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"For the past year I have been working full-time at my hometown newspaper, The Post-Star, as a niche writer. I earned a major in magazine journalisms as well as a minor in graphic design from SUNY Plattsburgh.
"I was staff writer and co-copy editor for the online magazine All Points North from 2005- 2007 and spent one semester as an illustrator/graphic designer for Cardinal Points (2004). I also played third base for the baseball team from 2003-2007."
"Under the title, "Niche Publication Writer," I write for over 10 publications ranging from tourism and entertainment guides to a monthly health tabloid. These publications are referred to as "rack publications" because they're often found in racks at high traffic locations such as a lobby of a business or entrance to a doctors office or health club.
"Working in the advertising department, I am distanced from the daily newspaper and therefore do not have the same editors and managerial staff the daily reporters have. Instead, I am kind of my own boss; in charge of coming up with my own stories, taking my own photos and copy editing my work.
"The tone of my writing changes with each publication. One day I might be writing business profiles and the next day a feature about herbal remedies.
"Almost a second job in itself, I am also a part-time staff writer and handle pagination of our newly-launched weekly newspapers, The Glens Falls Leader and Queensbury Citizen. These papers are inserted in the daily each week and are area-code-specific, and therefore very specialized. The stories are fluffy and avoid negative news. Common in the weeklies are stories about a new downtown business, a fund-raising event or a Q&A with a local diplomat.
"I spend a good deal of time each week paginating the weekly newspapers. This entails filling editorial holes with copy and photos and doing so in an organized, functional manner. This is where my minor in graphic design comes in handy; knowing how to use InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator was a major plus."
"It is an interesting time for the newspaper industry. Online versions of the daily newspapers are becoming increasingly popular and it has changed the way the paper functions. Popular online blogs are starting to show up in the next morning's print edition and general assignment reporters are leaving the office with a video camera along with their notepad.
"For the first time, television news is competing with newspapers for exclusive online content. This shift in news gathering has given rise to the "MoJo," or "'mobile journalist," a reporter that works remotely, equipped with a cell phone, lap top, digital camera and even a video camera. They package their stories digitally and send them to their editors via the Internet. Ever more valuable to newspapers and magazines are journalists with experience using web design, graphic design, video editing, and other multimedia software.
"Lastly, broaden your range of talents and activities while at school and, when you land your first job, seize each new opportunity that arises. Your workload will increase but so will the respect others have of you.
"Of course, never stop being curious. The best stories are the ones that originate in your imagination."
Dan Shepard currently works as the production team editor at the Utica Observer-Dispatch. Dan has worked there since graduating from Plattsburgh in 2007.
Dan majored in journalism and completed a minor in criminal justice. In 2003, when Dan arrived at Plattsburgh, he became a staff writer for Cardinal Points, Plattsburgh’s student-run newspaper. He had many roles with the newspaper, including assistant news editor, news editor, lifestyles editor and editor in chief. Some of his favorite stories written for Cardinal Points include “Facebook Users Need To Be Careful,” “Late Night ‘Tickler’ Returns To the Area” and "Special K Usage Rises At PSUC.”
Dan also interned at the Press-Republican. After a semester there, Dan worked a number of weekends until graduation as a contributing writer. Some of his favorite stories written for the Press-Republican include “Kasprzak Takes Office Facing Tough City Budget,” “Life After College” and “Outnumber But Devoted, Guys Cheer For Cheerleading.”
A month after graduating, Dan started his professional career as a copy editor/designer at the Observer-Dispatch. In January 2009, he received a promotion to production team editor. In this role, he oversees the copy desk. Some of his favorite front pages he designed included Boilermaker 2009, the day the Eliot Spitzer scandal was learned, and the day a fire killed four Uticans.
"Take as many journalism related courses as you can to see what you like. Learn whether being a reporter or designer, or even a photographer, is what you want to do. The current job market is tough and you have to remain flexible. Think of ways to put yourself above others who will be applying for the same job in the future."
Katie Holscher currently works for Gilberti Stinziano Heintz & Smith, P.C., a law firm in Albany, NY. Having recently moved back to the Capital Region, Katie has spent the past three years in Florida where, most recently, she was Managing Editor for High Performance Pontiac Magazine and Vette Magazine.
