Posted by: mindyrappoport | 01/05/2012

Learn to code (for free!)

As a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the smartest decisions I made was to get involved in the Technology, Arts and Media (TAM) program, which teaches students such digital media skills as how to design your own website, among others. Although I have a basic knowledge of HTML—hypertext markup language, which is used in basic web design—I’ll be learning it more in depth this semester in the final TAM class I’ll take before I graduate.

But what about that nifty window that pops up, displays a question, and makes you press, “Ok” or “Cancel”? How the heck do I make one of those things?

That, my friends, is a confirmation window, and while it’s surprisingly easy to make one, you have to design it using a different code than HTML. Yup, I’m talking about JavaScript.

First, a down and dirty explanation of some things you can add to a website using JavaScript: confirmation windows, alert windows (similar to confirmation windows, but they only have an “Ok” button), forms for people to submit information, anything involving date/time (for example, a clock), and mouseovers (for example, right now, when you hover your mouse over someone’s name on Facebook, a box with their name, profile picture, “Add Friend,” and “Subscribe” shows up).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that as technology evolves, so too does the the demand for knowledgable individuals who can code and design websites, Facebook apps, and other computer programs. People who know how to code are in high demand in the workplace, so if you’re about to apply for a particular job, having even a basic knowledge of how to design a website could help you set yourself apart from other candidates.

In discussions with friends and family ages 18 through 60 over the last few months, many of them told me that wanted to learn how to code, but didn’t know where they could pick the skills up in their spare time. While I strongly suggest enrolling in a college or community college course that teaches you these skills, you can also pick them up on your own. I gained a basic knowledge of HTML coding back back in middle and high school when I was learning how to edit my MySpace background to make it sparkle, and adding line breaks and changing font sizes in blog posts on LiveJournal. I had no clue what I was doing at the time, but by Google-ing, “HTML and font size,” I was able to find free guides online that had all of the answers.

That being said, if you’re interested in learning JavaScript, there’s a great, free program a friend of mine just told me about called Code Year, launched by Code Academy. After entering your email address, you’re sent coding lessons every week to complete. The best part is that you can sign up to learn with a friend so that you can keep each other in check on your lessons, and you can post your goal to learn to code on your Facebook wall.

Intimidated by the thought of coding? Check out Code Academy’s website, where you can learn JavaScript basics in a quick, easy-to-understand format before signing up for Code Year.

Happy coding!

Posted by: mindyrappoport | 10/10/2011

Using social media as a job search tool

In the last few years, social media has evolved from serving solely as a form of entertainment online to becoming a valuable tool job and internship applicants can use to market and brand themselves, network, and explore different career paths.

I’ve already talked about the importance of maintaining a professional Facebook page and utilizing Contxt’s text message business cards, but there’s a few other new media tools that job and internship applicants should familiarize themselves with, if they already haven’t.

  1. Twitter. According to digitalbuzzblog.com, 45 percent of all Twitter users are 18 to 34 years old, with 24 percent of users falling in the second largest category of 35 to 45 years old. In addition, as of March 14, 2011, Twitter noted in a post that over 400 employers were using their social media tool as of January of this year. So what does this mean for you? Employers are on Twitter, so create an account, follow professionals whose jobs or companies you are interested in, ask questions and search for potential opportunities. This summer, at one of the Online News Association panels I attended, Huffington Post Social News Editor Mandy Jenkins explained how she had tweeted back-and-forth with someone at The Huffington Post about different topics they were both interested in. In the end, when a position opened at The Huffington Post, she tweeted the staff member, applied, was offered the Social News Editor position and accepted. Moral of the story: Research, ask thoughtful questions, network, and look for potential job or internship opportunities. You never know what you’ll find.
  2. LinkedIn. Many students aren’t taking advantage of the most useful career-oriented social media tool, LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows users to create a profile that essentially displays their resume and contact info, but also allows them to link up, or friend request, past or present employers as well as professionals in fields they’re interested in. Using LinkedIn, you can ask these LinkedIn “connections” quick questions about their jobs or industries or request to set up informational interviews for a more in-depth talk about what they do. You can also use the “Career Explorer” tool to research potential career paths and information associated with them, connect and learn more about specific companies, and search for job or internship opportunities. You can even ask past or present employers to write recommendations for you, which can be displayed on your LinkedIn profile for potential employers to view. This is a very valuable, career-oriented social media tool, so keep it up to date and use it on a regular basis so as to stay in-the-know about potential opportunities
  3. Personal portfolio/website. One of the best ways to market or brand yourself online is to create a portfolio or website you can post your resume, work, and contact info on and direct employers to via business cards or your resume. You can build your website on domains like GoDaddy.com or yola.com, buy your own domain, or create blogs that you can use as websites (like this one) using WordPress.com, Blogger.com, or Tumblr.com.

