Advice from Alejandra (Alex) Hering

The internet and social media platforms have changed everything about the way we journalists do our jobs and how our boss’ boss makes money. As a result, today’s top editors are looking for journalists who can do it all, for less.

This is a massive opportunity. Take the time to understand how the web works, how users make money online, and how you can harness that into your next big break. For a competitive edge, you have to think bigger than print clippings in folders that you bring to interviews. The interview begins online when prospective employers and collaborators google you.

Here’s my guide to greeting them with a compelling online portfolio.

Step One: Write the content.

This is the most critical step in the process. Content is king and will drive the most visitors to your site. Journalism students should have the following pages:

Home – introduce yourself and talk about the purpose of the site (to inform prospective employers of how awesome you are, who you are and what you’ve done.)

Clips – this will be your most viewed page, so take the time to perfect it. FYI Every clip or every clip category (video work, print work, design work) needs a description of the circumstances when you created it (ex: written on 30 minute deadline, or 2 hours video editing total)

  • Post links to the PDF files of your stories or link directly to the news organization’s website. Another option for getting clips to your site is to sign up for a Scribd account. Scribd works the same any media uploading site does – you upload your jpegs or pdfs and you can embed the Scribd reader right into your site
  • Photographers: think about using a widget from Flickr to automatically slideshow your work on a blog page
  • Videographers/video journalists: your best packages should be on youtube/vimeo where you have the option of embedding them into a blog or website.

Resume – Highlight what you have done and where. Include links to the organizations you’ve worked with, longer descriptions of the work you did, and the awards you may have received for work you did. Remember that the web is immune to silly 8.5×11 inch dimensions so you can write in depth about the role.

Interests – Post a photo and a few graphs on an activity that keeps you sane. My interests page might seem a bit out of place but I love backpacking and I’d like a prospective employer to know I have a hobby. It may also be a conversation starter or the touch that makes you more memorable.

Contact – Link to social networks you belong to and think about having a professional facebook profile that doesn’t contain photos from last weekend. Provide your personal email address in case anyone has questions about the site content.The links I post and have good luck with are: linkedin, twitter (acts as both personal & professional), facebook (acts as both personal & professional), google public profile page, youtube (only professional) and/or vimeo. Things not to include on your contact page: myspace link, phone number or home address.

Step Two: Buy a domain and hosting

A domain is the URL of the site. Use your first and last name if you are a journalist (www.alexhering.com). Use a more jazzed up version of your name if you are a PR student (www.heyalex.com). Do not stray far from this formula. Remember to keep the domain short for twitter and business card’s sake.

Web hosting keeps your site and all the files associated with your site on the web for you. My advice is to use the same company for both domain and hosting. I went with doteasy.com for $25/year for the domain and basic hosting comes free with that purchase. They often have domain sales for as little as $4/year.

Step Three: Create a house for your content.

This can be done in several different ways. Sites like WordPress and Blogger offer the code and a management system. They are fully customizable and give you access to the page function that you need for the home, clips, resume, interests and contact pages.

If you wish to go the other route and code the site yourself, it would be best to enroll in a short web design class. I learned this art from Cindy Royal, a social media guru and professor at Texas State University who is getting recognition from professionals around the country for her course in social media and HTML coding. If you can’t get Cindy, follow her on twitter, it is well worth it.

The most important thing to remember about your website is that it is now your advertisement to the world and you should treat it the way you treat yourself – be aware of how it’s dressed, feed it with new content and show it off in every way you can.

Editors note: Alex’s website is, of course, very well done and reflective of her personality. For other great ideas, check out the sites of some other featured journalists: Jasmeet SidhuStuart Thompson, Chloe Fedio, Lucas Timmons.

About Alex

    Alejandra (Alex) Hering

  • Name: Alejandra/Alex/Ale/Al Hering
  • J-school: Texas State University – San Marcos, school of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Current/Past employers: MediaEDGE, Toronto Star, NBC, San Antonio Express-News, NOWCast San Antonio, Scripps Howard Foundation News Wire, Laredo Morning Times, The University Star and KTSW 89.9
  • Platforms: web, print and video
  • Twitter: @alexhering
  • Sample work: print, video and design work on my website.
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