EIJ 2016: How to network

By Kyle Woosley

Networking events can be awkward. You’re walking up to strangers in your professional get-up (at least, the fanciest a college student can afford), talking about how amazing you are and ending the conversation with a look of uncertainty that screams “Please hire me!”

Although it was not on the agenda, I made networking one of my number one goals for last week’s Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans. And these are my top five take-aways.

  1. Always bring a hard copy of your resume. This was something I learned the hard way by not having a hard copy of my resume. I was having my resume and online portfolio critiqued by an executive producer and hiring manager at a television station in Albuquerque. Since I’m interested in becoming a producer, I picked his brain about things like editing reels, special segments and good markets to start in. However, when he handed over his business card and requested my resume, I was empty-handed. Instead, he just snapped a photo on his phone from my laptop and said he would keep me in mind. Will it stop me from hitting him up in the next few months when I’m on the job search? No. But still, having that resume would have made the situation less awkward.
  2. Make business cards. It doesn’t cost much (this site prints for a low as $7.99), and even for a student this networking survival item can make it easier to exchange information quickly, especially with your peers. I ended up with 10 different business cards at the end of this conference. And if I had printed some, those 10 people would also have my information right now. It just makes the transferal of information from person to person easier. Plus, it shows your legit about joining the field if you’ve already printed off cards.
  3. Talk to strangers. Your parents may tell you not to do this as a child, but in this instance, if a stranger offers you candy, or in this case a professional connection, I suggest taking it. Get to know the people in your field. Ask them questions. If you’re a student looking for your first job, ask how they got started. Find some more established individuals and ask them what their advice is on getting hired. This is an event where Marty Baron, formerly of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team, was in attendance. You never know who you’re going to meet at this things. Connections are important in this field.
  4. Stray away from your group. Almost every connection I did make at this conference, I made in the moments I was away from the group I was attending with. Go to sessions that interest you, not just the ones that interest your co-workers or peers. When you’re alone and approaching people, you’re less eager to escape the conversation quickly and you’re more likely to be your authentic self, which is what employers want to see. It shows you know how to take the initiative to talk to people.
  5. Attend the after party. While the actual event is a great place to talk about your career goals, the after party is the best place to get to know someone outside of that, which makes for a more meaningful connection. This allows your colleagues to get to know you on a more personal level, outside of all the job stuff. It gives them a better of who you are as a person. And even if you don’t actually get the job, you may make a new friend in the process.

In case you missed it: SPJ Welcome Meeting Highlights

Sept. 13, 2016

  • Introductions
    • Met new members
    • Discussed pros of a paid SPJ membership
    • All board members in attendance tell the group what SPJ has done for them
  • Free Speech Week
    • Free speech wall – We will be bringing this back this year for students to write what free speech means to them on the wall.
    • Panel – A lot of great ideas to get some free speech panels during the week to discuss the importance of the First Amendment. If anyone has any recommendations on who to invite for this panel, please let us know.
  • Gun Violence
    • The idea was brought up by Jason Martin to have a separate panel in the winter or a meet-and-greet to focus on reporters covering gun violence in Chicago – what’s the process and what techniques do reporters use?
    • Once again, if you have any suggestions, please let us know.
  • Alumni Event
    • Another idea by Jason Martin to have the Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence sponsor an alumni event for current students to meet and ask questions to former DePaul journalism students.
  • Live Debate / Fact Checking Event
    • This will be an event with Reboot Illinois on Oct. 3 to do a live watch and fact check of the debate. Marc said the room is reserved from 5:30 – 9PM.
  • Chicago Headline Club – Marc Filipino
    • Student Input – looking for student liaisons in Chicago to bring in more student input and target the group toward a younger crowd.
    • Mentor/Mentee program – similarly, the idea was brought up to mentor with a Chicago journalist for around 6 months. This would be someone you could ask questions to, find out about their background, see what their production cycle is like, etc.
  • WBEZ Tour
    • In progress of figuring out the kinks of this.
    • We hope to do a site tour about once per month this year, so if you have suggestions of places you would like to see, let us know.
  • Other Comments
    • One student brought up doing something for Free Speech Week in connection with all of the Milo Yiannopoulos/Ben Shapiro bannings.
    • Also, the idea was mentioned about having an event about technology/Twitter and what that means for free speech.
  • Board Member Session
    • Discussed New Orleans trip this weekend, check-in processes, restaurant suggestions, etc.