While completing a double major in journalism and communications at SUNY Plattsburgh, Katie freelanced at the Press-Republican and interned at Lake Champlain Weekly while working her way up to Editor in Chief of Cardinal Points. After graduation, she was hired as the Press-Republican's Crime Reporter. Katie moved to Florida in late 2005 to work as Editor of the South Lee Messenger, a weekly newspaper in southern Lee County. She later worked in Marketing and Public Relations for Platinum Land Title Agency where she created Web content, marketing materials and sales initiatives.
Today, in addition to working in both a legal assistant and paralegal capacity, Katie has helped to design and implement a marketing plan for the Albany office and contributes regularly to the company newsletter. She also works on the side with small area companies to improve their marketing programs, materials and Web sites. In the Spring, Katie will be teaching Journalism 308 at SUNY Plattsburgh as an Adjunct Lecturer.
"The interviewing and reporting skills I learned at Cardinal Points and as a freelancer for Press-Republican were my greatest asset as Crime Reporter of the Press-Republican. By having obtained real-life experience as a journalist, the transition from college to my first real job was a smooth one."
"Hurricane Wilma hit Florida while I was Editor of the South Lee Messenger. I drove down to southern Lee County to survey the damage and speak to those affected. In addition to photographing devastated homes, down power lines and distressed families, I visited Germaine Arena - a sports venue that doubled as a shelter during the hurricane. Once there, I met a wheelchair-bound woman and her dog. She had MS and had recently moved to Florida after her doctor had recommended the climate to be better for her medical state. After the storm went through, she found she had nowhere to go back to. My article made her story public and helped her to get the assistance she needed."
"Roll with the lows. Working in the journalism field is not usually easy. You will have to work very hard and test your limits. You will lose sleep. You will eat on the go. Your job will always come first. You likely will not find your ideal employer straight out of the gate. Go with it. The experiences you have and skills you learn along the way will only make you a better journalist in the long run. You will find yourself working somewhere you never expected. You may find yourself doing something you never considered doing. Don't worry; it will only make you better. Besides, you didn't enter this field because of its predictability did you?"
Todd Kehoe is the weekend editor for The Post-Star, a 35,000-circulation daily newspaper based in Glens Falls, N.Y. He heads the planning and execution for the newspaper’s Sunday product, from coming up with story ideas and editing to designing the front page on a weekly basis. In addition, Todd writes the weekly “thirty-something” column for the features section, designs a few daily pages and is part of the senior editor staff at the newspaper.
As a student at SUNY Plattsburgh, Todd was a staff writer, assistant news editor and managing editor for student newspaper Cardinal Points, and also wrote “The View From Kehoe” column for many years. Before moving on to The Post-Star in 2005, Todd worked as a city reporter for The Leader-Herald in Gloversville, N.Y., and as a sportswriter and copy editor for The Saratogian in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
"I really enjoyed designing pages for Cardinal Points and in the desktop publishing classes I took in Plattsburgh — so of course, my first full-time job out of college was as a city reporter. But no matter what job you want (or get) out of school, there are some basics that don’t go out of style: knowledge of AP style, clean writing and proper grammar. They seem like little things, but no matter what job you do, they come into play. And being able to design pages and be a reporter is a flexibility that newspaper editors always appreciate."
"As a reporter, I wrote a story about a hard-luck family who had suffered through two major family tragedies in recent years and had then lost everything in a fire I had covered. I got a lot of positive feedback from the community about the story — and later found out that they’d been able to raise enough money to rebuild, which had been doubtful. While I’ve done some investigative pieces that I appreciate, that story will always stick out in my mind. As an editor, it’s a little harder to quantify, because I’m typically not writing the story myself. However, some of my story ideas became award-winning articles in reporters’ hands and I’ve also won state awards for some of my designs and headlines."
"No matter how much you love journalism, know that your passion will be tested. Getting into journalism can be a thankless, difficult task. Right now, the business model is very much in flux, which doesn’t bode well for journalistic jobs or paychecks. A lot of veterans feel nervous about their jobs or trapped. There have been layoffs at a number of media organizations, and those are not easy to look past. But there’s a lot of excitement in the field right now, and there’s good reason for that, too. Online news is well on its way to being the dominant form of journalism, so having a background in those skills is very important. That goes beyond knowing HTML or shooting video, etc. — know how to write for a blog versus how to write for Twitter versus how to write an inverted pyramid story. And don’t think that just because you’re up-to-date with today’s tech that you’re done learning. It wasn’t that long ago that MySpace was considered the unbeatable, No. 1 social network ... and now it’s languishing far behind Facebook and Twitter. New developments can affect your job, so it’s good for yourself to stay on top of technology.
