news and novella? Where is the journalism that’s journalism – and not cute GIFS of cats rolling around in confetti?

And I’m not the only one wondering.  

According to a recent article published on Re/Code – a fabulous, media-focused news source, I might add – Internet wanderers are starting to flock towards long-form, speciality content instead of the assumed clickbait publishers think we want.

A report from BuzzSumo, referenced in the article, claims that long-form articles (3,000–10,000 words) have a significantly higher share-rate than short-form articles (less than 1,000 words).

The author of the article, Joe Hyrkin (CEO of Issuu), also notes how the Internet has successfully fueled a “niche market” of information, where news consumers of varying age and interests find their own corner of the online world and like to linger there awhile.

“Clearly, vibrant subcultures are gaining major momentum online and offline,” Hyrkin writes. “The members of these communities crave content that is relevant, thoughtful and teaches them something new. They are hungry for content that dives deep and adds to their sophisticated knowledge base. For enthusiasts, ‘snackable’ is not enough.”

While, yes, I am one of those news consumers who prefers the long, in-depth review of a particular issue I’m interested in, I have a few hesitations about this “death of snackable content” claim.

Going back to the BuzzSumo survey: Since when did sharing clickbait prove whether you were reading clickbait? While posting a BuzzFeed quiz result is a nice addition to your Facebook feed every once in awhile, I’d wager that most people are selective about their clickbait share choices.

It looks more impressive to your audience or friend group if you share a thoughtful, long-form piece (even if you didn’t actually read it all the way through), instead of sharing every “Which Disney Princess Are You?” clickbait quiz you took.

And another observation, made by one of my brilliant journalism professors – and one I happen to agree with. Think of the motives of Hyrkin and why he might be making this argument about the death of clickbait content.

Issuu is an online magazine publisher’s platform, and magazine pieces are typically long-form features. Of course Hyrkin would be arguing (and hoping) for long-form content to be “in.” His company and livelihood depends on it!

Overall, I’m encouraged to hear that clickbait may be on the downward spiral, and niche, hobbyist-driven content may be on the rise. How refreshing would my Twitter feed be, without the constant threat of clickbait material, forever lurking in my timeline?

As the Internet redefines my generation’s “reading for pleasure,” I just hope it saves some long-form links for me.

Bethany N. Bella is studying journalism, anthropology, and geography at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

We Carry On: A Tribute to Alison and Adam

It was a disorienting Wednesday morning on Twitter.

My eyes and thumbs perused the normal banter of old high school friends, article links tossed out by the slew of environmental journalists I follow for Earth updates.

And then something stopped me momentarily in my scrolling.

I read that wrong, I assume.

But no.

I see the same headline a few tweets above.  Another shocking jolt.  Another gasp of disbelief.

Ex-Broadcaster Kills 2 on Air in Virginia Shooting” –– The New York Times confirms my doubts, my suspicions that what I read earlier was, in fact, true.

The next morning in one of my lectures, we do what every journalism program in the country should have done, and that is talk about the on-camera shooting of two Virginia journalists, practicing the very craft we are destined to replicate.

“Does this tragedy affect your desire to become journalists?” my professor asks us.  We’re all a little shell-shocked, to be sure –– but even more-so after viewing the contested Thursday morning front page of the New York Daily News.

I have to admit, as I sat there gaping at the horrific images splashed across the Daily News’ front page in tabloid-like fashion, I didn’t know what to think.  I knew becoming a journalist wasn’t exactly the relaxing desk-job bankers and secretaries enjoy.  

But I always assumed journalists got themselves in trouble by entering a war-torn area unadvised, or putting themselves in the midst of a dangerous mob.  What happens now, when there is absolutely no way to prepare for this outcome?  How do you ever rationalize this kind of situation until you’re okay to keep pressing on?  Are journalists ever truly safe from harm?

To tap into a philosophical vein: no, we as journalists, as fragile human beings, will never be okay.  We will never be able to assure our safety, even in our own hometowns.  There are accidents, there are wrong-places-at-wrong-times.  There are tragedies.

But we carry on.

We carry on for Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and for all of those who have lost their lives practicing their passion.

Because, ultimately, we journalists are serving the public –– and the public will never stop needing the assistance, the intelligence, and the know-how of journalists.  

