In addition to my usual courses this semester, I am working with a student on an independent study about stylebooks.
Alison Krug, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, has two objectives in mind:
analyzing how stylebooks come together
looking at how to better communicate style guidelines to journalists
By the end of the semester, Alison will revise the stylebooks for The Daily Tar Heel and Southern Neighbor. Along the way, she will interview editors at other news organizations about their stylebooks. She will also use the collection of stylebooks at the Park Library to learn about their history and evolution.
I’m looking forward to working with Alison on this project. You can follow her progress throughout the semester on her blog dedicated to the project.
Danny Nett is a senior in the School of Media and Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill and online managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He recently completed a Dow Jones News Fund internship at Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia. In this interview, conducted by email, Nett discusses that experience.
Q. Describe your internship. What was your typical workday like?
A. I went to Penn State for my DJNF training, and I was placed at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia. My typical day was coming to the office around 3:30 p.m. and leaving around 11:30.
The first few hours consisted of editing advance copy (stories for upcoming papers) in our CMS. A lot of that stuff was from the wire, so it was mostly doing some polishing up and double checking the big facts.
Around 6:30, we’d switch over to daily content. I edited for the business, national and metro sections, mostly. On an individual story, I’d check facts, grammar, AP/local style and clarity in our CMS — then once a designer placed the story on the page, I’d open it back up in InCopy and write the headlines, read-ins and cutlines. When the story got checked back in, I’d write the web headline. If it was from the wire, I’d go ahead and send it; if it was written from someone in the newsroom, it’d go on for a second read from another editor.
As the summer went on and my co-workers started trusting me more, I took on more responsibilities. I got assigned more A1 stories to edit (usually two from A1 and B1), and I’d occasionally proof pages before sending to the printer.
Q. What was the biggest challenge of the internship, and what was the greatest reward?
A. I think I struggled a lot initially with headlines. I’d copy-edited before at The Daily Tar Heel and Southern Neighbor, but the majority of my work is online where the biggest concern is just SEO.
Getting a clear headline on complicated stories is hard in print — especially when you have six words to describe a funding conflict between legislators and a university, or a big crime story. There’s also an element of parachute journalism in the nature of the DJNF program, and not knowing what names locals would or wouldn’t recognize was tough sometimes.
In the same vein and at risk of being super cornball-y, I’d say the most rewarding thing was the progress I was able to watch myself make from the start to finish of the summer. My co-workers were great about offering constructive feedback, and they did it in a really polite way even on my crappiest of headlines.
At one point toward the end of my internship, my boss told me something along the lines of, “Now I read over some of your stuff and think, ‘Whoa, that’s a good hed.’ ” And I think that was one of the best moments of the whole summer.
Q. What advice would you give to students considering applying for a Dow Jones News Fund internship?
A. Honestly, I would just say to go for it; you don’t really have anything to lose from trying, and you have a ton to gain.
My editing skills and news judgment have sharpened a ton, and I met so many awesome people. My DJNF intern class has a Facebook group, and a few of us are getting together and going out in D.C. next semester when the Virginian-Pilot intern gets back from studying abroad. Which is wild to think about — especially when you realize we were all really only together for less than a week.
As far as more specific advice: I went through with the editing test more or less on a whim, and while I was confident in my editing skills, I sort of thought the rest of the exam kicked my ass (am I allowed to say that?).
So definitely be smart about studying beforehand. Don’t just drill yourself on AP style; think about what else news organizations are going to want you to be familiar with that summer. I know the year before me was big on savvy for the web, and my year was heavy on politics and the presidential election, for obvious reasons. The exam is definitely partly about grammar, but I think in a lot of ways it’s designed to make sure you have a good head on your shoulders.
Q. Congratulations on completing the internship. What’s next for you?
A. I’m working as online managing editor at the DTH for my senior year, and I’m really excited. I’ll be doing management reads (final edit before an article goes to copy) on stories and writing web headlines every day, so my experience this summer is definitely being put to good use.
I’m also trying to make the most of my non-rusty editing skills while I still have them. So, like, coming for you, Usage and Grammar Test.
The fall semester at UNC-Chapel Hill begins today. Here’s what I am teaching this term:
Two sections of News Editing. This undergraduate course focuses on story editing, caption writing and headline writing for print and digital media, with a dash of social media. Each section has 16 students; the class meets twice a week in a computer lab. Here is the syllabus for the course along with a handout on noteworthy names in the news.
One section of Writing and Editing for Digital Media. This graduate-level course is part of a certificate program and a master’s program, both of which are taught online. The course covers different types of digital writing, including blogs, headlines and social media. It has 12 students, and it meets all the time online. Here is the syllabus for the course.
Feel free to adapt, revise or ignore the materials here. You can also browse syllabuses from across the journalism school here.
The good people at Copyediting offer a cornucopia of online training for editors. In September, I’ll join this effort.
My class, “Getting Your Facts Straight,” will give you advice on how to ensure that the material you are editing is accurate. You wouldn’t want to mix up “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” would you? Or attribute a quote to Mark Twain that he never said?
The audio class, which costs $79, will take place at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22. It will last about 90 minutes. It’s intended for editors of all sorts, and I hope to see you there.
Mike Sundheim is vice president for communications and team services for the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL. In this interview, conducted by email, he discusses his job, social media and the team’s outlook for the 2016-17 season.
Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?
A. One of the best sports books out there is Ken Dryden’s “The Game,” and one of my favorite parts is when he describes the rhythm of the season. Essentially, days of the week are irrelevant, and our lives are dictated by whether it is a game day or a practice day and whether we are home or on the road.
On a home game day, I arrive at work around 7:45 a.m. and leave about an hour after the game ends. During that time, I am responsible for media access after a morning practice, two hours prior to the game and five minutes after the game, as well as rights-holder interviews throughout the game.
Beyond handling media access, there’s plenty to do at my desk, from writing news releases or letters for executives to fielding media calls, monitoring social media and working with all of the other departments in the company regarding communication needs. A few years back I also took on team services, which includes handling hotels and bus companies for team travel as well as meeting the everyday personal and scheduling needs of the players and coaching staff.
I split the travel with my co-worker, Kyle Hanlin, so my quietest days in-season are typically when he is with the team on the road and I am home. But even those days can fill up quickly, taking care of everything I didn’t have time to deal with when the team was around.
Q. What role does social media play in your work?
A. When people ask what the biggest change to my job has been since I started, social media is a clear number one. Look at it this way, when I came on full-time in 2000, Mark Zuckerberg was a 16-year-old high school student. There was no social media, and the news cycle was much more structured.
Because of social media, everything is immediate. That affects how and when we send news releases, the ways in which major news is delivered and, more than anything else, our ability to turn off our work brains. I can be sitting at home playing with my kids at 8 p.m. and start getting texts about something a player tweeted or an impending personnel move. This job has always had a bit of an always-on-call element to it, but social media has significantly intensified that.
Q. During your time with the Hurricanes, the team has been to the Stanley Cup finals twice, winning in 2006. But Carolina has missed the playoffs the past several years. How do the ups and downs of sports affect what you do?
A. There is no doubt wins and losses affect those of us who work in sports, from general office morale to our company’s bottom line. When we won the Stanley Cup, we were playing in front of standing-room-only crowds, and I could hardly keep up with the flow of media requests for our players.
After seven consecutive non-playoff seasons, we have understandably smaller crowds and I spend more time pitching stories than fielding requests. Our major local newspaper didn’t travel a beat writer on the road last season.
When you’re winning, you can’t wait to get to the office, and when you’re losing, it is much more of a grind. The positive for us is that we feel like we are very close to turning a corner on the ice, and we are already seeing some positive business momentum based on that optimism.
Q. What advice do you have for students considering careers in sports communication?
A. Your classes are important, and there are plenty of things I learned at UNC that help me every day in my job. But I would not be where I am had I just gone to class, graduated with straight A’s and started looking for a job.I spent two and a half years at The Daily Tar Heel, which helped me in many ways including the development of my writing and my understanding of deadline pressure.
I then spent my junior and senior years working for the Hurricanes as an intern and UNC’s sports information department as a student assistant. It was in those positions that I learned how to actually do my job and gained the connections and experience to land full-time work after school.
The last time we had an open position — a part-time, hourly job that only paid about $15,000 for the season — we had more than 300 applicants in a few days before we closed it off. I wrote about the experience on my blog for our website, and pretty much everything I said in there still stands. I eliminated 75 percent of the resumes instantly because they had no sports experience.
Also, a lot of people hear “sports PR” or “sports publicity” and picture all of the glamorous aspects of traveling with a team and working with media. But most entry-level sports communications positions are heavily based in writing, working with statistics and preparing game notes. If you don’t love writing or you can’t truly geek out on sports stats, this isn’t the right career path for you.
Q. Let’s look ahead. How do the Hurricanes look going into the 2016-17 season?
A. This is the most excited I’ve felt about the future of our team in a long time. Ron Francis has done a phenomenal job of staying patient and rebuilding the right way — collecting prospects and draft picks and building from the defense forward.
Our defense last season included four players who were 23 years old or younger, including Noah Hanifin, who was just 18. The ages of our top seven scorers were 23, 27, 23, 21, 23, 24 and 25. And we have 10 picks in this year’s draft – seven of which are in the first three rounds. That gives us a ton of flexibility to either continue to collect prospects, or wheel some of those picks for players who can immediately jump into our lineup.
The idea isn’t just to compete for a year or two and then suffer another playoff drought. It’s to build an organization that is a factor in the playoffs every single year. That’s exactly what Ron is doing.
Students interested in internships with the Carolina Hurricanes can contact Sundheim via this page.
Kevin Uhrmacher is a graphics editor at The Washington Post. In this interview, conducted by email, Uhrmacher discusses his work there and offers advice to journalism students looking at careers like his.
Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?
A. I’m involved in making everything from simple maps and charts to more meaty interactives and data visualizations. I also spend some time making sure our graphics are being copy-edited and included with related stories that others in the newsroom are writing.
My days vary quite a bit, but it’s typical that each includes some combination of responding to breaking news, working on daily and longer-term projects and getting our team’s graphics work published across platforms and promoted on social media.
Today, for example, I went in at 7 a.m. to get a jump on updating our page covering the EgyptAir Flight 804 crash. Another graphics editor, Denise Lu, and I updated the page periodically throughout the day as more information became available. As we pushed out updates to the page, we were sharing them on our @postgraphics Twitter account. We were also working on a couple of other projects intermittently.
I should also mention that the members of our team regularly solicit and offer feedback to one another about projects in progress.
Q. How does editing and headline writing work for graphics at The Washington Post?
A. Any graphic I create goes through several layers of editing, including my own editors on the graphics team, other content-specific reporters and editors, and a small army of very attentive copy editors.
Headline writing is a team effort here, for sure. While we’re writing a headline, we do a lot of sharing and testing to see what connects with people. Often that means sharing headlines in an internal chat room and asking others to offer suggestions for how to improve something.
Often, the most valuable feedback you can get on a headline is from someone who has no preconceived notions about the story. This helps you see how much interest your headline generates and make sure your story (whether it takes the form of text, graphics, video or some combination of things) delivers on whatever you promise in the headline.
We also have a new-ish tool that helps us A/B test promotional material for our stories (headlines, deks and — especially helpful for our graphics — promo images) You can read more about it here. We’re fortunate enough to have a tremendous engineering team to build tools like this one.
Q. You graduated from the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2014. What skills and concepts that you learned there do you use day to day? What have you had to learn on the job?
A. I think the most obvious thing I took with me out of the journalism school, and many nights in The Daily Tar Heel, was a keen sense of news judgment. By that I mean being able to identify the crux of a story and making sure that it is coming across in the way it is presented. It also means recognizing stories that are not being told and finding a unique way to tell them.
That reminds me of another thing UNC taught me, which is how to learn something that I don’t know. There are plenty of new skills and concepts that didn’t exist when I was in school just a couple of years ago. The key is knowing how to adapt and learn them.
Q. Being a graphics editor at The Washington Post sounds like a good gig. What advice do you have for journalism students considering similar career paths?
A. Well, first let me say it IS a good gig!
As far as advice goes, I would say students should not be devastated if they don’t get their dream internship or job on the first try. Never cut off a relationship with someone at a company you want to work for because you assume they don’t want you. For all you know, you’re at the top of their list for the next open job.
This one can be awkward but really pays off: Ask what you could do to improve your chances for the next time around. Do you need to beef up your portfolio in some way? Need to show more similar experience on your resume? Occasionally send them an email when you publish something you’re really proud of. Don’t underestimate the power that putting yourself on someone’s radar has for your future prospects.