"Lastly, never forget who’s reading or watching your work. Readers and viewers are not likely to be experts in what you’re talking about, and they might not always be up-to-date with the situation, so don’t forget to explain, to simplify, to make it as easy to understand as you can. A good writer can turn a complex story into a readable news article; a great writer can make it simple."
"At Plattsburgh State, I spent most of my time in the Cardinal Points office and became an editor my second semester of freshman year. As editor in chief, Cardinal Points won the New York Press Association Best College Paper, which was a highlight and the paper continuously won the prestigious All-American award. As part of my Latin American Studies experience, I traveled to Washington D.C. twice to present resolutions arguing for a more free press in Latin America and completed a research paper on the current condition of the press in Chile. Part of my senior year I interned at Vistazo, the largest circulated magazine in Spanish in Ecuador, where I studied for six months.
"I worked for 3.5 years as first a business reporter, than political reporter for The Monitor newspaper in McAllen, Texas, a growing city located on the U.S.-Mexico border. I was a finalist for a Katie Award, out of the Dallas Press Club, for investigative business story. Also I spent one month in central Wisconsin for an assignment about migrant workers--which was an amazing opportunity and story I was fortunate to tell. From that story, I won first place for feature writing from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors competition.
"In graduate school, I continue to work on my spare time as a freelance writer. I was contracted to write a book chapter about the Latino experience in Wisconsin. Publication is expected in 2009.
"At SUNY Plattsburgh, I held about every position at Cardinal Points, including editor in chief. I interned at the Rural Law Center of New York in Plattsburgh as a research intern and created a monthly newsletter. I had a spring internship at the Burlington Free Press as a features reporter. During the summer, I interned at the Lake Placid News and Adirondack Daily Enterprise. I also interned at Vistazo in Guayaquil, Ecuador."
"Internships/Cardinal Points/take classes outside of journalism/study abroad!!!!
"Learn another language/do everything you can journalism related and non-journalism related - you can sleep when you're dead!"
Omar Aquije writes for The Post-Star, a 35,000-circulation daily newspaper. His responsibility is to cover news that occurs at the 30 school districts in the newspaper’s readership area. He also writes stories about a local community college. Most of his stories involve the use of school taxes and issues affecting children and parents. In addition, Omar has written stories on city and town governments, politics, community issues, business, and hard news such as crime. On occasions he has taken his own photos for stories.
As a student at Plattsburgh, Omar worked in various capacities for Cardinal Points. He was an intern and freelancer at the Press-Republican. He continued as a freelance reporter and photographer with the newspaper after he graduated. His first full-time job in journalism was with the Leader-Herald, a 12,000-circulation newspaper in Gloversville, N.Y. There, he covered various communities. He worked there for two years before joining The Post-Star in October 2005.
"In my first job as a reporter with a newspaper, knowledge of writing and reporting were the most helpful skills. While I still had lots to learn, I had a foundation in writing and reporting to build on. I had a solid understanding of grammar, AP style and sentence structure, which made the job easier for the editors who reviewed my stories. As I gained experience as a reporter, another valuable ability was having a modest understanding of various subjects, like education, criminal law, and government. A reporter at a small newspaper will often be required to write stories on various subjects. It’s helpful to know a little bit about as much as possible. Photography was another helpful skill at my first job."
"I’m proud of stories that cause controversy. If they cause controversy, then there’s a high chance these stories involve matters that the public must know. Such stories are proof that newspapers are watchdogs of government. I have written much about important budget issues. Some of these stories have prompt angry taxpayers to contact me and thank me for my work."
"Learn to shoot and edit video. Newspapers today are placing more emphasis on beefing up online content. Knowing how to make videos will help a reporter find a job or keep one. It also helps to know basic photography. This does not mean your photos must be extraordinary works of photojournalism. You just need to know how to take a photo that can go in the newspaper, for those times when there’s breaking news and a photographer is not available and you happen to be in the office looking for an assignment. Journalism students should also learn to write about various topics. For instance, a reporter might want to make a career by writing about crime. But, before that person can become a crime reporter, he or she might have to spend a few years writing about government, or business. This is the nature of the industry. Also, newspaper reporters should never include assumptions in a story. If you assume something, contact your source for the story and turn that assumption into something you can say and support with full confidence that it’s accurate. Reporters who assume too much will make errors in stories, and too many errors will bring consequences."
