So maybe you’ve known you wanted to work in magazines ever since you picked up your first issue of CosmoGirl. And on paper, you have it all: impressive editorial internships, research skills out the wazoo, and knowledge of in-book jargon. But one skill you may be overlooking is something you do everyday: the Internet.
Ed understands that the chatter regarding the online skills ambitious journalists need to know is overwhelming. But take heart, whippersnappers: your Internet prowess need not rival those of Steve Jobs. Ed spoke with some knowledgeable editors with print bylines and an active online presence who kindly assured him that rounding out your online skill set is not as daunting as you think.
If you’ve ever had a Geocities, LiveJournal or Xanga account then you know HTML, believe it or not. Rachael Maddux, now and Editor at MailChimp, formerly an associate editor at PASTE Magazine, has maintained some sort of personal website since middle school. “Having had those outlets prepared me for social networking and blogging at my job—it felt totally natural for me,” she says.
Online media is quick, so when Tanner Stransky, now a Senior Editor at HBO, formerly of Entertainment Weekly stumbles on a hot scoop, he hustles to create and post an online piece immediately. Amy Plitt, the Digital Editor at Condé Nast Traveler, warns if you can’t work swiftly, then “you’re going to be in trouble, because there are a lot of people who have the same experience as you and can turn around things fast.”
Speaking of acting quickly, Ed knows that people like your friend who gives minute-by-minute traffic complaints can deter you from creating a Twitter handle. But look at it this way—there are a lot of publications, editors and interesting people out there, sharing obscure thoughts and newsy content. @TannerStransky likens it to an instant RSS Feed, particularly since so many of the celebrities he covers actively update in 140 characters or less.
Plus, the more connected you are, the more information is out there for potential employers and fellow writers to contact you. @RachaelMaddux is guilty of unfollowing friends who routinely itemize their lunches and announce bed times, but on the flip side has reached out to potential writers via Twitter. “I know that I have connected with people that I would not have had the opportunity to otherwise,” she says. In the least, register your handle (username) before someone equally (or less) industrious snatches it up. And @Plitter’s reason besides great connections? “Who doesn’t want to follow what Conan O’Brien is doing on any given day?”
Beings that social media is a double-edged sword, Ed assumes you monitor your Facebook profile settings closely so incriminating photos are limited, right? (RIGHT?) That same vigilance goes for the rest of your online presence too. With so many ways to connect and share information, “it can be easy to put yourself out there as a person you aren’t,” Maddux cautions. “You just need to be really, really smart about the people you follow and the kind of information you share.” “Exposure is definitely a good thing,” reiterates Plitter, “as long as it’s relatively positive.”
So if you’re in doubt whether to highlight your debauched weekend antics via blog post—don’t do it. If you’re concerned your blog posts border on controversial—don’t reference them on your resume. And if you’re on staff with a publication, make sure you’re aware about what you can share without risking blabbing about confidential topics. (Interns—take note!)