Whatever social media tools you choose to use, make sure you are displaying yourself, both on your personal and professional accounts, in a respectable way that past, present, and future employers would appreciate.

Happy networking!

Posted by: mindyrappoport | 07/21/2011

My last day at the Boulder Weekly

As soon as I walked out of the Boulder Weekly office today, I felt a knot form in my stomach.

I just finished the last day of my summer internship at the Boulder Weekly, the first internship I’ve ever had at a publication. I’ve held plenty of communications/journalism jobs and internships, but this one was different. Every time I picked up the phone to interview a source, I understood that I was representing the Boulder Weekly. Every time I made a correction to a story while copy editing, I was relieved that that Thursday’s print edition would contain one less AP style error. Every time I wrote a story, I knew it was being published on the Boulder Weekly website and/or in their weekly print version of the publication.

This internship was the real deal.

I almost want to laugh when I think back to my first day at the Weekly. I had just left my Reporting 3 class and like my friends in the class, I was a bit overwhelmed; what we had been led to believe about the internship class for the last three years — that your grade was based entirely on the internship — wasn’t true, and I knew that juggling a job, an internship, and the class’s workload would be a challenge. I arrived at the Boulder Weekly office 20 minutes early that day, re-read parts of the AP Stylebook, took a deep breath, then shakily walked into the office.

Two months have passed since that day, and I now have a collection of stories, briefs, and tidbites (cuisine briefs) that highlight just how much I’ve grown as a reporter, writer and copy editor.

“So, what now?” I thought as I drove home from the Weekly today.

And then it hit me: I’m just a year away from entering the real world. With the wide array of communications, PR, marketing and journalism jobs/internships I have held so far, I’m still not quite sure where I’ll be headed to after graduation, but I do know that this internship has brought me one step closer to my future career.

To read my Boulderganic story in this week’s edition of the Boulder Weekly, please visit the Boulder Weekly website. Also, be sure to look out for a few more of my stories in August.

Posted by: mindyrappoport | 07/18/2011

Internship lessons

I can’t believe it, but last Thursday I published my last cuisine article in the Boulder Weekly. The article focuses on the food truck trend that’s catching on in Boulder and the ordinance the City of Boulder passed in May which restricts where mobile food vendors can sell food.

I learned a few lessons in journalism as a result of writing this article:

  1. Sometimes it’s better to meet with a source in person than talking to them on the phone. As a reporter, most of the time I’m in such a rush to meet deadline that I don’t have time to do interviews for stories in person. But last week, when a source told me via email that they would feel more comfortable meeting in person because their accent was hard to understand over the phone, I met with them at a local coffee shop on my off-day from my internship. Even though a majority of my off-day was spent interviewing this source and another one, I’m glad they made time to meet with me and that I was able to sit down with them; I gained a lot of valuable information that really helped develop my story.
  2. When you’ve done all the research you can and can’t find the information you need, make the call to get it. I’m a pretty thorough researcher, and normally I have no trouble finding statistics and reports online. However, for this story, I spent several days digging for an ordinance that the City of Boulder passed in May allowing food trucks to sell food at different locations around town. In the end, I had to ask one of my sources to email me the ordinance, which was nowhere to be found online, including the City of Boulder website. I’m glad I found the information, though, because it was crucial; one part of the ordinance is currently being petitioned by food truck owners.
  3. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with your editors. As an intern, sometimes it’s intimidating to share your story ideas with others in your office. Even though I had quite a bit of reporting and editing experience writing stories for the CU Independent, I was so nervous to contribute ideas when I started out at the Boulder Weekly. But last week, another intern, Sarah Simmons, and I were discussing a possible story idea when our editor walked up. We explained the angle to her and I was surprised but pleased when she agreed that it was definitely something the Weekly should cover. It just goes to show you that as an intern, the best thing you can do is speak up.