Angelique Serrano works at Marke Communications in New York, NY. She earned a double major in print journalism and communications as well as double minor in Spanish and English literature. While earning her degrees, she interned at the Press Republican (Plattsburgh's newspaper), Teen People Magazine, and worked at Cardinal Points. After graduation, she worked as a publishing assistant at Teen People Magazine, style assistant/reporter at People Magazine, freelance writer for Latina Magazine, and staff writer and style editor at Latina Magazine. Today she is the director of the New York Fashion & Beauty Center, where she does trend forecasting for a Latin American fashion & beauty brand. She also freelance writes for women's magazines.
"Figuring out how to come up with story ideas. Specifically, it was an exercise in a journalism class Prof. Murphy taught; we had to look at a chair and literally come up with dozens of story ideas that could stem from this one plastic chair. Going to pitch meetings at magazines, where your editors are looking for fresh story ideas and ways to package pieces, this exercise was extremely helpful."
"I recently did a heavily reported magazine feature on the state of latina skin. It examined the sun's effect on latina skin tones, and how latinas have different needs than caucasians when it comes to skin care and beauty products."
"Take an online journalism course, as well! Many magazines are shutting down and moving their business online. Take a few courses on how to write for online. Start practicing by pitching freelance story ideas to magazines. Learn how to tailor your pitches to specific magazines. In addition to thinking of story ideas for a perspective magazine, think of ways to package these stories; look at how magazines are doing more "themed" issues — like vanity fair's "green issue," etc. — magazines are always looking for fresh, inventive story packages (ex: the 20 best buddy movies ever; the health issue: the healthiest cities, foods and spas for you!). Think of what kind of packages would work for specific magazines."
Andrew deGrandpre majored in journalism and went on to earn a master's in journalism from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. While at SUNY Plattsburgh, he served as a reporter and editor for Cardinal Points. He now is as an editor, writer and reporter for Army Times Publishing Co., which chronicles all aspects of the U.S. military.
He moved to Washington from North Topsail Beach, N.C., a coastal community bordering Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune. In nearby Jacksonville, deGrandpre ran the city desk for a 25,000-circulation daily newspaper. There, he coached a reporting staff of 10 and snatched every opportunity to write his own stories about the Marines, their exploits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the many social challenges they face at home between combat deployments.
From 2003 to mid-2004, deGrandpre was editor of a 5,000-circulation weekly paper outside Chapel Hill, N.C.--having moved there from Chicago where, as a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism, he was a beat reporter assigned to cover Mayor Richard Daley and the 50-member city council.
"Reporting skills alone won't guarantee long-term success in this trade; you've got to diversify your skill set. For the past few years, I have advised aspiring journalists to invest time learning page design, the complementary skill that landed me a newspaper job after graduating from Plattsburgh State's journalism program and again three years later when I completed graduate studies. And while I still encourage anyone considering a journalism career to become proficient in page layout and design (it will boost your marketability when it's time to hunt for your first or second job), these days it is more important for journalists to have a solid understanding of the Web and how it now dictates the nature of our work.
"The Internet is fast becoming the delivery method of choice for the majority of newspaper readers. To that end, employers want journalists with a demonstrated ability to produce multimedia content--not just well-crafted, well-sourced news stories, but the accompanying slideshows, videos and interactive graphics as well. Perfect your reporting skills, to be sure; it's the bedrock of what we do. But branch out and develop a working knowledge of the other tasks affiliated with news production."
Brent has been arts and entertainment writer for The Burlington Free Press in Vermont since 2004, after arriving in Burlington as a news reporter in 1999. He covered Phish's “farewell” concert in a muddy field in northern Vermont in 2004 and has interviewed dozens of local, national and international performers coming through town over the years. He has also sought opportunities to learn more about his job by attending the National Endowment for the Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater in Los Angeles in 2005 and the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera in New York City in 2010.
Before arriving in Vermont, Brent worked as a general-assignment reporter at The Daily Star in Oneonta, N.Y., where he also wrote record reviews and interviewed a number of bands. He worked before that as a general-assignment reporter at The Chatham Courier in Chatham, N.Y.
Brent graduated cum laude with a degree in English (concentration in writing) from Plattsburgh in 1986, before there was a journalism program. He did study journalism with Dr. Ron Davis and worked two internships at the Press-Republican based in Plattsburgh. He was also a disc jockey, director of public relations and program director for the campus radio station, then known as WPLT.
"Pursue what you love in the long run but be willing to work your way up in lesser jobs in the short term. The basics you learn then will pay off in the future. Work hard, always strive to learn more about your job and how to get better at it, and good things will happen."
If you would like to learn more about the journalism programs at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact