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From Print To Digital: How To Succeed In The Editorial World

editorial career
Nathan Nguyen-Le
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Published on August 26, 2014

This is a guest post by Kristine Thomason for Contributor Platform. 

After explaining I’m a journalism major at NYU, a number of people have replied with the phrase I’d heard many times, “but journalism is dying“.  I admit, at times it is frightening to know I’m aspiring to work for an industry that is going through so much change. Many print publications are struggling and being replaced by digital alternatives, and writing is being condensed to make way for more visual content. However, my experience in the field has shown me journalism isn’t dying, but rather evolving.

After interning at both print and online publications, I’ve been able to see first hand how the two worlds diverge, and yet, at their core are still the same. Last spring I worked for Men’s Health Magazine, solely in print. I was thrown in head first with a writing assignment my first week. While I was shocked and slightly intimidated to be handed so much responsibility so quickly, I can’t imagine a better way to have learned how to handle the editorial world.

I quickly learned to juggle multiple projects while still meet my deadlines. This involved prioritizing assignments and figuring out what worked best for me to get everything done. For example, I’m not the best at writing first thing in the morning, so I focused on research or administrative work earlier in the day and saved writing for the afternoons.

While I loved working in print, as the semester was drawing to a close, I realized I wanted to explore the digital side of journalism. No, the “journalism is dying” naysayers didn’t get to me; I just wanted to see what it was like to work for an online publication. After applying to many summer internships, I accepted a position as a digital editorial intern at HGTV.com.

By the end of my first week at HGTV, it hit me – I’d done a complete 180 from my role at Men’s Health. On the most obvious level, the content I researched and wrote about was wildly different. Instead of health trends, I researched design trends. In place of fitness tips, I created clever home decorating tips. But what I found most interesting were the differences between the print and online editorial process. At Men’s Health, I’d submit a written sidebar that would then go through a series of editors before I’d hear any feedback. And this was all for a piece less than 150 words that wouldn’t appear in the magazine until months later. Yet, at HGTV, I’d write a blog post that could potentially be published that very day if my editors gave it the okay. It was fascinating to see the immediacy of an online medium.

These two internships were so different, and yet, the skills I gained from each will, without a doubt, help me in future journalism ventures. While there’s no way I could possibly condense everything I learned into a brief article, from pitching to researching to interviewing and everything in between, here are a few tips I‘ve found helpful for excelling in both print and digital editorial internships:

Do Your Research

Pour through as many articles as possible until you really have a sense of what the publication is all about. I was no expert on the latest fitness crazes for men before I interviewed at Men’s Health, but I was determined to learn as much as I possibly could about the magazine. Even after you’ve secured a job, don’t let your research stop! Continue to binge-read article after article until you’ve completely immersed yourself in that publication, and feel ready to effectively represent their brand and voice in your writing.

Find Your Voice in Their Voice

Learn to tailor your writing to the style and voice of the publication you work for. I know for writers this can be hard. It’s easy to get attached to a certain style of writing we call our own, but it’s important to adapt to the needs of the publication. This doesn’t mean you need to completely throw everything about your prose out the window; it’s all about balance. Stick to their style but also make it your own. Since finding this balance can be challenging, when you’re applying to an internship ask yourself– could I write in their style? Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, but also set yourself up for success.

Keep Your Eyes Open

No, I’m not referring to staying awake on the job. What I mean is be aware of the world around you, always. I’ve had so many writing teachers challenge our class to refrain from shoving headphones into our ears when we walk around the city. Instead, they encouraged us to pay attention to our surroundings. As a journalist, inspiration for an article can come from anywhere. But if you have your head down and mind closed, you could miss out on an idea for a truly great story.

Live What You Write

Find ways to live the brand your work for. For example, while I may not be a man, I did begin to embrace more fitness and healthy eating practices while working at Men’s Health. I even made a point to work out with more of my guy friends, for a different perspective on my usual fitness regime. During my summer at HGTV, I tried to make time for creative ventures, like working on decorating projects in my apartment. A lot of this will happen naturally, but whether it’s conscious or not, embracing different aspects of the publication will really help cater your writing to that world. You become enmeshed in the culture and consequently feel like you have a lot more authority to write about the topics.

Get to Know Your Colleagues

Last but not least, be social! Writing is a notoriously lonely occupation, but the beauty of interning for a publication vs. freelancing or working on a personal novel is there are people all around you! Get to know them. Chat with your editors, have lunch with other interns, and even reach out to colleagues in different departments. Your coworkers will most likely be very receptive and more than willing to give you solid advice. Since the journalism world is all about connections, it’s key to maintain these relationships after your internship is over.

I’ve loved every minute of both my print and online experiences. Journalism is a fast paced world that’s constantly changing to meet the demands of modern readers. While at times, it can be scary to know the journalism world will be different by the time I graduate, it’s also exciting to be entering an evolving industry. So if you love to write, do it. Whether it’s news on fitness trends, the latest kitchen appliances, political issues or late breaking news, there will always be stories to tell and a need for people to share those stories with the world.

About the Author:

Kristine Thomason is a senior at NYU studying Journalism and Psychology. She’s also a foodie, arts and culture lover, runner, and overall curious seeker of stories. Kristine has known she wanted to be a writer since she was 11 years old, and knew she wanted to be a professional journalist after writing her first non-fiction book From Senior to Senior during her senior year of High School. She is currently freelancing and will be working for Fitness Magazine this fall where she will be writing for both their digital and print platforms.  Read more of Kristine’s work at kristinethomason.wordpress.com.

Nathan Nguyen-Le

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