This week, I’m working on a different story for the Weekly, and even though my last official day on the office will be this Thursday, I’m still going to write two more stories for future editions. Check back later this week to read about this week’s story!

Posted by: mindyrappoport | 07/17/2011

Portfolio critiques

Ben Macaluso’s online portfolio
Things I liked:

  • The “Writers Who Inspire Me” section. I really like this! It’s very creative and I love how you acknowledge other writers.
  • Your “Greeley Tribune” page. I love the color on this page–the photos really make it pop, and the layout is really clean.
  • You look really professional in your “About Me” picture and really friendly in the picture on your homepage.
  • Your color choices for your layout. I like the red, white and blue combo. Go America!

Suggestions:

  • Look over/re-edit the writing you did on your “About Me” and “Resume” pages. There’s a few minor errors that need to be fixed (extra spaces, capitalizing journalism, etc.) Also, think about adding a copyright and disclaimer.
  • Think about adding a PDF version of your resume to your “Resume” page. Also, maybe think about reformatting your resume so it’s easier to distinguish from the paragraph you have above it and adding descriptions below your internships. If you want more resume tips, let me know; CU Career Services has some great resume samples.
  • The “School Stories” page is really text heavy. Think about reformatting and linking to the pages instead.
  • I don’t know if you need the “Mission” part on your homepage; you could replace it with your About Me.

Sarah Simmon’s online portfolio
Things I liked:

  • Your layout (especially font and colors). It’s very clean and easy to read.
  • The photo of the Flatirons is awesome.
  • Your “About Me,” “CU Independent” and “Internship” descriptions really give employers an idea of the experience you have and why you’d be qualified to work for them. Well done!
  • Your blog posts. The Frozen Yogurt Wars one was my favorite.

Suggestions:

  • Think about making your blog page separate from your homepage, and instead having an about me section on the homepage to tell potential employers about yourself.
  • On your resume page, I would list your “Experience” section first (internships and writing experience, combined in one section) and then your education after it.
  • Change your Twitter account to public; right now, there’s a little error message on your homepage saying, “Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.”

 

 

Posted by: mindyrappoport | 07/09/2011

Text message business cards

Have you ever met someone at a party and wanted to give them your contact information but you didn’t have a business card with you at the time? Well, if you sign up with Contxts, you’ll never have that problem again!

What it is and how it works
Contxts is an online service and smart phone app that allows you to send and receive mobile business cards through SMS text messaging. When you register either on their website or through the smart phone app, you choose a username and enter in any contact info you want to appear on your SMS business card–email address, phone number, social network sites, and more.

Once you have saved your SMS business card, there are two ways to exchange it with someone that you meet.

To send your recipient your contact information
To send your SMS business card to someone, text “send theirnumberhere”, replacing “theirnumberhere” with your recipient’s 10 digit phone number. Shortly after, your recipient will receive your SMS business card.

To exchange information with each other
The person you want to send your SMS business card to texts “yourusername” to 50500, replacing “yourusername” with the username you registered on Contxts. Shortly after, you will receive a text message asking you to confirm that Contxts should send your SMS business card to your recipient (that is, unless you have turned this feature off). After confirming, your contact will be sent your information, and you will be able to save their number through the confirmation text message.

But why should I use it?
One of the reasons I love Contxts is that you don’t have to have a smart phone to use it; other apps, like Bump, can only be used on smart phones. But with Contxts, as long as you and your recipient each have a cell phone, you can exchange your information through standard text messaging services. I also appreciate that both parties don’t have to be registered with Contxts to exchange phone numbers, as explained in the previous section.

Final tips
After you have created your business card on Contxts, think about adding your username to your resume or website so that potential clients or employers can get in touch with you easily.