DePaulia named one of 30 finalists for Newspaper Pacemaker Awards

A huge congratulations goes to DePaul’s collegiate newspaper, the DePaulia, for being named one of 30 finalists for the Newspaper Pacemaker Awards. This is the first time the DePaulia has received this honor. The competition started with 155 submissions and after three judging rounds, has been narrowed been down to the 30. The winners will be announced in October at the National College Media Convention in Washington, D.C.

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Why freedom of information matters: Takeaways from the 2016 FOIA Fest


Panelists at FOIA Fest 2016 from left to right: Attorney Matt Topic, James Kalven of the Invisible Institute, independent journalist Brandon Smith and moderator Mick Dumke of the Chicago Sun Times. 

By Marc Filippino

Describe your ideal Saturday morning. If you said digging through public records and figuring out ways to challenge police for dashboard videos, then maybe next year consider going to FOIA Fest.

FOIA, an acronym for the Freedom of Information Act, is celebrating 50 years of aiding journalists, lawyers and, yes, everyday citizens fighting for access to documents that they have every right to see. On March 12 at Loyola University,  FOIA Fest hosted the keynote panel “How independent journalists, attorneys uncovered alleged police misconduct through FOIA.”

The panelist were Brandon Smith, an independent journalist who filed his own FOIA to get the Chicago Police Department to release the dashcam video that capture the death of black teenager Laquan McDonald; civil rights lawyer Matt Topic, who helped  Smith craft a lawsuit against CPD; and James Kalven of the Invisible Institute who also lobbied for the video to be released in December.

The  Laquan McDonald story made national headlines. After hearing Topic and Smith’s lawsuit, a judge ordered the Chicago Police department to release the video that showed McDonald being shot 16 times by former police officer Jason Van Dyke.

The panelists talked about their difficulties with filing FOIA and the pushback they get from FOIA offices, especially when trying to get the McDonald video.Their message was clear: FOIA offices need to be better.

They said many FOIA offices they come across are ineffective, partly because they are extremely underfunded and understaffed. Smith said if he had his way, he would want legislators to make FOIA offices the top priority in government budget so they can better serve the people.

Kalven agreed, but pointed out if government offices made these documents and videos public to begin with, there wouldn’t be a need for departments to process FOIA requests, minimizing costs and time dramatically.

But there are some things FOIA requesters can do to get the information they’re looking for. Topic said to always be aggressive. People working the FOIA office are always prone to push off deadlines and Topic said they will ask for extension after extension. Don’t let them get ask for more than two extensions, Topic recommended. Anything beyond that is excessive.

“In the Laquan McDonald case, they weren’t making any progress. They just kept asking for more time,” Topic said. “There was no point to agreeing to extensions.”

The panelists also encouraged FOIA fighters to be smart and thorough. Topic said one of the best things you can do is become an expert on the procedures and the policies of any office your asking for information from. That way you know the specifics of what you want when putting in a request.

And Smith suggested that when writing your FOIA request use the phrase, “documents suffice by to show…” By including that as a preface, your FOIA will be all encompassing of any record that is even remotely related to the information you might be looking for.

This was just a small part of FOIA Fest 2016, but the impact was enormous. Whether you write restaurant reviews or report on the Boston Red Sox, you should familiarize yourself with FOIA policies. At some point it could take your reporting to the next level.

Marc Filippino is the outgoing president of SPJ DePaul. Feel free to reach out to him at marcfilippino@gmail.com