Panelists stress importance of an online presence

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Students gather around speakers after the panel. Photo by Carlie Porterfield

Texas State students gathered in a teaching theater Monday afternoon for a panel called “Getting creative with your digital career” in which mass communication professionals shared their advice for maximizing an online presence.

“This is a star-studded panel, I’m not sure if you’re aware of that,” said Cindy Royal, a Texas State professor who moderated the event (@CindyRoyal). “We have some rock stars in digital media that are with us today.”

The Internet is a game-changer in the journalism world, said Kolten Parker, Digital News Editor of the San Antonio Express-News and a recent Texas State gradate (@KoltenParker).

“It’s exciting what that opens up for people our age,” Parker said. “It’s a really great time to be excited. We’re going to decide where things are going.”

With the new technological innovations, reporters have more resources than ever before, and new ways to access stories, Parker said.

“With the internet changing everything, I’ve had to get creative in the ways I find sources for my stories and how I go about writing them,” Parker said.

Thinking outside of the box is necessary in today’s mass communication field, shared Annie Warner, a San Marcos native and Managing Editor at Tumblr (@annie_werner).

“Creativity is inherent to developing Tumblr as a product,” Werner said.

However, with new technology comes new challenges, Parker said.

“There’s some tension between online and newspapers,” Parker said. “There’s the idea that people online are ruining journalism. I don’t feel that way, I think those things are necessary to supplement more serious journalism.”

There is still a divide between online and print journalism, Parker said, and many newspapers are struggling to find a balance between the two.

“I think we’re still trying to find our identity online, and I think most of these papers are, because they’ve had this identity for so long and that’s starting to change as they move online,” Parker said.

The panel members also shared what they learned in school that helps them the most now.

“Editing is so important!” said Meg Turney, an online host and Texas State grad (@megturney). “It’s so important that you can say ‘I can edit my own material.’”

Others encouraged the audience to branch out when signing up for classes.

“I didn’t take any advertisement classes, which I regret,” Parker said. “That’s something I’ve had to pick up since graduating. The business side of it, and how to monetize it is the biggest thing I didn’t learn.”

The panelists also shared some advice for students looking to be hired in the mass communications field after graduation. Having an online presence is key to impressing potential employers, they said.

“They’re looking for people in media who know how to be brave, and have something to say. Just having the skills is not enough,” said Trei Brundett, the chief product officer for Vox Media (@clockwerks).

Being yourself online is critical, Turney said, and can lead to success is mass communications.

“Being relatable is something you can’t fake, and is something that everybody is looking for,” Turney said. “People who can be relatable and genuine are so highly sought-after.”

Students who attended the panel walked away feeling more prepared for the job market that lies ahead of them, they said.

“I’ve learned t’s important to have a presence online and to develop some kind of personal brand,” said Peyton Donnell, a freshman Mass Communications student.

“I think the most important thing I took away from the speakers today was to have as much of a creative presence online as I possibly can,” said Mariah Simank, a sophomore public relations student. “It’s something I will definitely keep in mind as I go forward.”

Carlie Porterfield is a junior journalism student at Texas State. She is the senior news reporter at the University Star.

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