There are days, like today, when it may seem impossible to continue feeding the beast that is our news-engaged society.  But there are days when the thrill of journalism will triumph over all other human suffering and strife.

Let us continue to keep fighting, to keep digging, to keep exploring the world, for Alison and Adam.  Let us remember those who have fallen, but let us also remember those who have finished admirable careers as the storytellers we one day hope to become.

Today, take a moment of silence for Alison and Adam, for the struggles our profession has faced and the struggles we will inevitably face in the future.

And then, with heavy hearts, let us carry on.

Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Environmental Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Snapchat Live, Citizen Journalism

You know what social media I purposefully held out on?  Snapchat.

I’d seen one too many of my peers get burned by that pesky little instant-messaging system –– either by sending the right snap to the wrong person, or getting that ugly selfie screen-shotted (I’m sure that’s a verb by now, right?).

No way, I scolded myself. Sending unattractive pictures of my face in different discrete locations is not the kind of social media I want to engage in.

And here we are.  I’ve succumbed to the inevitability of Snapchat, much to the delight of my closest Millennial friends.

Though I still haven’t figured out all the quirks and mechanics of the app itself, (like what really happens when you swipe left instead of right?), I’ve embraced Snapchat as a tool for news, like the nosey little journalist I am.

Not only is my favorite news organization, National Geographic, highlighted in Snapchat’s Discover section every morning, but there’s now a new feature I can’t stop clicking on: Snapchat Live.

Live is essentially a city spotlight, where one city from –– get this –– around the entire world is selected every few days.  Snaps sent with the city’s geotag (a marker identifying the city, swipe right a few times to see yours) are collected and sorted into a story by Snapchat support gurus.  The result is a curated, 100-some-second photo-story told from a handful of the city’s denizens, from almost every location (and angle) possible.

As a wanderlust soul stuck in suburban Ohio, I can’t help but smile and laugh along with those Snappers (a new term for Snapchat users, perhaps?) waving and yelling “Hello, from Cairo!” on my tiny little screen.  In the past few weeks, I’ve been transported to São Paulo, Brazil, and a dazzling city in the United Arab Emirates.  I’ve been taken on intimate boat rides, shown the pyramids of Giza from a lofty rooftop, and seen the sun set on different continents –– without having left my bedroom.

The world is truly a wonderfully small world, after all.

Now, I’ve seen many of these breathtaking sites from textbook stock photos and glossy banners in magazines.  But there’s something about this utterly raw, perfectly imperfect footage on Snapchat Live that keeps me coming back for more.

It’s real.  It isn’t some doctored postcard sent to seem luxurious, remote, or exclusive to us relatively affluent Americans.  Snapchat Live showcases young people, like me, using social media as a tool, a guide, to make our world feel more like a community instead of divided countries.  And I admire this emerging form of citizen journalism, for all of its genuine humanness, if you will.

Because when I’m driving around Columbus, I see more of Fifth Avenue traffic and corn-shucking at my local farmer’s market, a crowded movie theater parking lot and an even more crowded Jeni’s ice cream stand than I do the picturesque skyline of downtown plastered onto every travelogue in history.  And that’s the kind of story I want to tell, to show to others: the bright, beautiful, undiscovered world in which I live.

Snapchat Live is also being used to capture historic moments and live entertainment events happening around the world; I watched the U.S. Open of Surfing this afternoon.  So, don’t be like me –– see what Snapchat is all about today.  I believe it’s redefining citizen journalism in the 21st century as we know it.

Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Environmental Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Transparency for All

I wake up anxious every day, just to find out what Obama will be doing in the afternoon.

Okay, that’s not entirely true.  Perhaps my enthusiasm for The New York Times Now newsletter has got me a little carried away.

The era of digital journalism is upon us, where we consumers can uncover the president’s whereabouts, the history of Pac Man, and the leaked merger of two media companies before their employees even hear of the negotiations –– all at the tap of a screen and the stroke of a thumb.

It seems that everything is and can be known, while nothing is secret or sacred for long.  With trust comes a yearning for greater transparency, a transparency that was once denied by all.

We have yet to experience an age of fluid, free-for-all information in America as we encounter today.

Those inspirational posters in elementary schools across the country speak at least one truth: knowledge, I’ve come to learn, is power.  The masses are no longer deposited in darkness, shackled from the bitter underbelly of reality.  We can touch the truth, the stories from the “other side” –– if only we so choose.

I never appreciated how journalists have truly become the gatekeepers of society’s information until I thought about President Obama and his endless, ever-changing agenda.  If I didn’t have the thorough research, wit and intellect of journalists at the Times, I’d have absolutely no concept of the events occurring in Washington D.C., let alone with whom the president was having lunch.  I’d be clueless and unawares in my small hometown of Ohio (a state that nobody ever cares about until election season starts).

You see, I’d know the high school choir and band rosters for next school year, the best price for blueberries from the local groceries, that the house across the street is for sale.  But I wouldn’t have any concept of the tragedies in Nepal, have read BuzzFeed’s bulletproof resumé advice, or know that John Kerry broke his leg in Europe earlier this week.

I’d be left in blissful, mind-numbing ignorance, but I’d be none the wiser.

I read articles, I follow journalists because there is always something more for me to gain.  I marvel at how I will never, ever stop learning in this life, so long as I choose to keep exploring.

Journalists pave the path for discovery, for intrigue, for curiosity.  We are forever indebted to their services, their tireless effort to share with us, the audience, another glimpse of the world beyond our front door.

So next time you share a story with a friend –– a story that took place beyond your ivory tower town –– pause, and retweet a journalist.  You only know so much as your fellow human beings let you know, so support the journalists who tire away for your attention.  They’re doing this for you.

Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Political Science and Environmental Studies at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The New Mobile: News For the Next Gen

The art of storytelling and the consumption of news are both timeless human habits, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the journalist’s craft disappearing into the ether, just yet.

What journalists should be monitoring (and monitoring very closely) is the method of news consumption and how that news is translated to a mass audience on a day-to-day basis.

Before the printed word, oral declarations and one-to-one conversations were the only mediums for audiences to internalize the news.  And after newspapers and pamphlets came about, the print method didn’t last forever, either – it was overcome by online news and the proliferation of the Internet at the end of the last century.  Now, mobile is to web as web was once to print.

News organizations have been scrambling to jump aboard the mobile train, for fear of losing yet another audience population practically programmed to tap-tap-tap away on their smartphones all the livelong day.

But will the mobile fever last, or will it disintegrate before companies like Apple and Samsung have a chance to engineer smartphones large enough to comfortably read articles online, while also allowing for other mobile transactions like phone calls and text messaging to take place? (Is such an invention even humanly possible?)

I had an interesting conversation about this mobile trend with Meghan Louttit, a multimedia editor at The New York Times, this past week at the Online News Association at Ohio University student group meeting.

Meghan suggested that her peer group is actually taking this trend in reverse – that the print editions of books and newspapers have become a novelty item, a vintage collectible of sorts that shouldn’t be counted out of the market so soon.

I was genuinely surprised.  Who would have thought that millennials in their twenties and thirties are starting to subscribe to the Sunday Times, when they should (in theory) be exclusively devoted to digital updates and alerts?

Maybe this is a small trend that will eventually fade into the LED-screen sunset, but it was an interesting trend to consider, nonetheless. (I believe one of my journalism professors in attendance assured me that I would have to pry his Kindle away from his cold, dead hands).

I’d like to issue a response on this notion: Will print news make a rebound, or will mobile phones and tablets continue to issue a new wave of technological news consumption?  Are you a devoted Apple consumer (iPad, iPad Mini), or have you branched out with a Windows or Kindle Fire tablet?  Have you transitioned to reading the news only on your phone, or do you prefer reading articles on the web (or the old-fashioned print way)?  Does this method of consumption change when you read fiction?

Email me responses at bethanynbella@yahoo.com or tweet them to me @bethanynbella.  I’m curious to know if I should (finally) invest in a tablet, and if so, which one.  Or should I stick it out and wait to subscribe to my local newspaper – when I start making an income of my own, that is.

I look forward to your replies.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Strategic Communications and Environmental Political Science at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Women Who Lead: Newsroom and Beyond

As a young girl, I didn’t idolize Princess Diana; I didn’t know who Audrey Hepburn was until my freshman year of high school; Barbie was just a logo on a box in my basement, not my inspiration.

Crazy as it sounds, I wanted to be Jesse Owens: the fastest man in the world.

Growing up with one younger brother, I spent most of my childhood playing catch in the backyard, ranking and rooting for football teams, and–of course–competing in neighborhood, Olympic-esque sprint races.

It didn’t really occur to me that I should want to be like a traditional lady–calm, composed, reserved–until much later in my adolescence. From a very early age, I was encouraged to fight for my place in the starting lineup, to prove that I could be just as agile and able as my male counterparts, both on the field and in the classroom. My parents encouraged me to stand up for myself, and I sure didn’t back down just because I was a girl.

Much of that same assertiveness (some may call it bossyness) has carried over into my adult life. There’s nothing in this world that seems impossible or unattainable purely because I am woman. With practice, preparation, and devotion, I truly believe there’s nothing I cannot achieve.

I bring this up because I want to encourage women of all ages to assert themselves in their careers, whether it be in the newsroom or in their careers beyond.

Last week, I attended a panel of journalism professionals to celebrate media entrepreneurship in this ever-evolving field. And only one of those panelists was a female.

But she didn’t shy away from her fellow panelists. In fact, she herself–dressed in a crisp white blazer and killer stilettos–encouraged all of the young women in the audience to fight for gender diversity in their own newsrooms.

Echoing Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” message, Bo Hee Kim challenged us to speak up for our own accomplishments and ideas, to demand equal opportunities in the newsroom, in order to provide more complete news coverage for an audience that’s both male and female.

And I admired this about Bo. For her to come into a college setting and express that she still faces gender bias in the 21st century was kind of alarming to me. She admitted that the bias appears on a much smaller scale than in the early 1900s, but the subtleness is still there.

Perhaps that’s the most important message I took away from #CommWeek15 at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication. Women have received more respect and attention in the workforce since the dawn of the women’s movement, but we’re still years away from being equal contributors in the workforce–especially in the newsroom.

When will it not be excited gossip for a woman to earn a top-tier position as an editor or business executive? When will gender bias not be a revolutionary court case, but merely an action we as a society cease to participate in?

I hope to live in a world where a woman can be commended on her accomplishments, regardless of if she wears a necklace and shiny pears. A woman’s ideas should be celebrated because she is a forward-thinker, a visionary, and someone who is insanely intelligent–not just because she is a woman.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Strategic Communications and Environmental Political Science at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

 

Some forthcoming changes to SPJ Digital

spjdigitalSPJ Digital has been making significant progress since the new officer terms began on Feb. 1. We have made more resources available and expanded work on our current resources, as well as grown in members. But while we celebrate our achievements, we also look ahead, especially towards the Excellence in Journalism conference in Orlando in September.

On March 9, I notified SPJ President Dana Neuts, as well as my colleagues on the executive, of my intentions to resign as chairman of SPJ Digital. With my resignation, I introduced a resolution that would change how the role of the Chair worked, creating two Co-Chair positions, one overseeing overall programming and strategy, the other overseeing our social media efforts and interactive elements of events and programming.

I recommended Taylor Mirferendeski, Head of Programming, and Brandi Broxson, our Google+ and LinkedIn Coordinator, to take these positions upon approval. This was done to ensure there would be a smooth transition, and the major work of SPJ Digital would in no way be disrupted. That resolution was approved by the executive on March 13, and since that time the new executive has been preparing to complete the transition.

The new executive, composed of Mirferendeski, Broxson, Facebook Coordinator Michelle Sandlin, Twitter Coordinator Beth O’Malley and Google+ and LinkedIn coordinator Bethany Bella, began work this week. Soon, Brandi and Taylor will be utilizing this and other platforms to outline what they have in store for SPJ Digital from now through EIJ.

I thank President Neuts, her colleagues on the SPJ Board, as well as SPJ staff at the Indianapolis headquarters for their support during my time as chair. I also thank the executive who takes over. I believe they are some of the best and brightest members of the SPJ, and I know SPJ Digital is in good hands. I also want to thank the members of SPJ Digital, as well as you, the Net Worked reader, for supporting SPJ Digital during my time as chairman.

I may be resigning as Chair, but I am not completely exiting the SPJ. I am to remain Community Coordinator, assisting President Neuts in overseeing SPJ Digital and our network of communities. I will also continue to blog on the pages of Net Worked, focusing particularly on social media’s role in journalism.

With these roles, I hope to continue SPJ Digital’s mission of education, as well as help the SPJ preserve and protect journalism for this generation and the next. I believe that education can help build a better journalism community, and I am excited at the ability to continue to do so, to help digital journalism thrive, and to make journalism better for all.

I am excited at what is to come, and I know the future looks bright for SPJ Digital, and indeed SPJ as a whole. I hope you will join me as we continue our crucial mission.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, blogs on social media’s role in journalism for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

Tablet or Traditional? News Consumption

One afternoon in my second semester at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, I grabbed a copy of the morning’s The New York Times, more on an impulse than as a conscious, consumer choice.

When you attend one of the top-ranked journalism schools in the country, reading and consuming news in the traditional sense (think thick, inky newspapers and ever-present CNN coverage) is standard – and addicting.

I was never a read-the-newspaper-every-day kind of person until I started rubbing elbows with other collegiate academics, most of whom keep a copy of the Times under their suit jackets, like an essential accessory.

Resorting to a classic case of peer pressure, I soon began plucking a Times from the shelf every day, skimming the headlines over morning coffee – you know, what ‘smart, news-engaged people’ do.

But then one morning, after having watched the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011) in my journalism class, I stared incredulously at my Times and thought, “Who have I become? A digital-age person caught in the mentality of a traditional news junkie, living in the past?”

It’s no secret: Print journalism is undergoing a massive revolution.

Some critics claim it’s dying. Either way, print journalism has suffered incredible losses in the past five years alone, thanks to a surge in online news consumption and mobile compatible content.

Page One took The New York Times as a case study in this traditional journalism dilemma – one of those elite print models that’s grappled with financial hardship and a rapidly evolving audience, all while the American technological age keeps plowing ahead.

I’ve been conditioned to think that a newspaper – real, heavy, ink-blotted paper – is the only respected or sophisticated method to consume daily news.

And yet, what was I getting out of this old model that my digital subscription to the Times couldn’t have provided as easily, or more conveniently?  Perceived intelligence or blind optimism?

I thought, if I only consume news through traditional mediums, and ignore digital media, I’m championing a sputtering art form.  Like supporting the Cleveland Browns, instead of finding another, more promising team to root for (my dad’s an ever-hopeful Browns fan, but I gave up on them years ago).

It’s time to face the facts: Newspapers aren’t the sole providers of news, anymore.

And I’m choosing to live in the future, and support the next wave of journalism distribution, with my smartphone, my laptop, and my thumbs.

For those who think (or desperately choose to believe) that the printed newspaper will ever dominate as the primary method of news consumption in the future? Join the digital wave, while you still can.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Personal Websites

Designing myself a website in high school wasn’t just some whimsical experiment I executed in my spare time – I did it solely to get into college.

For two years, I had been broadcasting weekly shows and writing monthly for the school newspaper. With this arsenal of clips stored in my computer’s hard drive, wasn’t I doing what every other student had done to get into an elite journalism school?   Not so.

During my freshman year at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, I’ve encountered a handful of upperclassmen journalists who have yet to create their own website.

These are students with a high profile in the newspaper, who’ve written weekly (if not daily) articles since their first or second year.

“Why haven’t you made your own website?” I asked them incredulously. I was met with shrugs; they never really gave me an answer.

Personal branding is all about being a self-advocate. In an age when journalism students are competing for the same jobs, the same internships, it can be tough to land that dream position when every other journalist has learned the same skills.

Writing a news story isn’t rocket science – in fact, a hard-news story functions more like a scientific formula, for those who haven’t taken an introductory journalism course. Plug and chug, as they say. A 30-word lede. A nut graf explanation. Some quotes, here and there, from reputable sources. End with a summary quote, or a call to action.

This systematic style means that just because you can write well doesn’t mean you’ll get, or deserve, the job.

Therefore, creating for yourself an online personal portfolio is crucial in establishing yourself as a marketable journalist. A journalist who takes pride in her work, who cares enough to share her skills with an ever-expanding online audience.

Having a website not only gives you a convenient, transportable portfolio (forget those days of carting around prized articles), but it also gives you a stake in the Internet, as well.

The World Wide Web has become the eyes and ears of the Information Age. Why not embrace it? Buy yourself a domain and give the Internet-trawlers something to talk about with your work. Let your friends and family know what kind of professional experience you’ve been up to in college (or even beyond, when you’ve lost touch and Facebook doesn’t suffice).

A personal website isn’t just a business card addition – it’s an investment in your future.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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