Category Archives: Reporters

Telling True Stories

telling true storiesHow can we make a living as writers? Telling True Stories narrates wholly how we can improve our writing and achieve those goals. The final chapter of the book focuses on how to build a career in magazines and books. When approaching an editor, think of a story that only you can tell. Make sure to follow up. Think small.

Earlier in the book, we learn that it is key to tell a story well enough that your audience wants to finish it to its entirety. I have to admit that I am guilty of often times skimming through a story to the core of it and then putting it down after I got the gist of it. The shorter and more concise a story is, the easier it is to read. A story that has sixteen parts to it is less likely to be finished compared to a story that has three parts to it. So think small and concise. The more detailed and ongoing and repetitive a story seems, the less likely readers are to finish it.

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A Look Into The Life Of Susannah Strumfeld

After watching the film “Almost Famous,” Susannah Strumfeld, who has gone by “Zan” since age 13, knew she wanted to be a journalist. Since a young age, she envisioned herself following around a band, living a rock star lifestyle, and reporting what she saw. Her dreams are halfway there.

Immediately following her graduation from SUNY New Paltz as an English major and journalism and creative writing minor, her pursuit of happiness began. Zan, 22, was hired to work for The Spotlight, a weekly capital region newspaper, as a Colonie reporter. She has been with the paper for three months now and covers the news of Colonie, Menands, Loudonville, and some of Albany county.

“The hardest thing for me is that I have always written arts and features pieces and now I cover news and politics,” Strumfeld says.

She admits she is still adjusting to covering local politics. While at SUNY New Paltz, she worked for the school’s newspaper, The Oracle. She was a staff writer, arts and entertainment editor, features editor, copy editor, and assistant managing editor, a position that was created just for her. Strumfeld says she loves to copy edit, proof read, and find grammatical errors.

“It’s like detective work. I really love doing it,” she says grinning.

Aside from working with The Oracle, Strumfeld also interned at Chronogram Magazine, based in Kingston, for a summer during college. She worked 35 hours a week from June until August. It was a lot of work she admits, but it was an opportunity she could not pass up. She wrote four cover stories, learned how to tell a story in seven to ten words, and how to edit her own work, up to seven times just for a single story.

“It was the best summer of my life,” she says.

Her learning experience at SUNY New Paltz with the newspaper and her internship helped pave the path of where she is today. A typical work day for her includes finding her own stories and going out and making it happen. It varies day to day, which makes it difficult sometimes, Zan admits, but that is the fun in it. She writes six stories a week and has to come in touch with her creative side.

“I’m not doing this for the money,” she says.

She is doing it for her passion for writing. She likes writing because you can try it in any form you want. She has recently turned her writing into song lyrics. Reading and writing, it’s what she loves.

“If you can read and you can write, you can work anywhere,” Zan says.

Meet Kristi Barlette

Kristi Gustafson Barlette is a social media strategist and reporter at the Albany Times Union. She is a features writer who writes about issues and topics that those in their 30s can relate to in her weekly column Life 3.0 and her popular On The Edge blog.

She uses social media personally, to draw readers to her blog, as an entity to view photo albums on the Times Union website, and to engage readers. Aside from spending much of her day on the Times Union website, a good portion of her time is devoted to The Stir, The Huffington Post, and All Over Albany.

When asked what steps she took using social media to get her blog to where it is today, Barlette says she used a lot of personal interaction. She would use Facebook and Twitter to engage people and get them to want to read her blog. She would share her likes and dislikes, which allowed people to better identify with her.

“The more interested people are in your thoughts and what you post, the more likely they are to follow your blog when you promote it,” Barlette says.

When blogging though, beware of a few things. Since the blog is the fastest way to share information and often times the quickest way to display mistakes, it is important to be accurate. Don’t make simple mistakes that could be prevented.

“Triple confirm everything,” Barlette says.

Another quirk with social media is that customers now expect companies to communicate thoroughly with it. Barlette can relate with this and says people have compliments, complaints, concerns, or just want to know the holiday hours. Quick responses are the most beneficial she says. One of her friends had received a birthday coupon for Red Robin for a free burger, but had lost the coupon. She called and e-mailed the company for a few days, but no response was made. She then posted about the issue and tagged the company on her Facebook wall. Needless to say, her concern was almost instantly answered. So for companies, social media use is huge and is at times quicker than picking up the phone or writing an e-mail.

Finally, Barlette advises students who are pursuing a career in journalism to be well rounded. A basic knowledge of HTML and bringing various multimedia packages to the table will make a person stand out, she shares. The social media aspects that you don’t think are important actually make you distinct from another person.

“Be savvy!,” she finishes.