The importance of a presence…

20141213_094518…on the web, that is.

Lately I’ve been mentoring students and a few newbies to both videojournalism and video production.  Frankly they’re all pretty much rank beginners with the basics and a dream of getting better.  And of course, they all have a website showcasing their work.


The websites are pretty much shotgun, not sharpshooter and well-aimed and focused.  They’re tossing it all out there without filtering.  The good, the bad, and the ugly are all on their sites.





Please spare me.  I don’t want to see it all – that is not only boring and a complete turn-off, but also not good for your odds of impressing a potential employer or client.  Those last two only want to see your best – what makes you stand out above the herd. What makes you the one they want to hire.

So winnow through your work.  Filter it down to your best one or two or at the most three pieces of work.  Label each story (or video) clearly, with information about your role in creating it…as well as whether it was a school project, a volunteer effort, or a paid gig.  Don’t be overly wordy (a sin I commit frequently).  Just a simple caption for each.

And speaking of writing…please remember basic English when writing.  Keep it simple, making sure your grammar and punctuation and spelling are spot-on.

Remember you are striving to work in a visual medium and everything about your site will be judged in an instant and will either attract or repel.  So stuff like color schemes and font choices do matter.  Photos do matter.  Words. Do matter.  Don’t post photos and words that are in conflict.  In other words (you know who you are) don’t say you are a journo and post a duckface and photos that imply you’d rather be in Tinseltown. Do not try to create an image that is not you…be real.  And please post your work – not just photos o you working. I honestly don’t care how you look. I want to see what you can do for me. Be who you are…a newbie with dreams.



Keep it simple.

A few more items.  Don’t post your resume or all the world to see.  If asked for your resume, DO include references.  NEVER state that they are “available on request.”  Really?  So you want me to take extra steps to check you out before hiring you?

On that note – do this now, while you’re still in the prof’s mind.  Ask for (1) a recommendation letter based on what they know about you now as a student and (b) permission to use them as a reference for future gigs or employment.  If you wait two or three or more years, you’ll just be another ghostly body in their memories.  Unless you really really stood out (for good or bad reasons).  And choose who you ask to be a reference.  I gladly told all of my students I would recommend them – but they had to carefully consider what I would say about them.  Because I will not lie.  A number of kiddos really did think and back off from asking…they knew exactly how they had behaved and how much work they had done (or not).

In closing.  Have friends, mentors, teachers all check out your site and pick it apart.  Put on your rhino skin suit and take their advice as help, not hate.  While your besties might say it’s all good, they might be lying or just buying into your lies to yourself.  Listen to those who’ve been out in the big bad world and use what they tell you to fine-tune your web site.

So good luck with it and all.  And review and update your site as your skillset and experience improve.


Addendum 3.08.2015
Wow – and just when I thought I’d seen it all – I haven’t. A local “producer” OMB (one man band) who has a great gimmick called “A Dolla for a Holla” where he pays passers-by a buck to say something in front of the camera…something positive for a program he is working on. Gets them to sign off on a model release so he can use their comments in said program. We had a discussion and I asked for his card with the intention of checking him out via his website. Um…no. No website. In fact – no web presence at all. No facebook. Googling his name, his show name, anything and he is invisible. I gotta tell ya, that if this is the new Marketing 101, then I’m clueless. As is his potential audience. (Oh – and no phone number either…apparently the ONLY way to track this enterprising young man down is through his email.)


Rules to write by…

Thanks to Advancing the Story for the 25 Commandments For Journalists.

Tim Radford of the newspaer came up with this list when in a panic:

…15 or more years ago to an invitation to do some media training for a group of Elsevier editors. I began compiling them because I had just asked myself what was the most important thing to remember about writing a story, and the answer came back loud and clear: “To make somebody read it.”

My two favorites:

5. Here is a thing to carve in pokerwork and hang over your typewriter. “No one will ever complain because you have made something too easy to understand.”

6. And here is another thing to remember every time you sit down at the keyboard: a little sign that says “Nobody has to read this crap.”

Selling your story to the audience…

I need someone to love me

Strong visuals and concise words draw the audience in. A proven formula…and one I’m using to solve a personal problem. My daughter. We live in the country and she has a soft spot for the downtrodden. In this case it’s nine feral kittens who were abandoned by their moms. The neighbor whose property they were living on tried but couldn’t really take them on since she is elderly and they are darn fast…so one day earlier this week my back porch turned into a cathouse.

Alexis called and called, but all of the local animal shelters are full. It is kitten season.

In desperation I’ve turned to craigslist to find families to adopt the kids.

First trick was to get good photos of nine squirmy wandering kittens. I once heard that kids and animals are the hardest to shoot. I vote for kittens. After 30 frustrating minutes and more than thirty shots I ended up with about four usable shots. Mission accomplished.

Next was checking the prohibited ads on craigslist – hmmmm, no animal adoptions without a re-homing fee. I can do that. But keep it minimal.

At last, what might be the hard part (or not) for most folks. Writing the ad. Most of these ads read something like this:

    Free cute kittens. Need a home.


Well, I want my ad to stand out and pull in some kitty lovers. And what do they tell you to do in journalism school? Personalize the story. Have a message for the audience. Put what’s important up top. So that’s what I did…and here’s the final ad:

Nine little farm kitties looking for homes…mommas left us in the lurch. Must go to loving homes that will get us fixed. We’re getting healthy again…twice daily face washes and lots of food, but we can’t stay here forever. We can each go it alone or be adopted in pairs.

Group 1 – I’m the oldest…a son of the legendary FooFoo, an enourmous long-hair Siamese mix. I’m a bit shy but willing to come out and purr if you treat me right.

Group 2 – We’re the twins. Both tortise shells and love to play together.

Group 3 – We’re the youngest. Three of use are little long-haired furballs; black and white. One orange and white tabby. One light orange…I’m called Pinkie cause I’m so pale. And finally there’s Bobby…the runt of the litter and also the most curious and adventuresome.

Small adoption fee gets you some food, litter, and a kitty. Please please only respond if you are serious. We are descended from family pets that were dumped in a farming area…many cats and pets left like this die of starvation before finding a way to fend for themselves or are eaten by coyotes or hit by cars. Thank you for reading.

Let’s pick this apart. First I state the problem/focus of the story: nine kittens need homes. Then I introduce the characters (and make sure they are memorable). Then the resolution and reasons why you should help out and why these kittens are basically victims of former pet lovers gone insane. Hopefully readers will identify with the personalities and photos and give me a buzz.

Like I need another nine cats.

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