So now what? My final list of the semester

The semester is coming to a close. So now what? Here are a few suggestions of what to do once the semester is over.

1. Expand your “news diet.”

The best thing a journalism student can do is to read/listen/watch a lot of news. Seek out organizations, networks, and publications that you don’t already read. Load up your iPod with news podcasts. Use social networking. Subscribe to a newspaper. Watch documentary films. Add some new news apps to your phone. Read some of the classics of journalism (see NYU’s list of Top 100 Works of Journalism) Follow the award winners. The Pulitzer’s, the Online Journalism Awards, the National Magazine Awards, theNational Press Photographer Awards are a great way to keep up with the best journalism.

Seek out the best stuff. Make it part of your regular routine.

2. Continue to build an expertise

This course is designed as an introduction to a range of skills, not as a place to develop an expertise. I encourage you to take more courses in the areas that interest you (ie Radio Documentary, Web Design, On-Camera Field Reporting, Photojournalism, or Data Journalism). In addition, continue to work on your reporting and writing skills.

Someone much smarter than me said:

“When it comes to multimedia (text, audio, photos, video, graphics, computer programming) journalism students should know a little about everything and strive to be really good at two of these formats. One of the two things has to be writing.”

Online Journalism I focuses on entry-level applications and technology. Keep working with it, and then graduate to more sophisticated programs. If you aren’t getting what you need in your courses, explore other options like the Knight Digital Media Center News University, or

3. Build a self-hosted WordPress website.

WordPress powers one of every six websites on the Internet, according to some estimates. You know the free, basic version. Moving up to the next level – self-hosting- is a good option if you want the experience of building/modifying a website. You can learn more about HTML, CSS, etc.

To self-host a WordPress website, you purchase space from a web host (costs about $5 to $7 a month) and use — that’s .ORG — which is different

See What’s the difference between and

4. Experiment with other online publishing platforms.

There are new platforms, apps and tools emerging every day. Experiment with them. See what they can do and what they can’t do.

5. Start or join a publication.

You have been introduced to many of the main concepts and formats of online journalism – ie HTML/CSS, writing for the web, social networking, aggregation, linking, slide shows, maps, audio, timelines, maps, live blogging, and video. You have written a lot of words and sentences. Hopefully you are becoming a better writer in the process.

But one of the main goals of this course is to gain experience creating a publication, creating content, and building an audience. That is what every publication has to do. Even established news outlet are constantly creating new sections, features, or ways to engage readers.

But don’t wait until you get a job. Start now. Participate in a publication that excites you.

6. Find a mentor.

Keep an eye out for a professor, an internship supervisor, an older friend, an editor who can help you. Learn as much as you can from them.

7. Create an online portfolio of your work.

Every time you do something online (post a photo, Tweet, update your Facebook status, etc.) you leave an electronic trail. And that trail will follow you.

The first thing any employer will do is Google your name.

One thing you can do to make sure they see what you want them to see is to build an online profile.

Check out the portfolios from former Rowan students:

8. Make your pathway.

The web has made everyone a content creator.

If you are running a small business,working at a large corporation, running a non-profit organization, teaching at a daycare, or even investigating crimes as a police detective, chances are you will be involved in creating online content for a specific audience.

Some of you will work as journalists. And the future of journalism will look much different than the past.

I believe that people will continue to want and need accurate, insightful and compelling information about the world around us. But it does seem that the old rules of publishing and news have changed. Who provides this information, how it is gathered, and how it gets funded will continue to evolve.

But you are not responsible for the future of journalism. You only have to find your own path.

Today, former students are working in a range of journalism jobs. In five years, there will be jobs we haven’t thought of yet.

There used to be a clear career path for journalists: “start at a small paper, work your way up to a mid-sized city, then in 10 years or so, you can go to major city.” That still exists, but it is increasingly rare.

No one knows how this industry — or the future of building and delivering content — is going to shake out. My best advice is to stay active. Try new things. And keep learning, even after you land a job.

9. Keep practicing your craft.

There is no short-cut for creating good content. You can take classes, learn from teachers, find the best stuff, and be inspired by others. But the only way to learn is to keep doing it over and over and over.

Ira Glass, a master of reporting, producing and storytelling, says:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

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