Posted by: mindyrappoport | 07/06/2011

Fourth of July Issue

This week’s lesson at the Weekly was an interesting one: never underestimate what it takes to write a story, no matter what topic it’s on or how easy it looks like it might be to write. For last Thursday’s issue of the Weekly, I wrote a cuisine feature in which prominent figures around Boulder shared their Fourth of July favorites with readers. For this story, I interviewed a local Top Chef winner, the Boulder County mayor, sheriff, CU’s athletic director and an executive chef at a local restaurant. I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised that I was able to get in touch with this many people for my story last week, especially VIPs in the Boulder community. I was thankful that they took the time out to talk to me before and even during the weekend as I pulled my story together for the June 30 (Fourth of July) issue of the Boulder Weekly.

Back to the lesson part, though. After finishing up my last interview on Monday morning, I sat down to write out what I thought would be a pretty easy to write, somewhat puffy feature, but had a feeling I would still struggle with. I was right; I like a challenge, so the more controversial the topic or more difficult a story is to put together, the more I thrive, but the flip side of that took effect in this case, and I struggled a bit to piece together a 900 to 1000 word story from five interviews. I’m not as proud of the final result as I was with other stories I’ve published in the past, but I’m not displeased with how it turned out either; I’m just thankful that it turned out OK in the end, and that so many people in the community were willing to be interviewed; I was only turned down by one person I tried to contact.

I’ve also realized how much I love reading our special or themed issues; the Fourth of July one focused on GLBTQ rights and had some very interesting articles. I think another reason why I love editing so much is because in addition to using my AP style skills, I get to read controversial, fascinating, and/or entertaining pieces on topics that I can tell the writer researched extensively.

Anyway, I also pulled together an online piece that listed different Fourth of July celebrations in the community so that readers could figure out their July Fourth plans if they hadn’t already. I was also proud that we scooped other Boulder-based publications on a Tidbite (small cuisine story) that I pulled together about a new Middle Eastern restaurant that opened on University Hill. All in all, a great week!

This week’s cuisine feature is going to be an interesting one. Check back next week for more info!

Posted by: mindyrappoport | 06/30/2011

Creating a Facebook Page

One of the biggest modern blunders a business or journalism professional deals with is keeping their personal and professional lives separate online. Although it’s impossible to completely separate your personal and professional images online because anything posted on the Internet isn’t private, you can help people distinguish between the two and market yourself professionally by creating a Facebook page.

What’s the difference between a Facebook page and profile? Not much. While you can’t send “Messages” (like emails, but on Facebook) from a Facebook page and you don’t have “Friends,” you can track how many people “Like,” or follow your page. You can also use a Facebook page to post recent work, videos, photos that are related to your work; only people who “Like” your page will see this new information you choose to share.

Screenshot of "Create a Page" on Facebook

How to: Create a Facebook Page

  1. Log into your existing Facebook account, or, if you don’t have one already, create an account and log in.
  2. Once you’re logged in, go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php. Click the category your page will be associated with and select/fill in the requested information. For example, if you’re a journalist creating a page, click on “Artist, Band or Public Figure,” select “Journalist” in the categories drop down, then type in your name the same way it appears on your profile page (you can view your profile page by selecting “Profile” in the right hand corner of the screen). Check the Terms of Agreement box, then press OK.
  3. Once you have created your page, you’ll be redirected to the new page, which will have a blank template but will look very similar to a normal Facebook profile. If you aren’t directed to your new page, you can access it by going to the right top corner and clicking “Account,” then “Use Facebook as a Page,” and then “Switch.”
  4. Click on the box in the top left hand corner where your picture can be uploaded, just like on a Facebook profile page. Upload a professional looking picture of yourself.
  5. Click “Info” below your picture. Fill in ONLY the information you choose to share with everyone. Keep it professional and make sure to edit what you write so that there are no spelling or grammar errors. Make sure to include the links for any websites you have such as an online portfolio, your Twitter page, or links to work you’ve done in the past or LinkedIn.
  6. Once you’re done, click “Save changes” at the bottom of the page, then go to the top right corner and click “View page.”
  7. Add some content to your page! Post a link to some of your recent work, a video you put together, pictures, or anything else that you did in relation to your line of work. Add these by clicking “Wall” on the left side below your picture, then clicking on the category associated with what you want to post and uploading content.

How to: Publicize your Facebook Page

Screenshot of where to add content on your page

  1. Finally, publicize your new page! Click “Get started” on the left under your picture, then click “Import Contacts” in the top center of the page. Follow the on-screen instructions to add professional contacts through your email account or a document. If you want to publicize your page on your personal profile, click on “Wall” on the left side under your picture, then copy the link that shows up in the navigation toolbar at the top of your web browser (where the web URL goes). Next, switch back to your personal Facebook profile by going to the top right corner and clicking “Account” then “Switch back to (your name).” You’ll know it’s your personal Facebook profile because it will have your personal Facebook profile’s picture next to it.

    Screenshot of me publicizing my Facebook page

  2. Click “Link” on your Facebook profile’s add content box at the top of your wall, then paste your Page’s link in and click “Attach.” Write a short blurb to friends about why they should like your professional page–if they want to follow you professionally, view your work, refer you to someone they know, etc.

Example of a Facebook Page

For an example of a Facebook page, check out the page I made for myself as a journalist.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment back here and I’ll help you!

Posted by: mindyrappoport | 06/29/2011

Mindy’s Media Tips

On June 23, I attended the Online News Association’s day-long Camp at the Tivoli Student Center in Denver. Over the course of eight hours, I picked up invaluable information on new media tools from the likes of Vadim Lavrusik from Facebook, Mandy Jenkins from the Huffington Post, and Robert Hernandez from USC’s Annenberg School for Mass Communication and Journalism.

After telling my friends and family about some of the information I picked up, they asked me to start posting my tips on my blog so they could access them online. Each week, I’ll be posting one of Mindy’s Media Tips here to help you stay up-to-date on the latest apps and new media tips and tricks.

If you have a suggestion for one of Mindy’s Media tips or a new media related question, feel free to post it here! And check back on Thursday, June 30 for the first tip!

Posted by: mindyrappoport | 06/27/2011

Diving in head first

A lot has happened since I last updated!

My first news story was printed in last week’s edition of the Boulder Weekly. When I took on the story, which was about a local organization’s struggle to get local businesses to donate their leftover food to help feed the story, I had no idea it would be so controversial. I knew from my last story about backyard compost that Boulder is a very eco-friendly community that has already instituted a “zero waste” plan, so when I first learned about Food Not Bombs, the organization that was collecting leftovers to feed the hungry and homeless, I assumed that most local businesses would donate their extra food to the cause.

Boy, was I wrong.

In separate interviews with two of FNB Boulder’s coordinators, I learned that only three local restaurants had been donating their leftovers to FNB. Caleb Phillips, one of the FNB Boulder coordinator, told me that big grocery stores, like Whole Foods and Alfalfa’s Market, were allegedly wasting quite a bit of food because they refused to donate it to the organization. When I called a local Whole Foods’ marketing director to interview her, I only got to ask her one question before she cut me off and said she was too busy to discuss the matter further.

I wasn’t surprised by her reaction; I had a feeling that would be the outcome of the interview. Even though I had written controversial stories before for the CU Independent, after hanging up with the marketing director, I still couldn’t help but smirk and think, “So this is what writing a controversial story for a print publication is like.”

On the same day that I published my news story, I attended the Online News Association‘s Camp at the Tivoli Student Center in Denver. The camp, which was open to ONA and non-ONA members alike, featured new media workshops from the likes of professionals at the Huffington Post, CNN.com, USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and, of course, the company that I hope one day offers me my dream job–Facebook.

I can’t even begin to explain to you in just one blog post how helpful ONA’s workshops were. I plan to describe the different workshops I attended and new media tools I learned about in more detail each week, so keep checking back to nab the next new tip before anyone else!

Today (Tuesday) was the day I turned in the Fourth of July edition’s cuisine story to my editor. I can’t tell you what the story is about until it’s published on Thursday, but check back then for an update with the link!

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