If you build it, they will come. We’re talking about your professional online portfolio and the potential employers who will go there to check you out. While LinkedIn is indispensable in maintaining your digital profile, a personal website where you can showcase your best work is now a must for journalists. There are lots of options for hosting your digital portfolio, including Muck Rack for journalists and old reliable WordPress. Use whatever works best for you but make it your own through simple and clean design, color and layout that best reflects the kind of journalist you are.
Every online portfolio should include a short profile that says who you are and what sets you apart from other journalists. Post your resume — and make sure it matches the information on your LinkedIn page. Include links to your other active social media accounts, such as Twitter or YouTube, as well as web pages that aggregate or index your work. Don’t forget to list contact information, either through an email address that forwards to an account you check regularly or a form.
The most important content, of course, are samples of your work. This is the place to post articles, photos, video, audio, graphics and multimedia packages you most want to promote. Don’t include every little story you ever did — no one is going to wade through them all. Just post the best or most representative samples. For text, offer downloadable .pdf versions, especially for stories behind a pay wall or on now-defunct sites. And keep the site updated with your most recent work.
Digital or Print: Clips
When you apply for a digital or print internship or job, you should have work samples to show. An editor will expect to see published clips or links to your work.
In general, include six to eight links or clips in your application, unless the job posting specifies otherwise. If you’re sending them in print form (as opposed to attaching them to an e-mail), keep them neat and simple: 8 1/2-by-11 photocopies or website printouts, held together with a paper clip. Don’t put them in a fussy folder or binder. And don’t send your originals — you won’t get them back. Keep in mind that editors and hiring managers often want to circulate your work samples to their colleagues, so links might be better than hard copies.
Put your best work on top (or at the top of the list, if you’re linking to it) and try to showcase your versatility by including, say, a feature, a profile and breaking-news pieces. Make sure each link or clip has the name and date of the publication or station or site where it appeared. If your work got special play on the front page or at the top of a news hour, make a note of it. Try to select work samples that show you understand the kind of work the employer does and may be looking for from you.
Broadcast: Demo Reels
If you’re a broadcast student, you should have a “demo reel” ready to send out on request. A DVD is one option; putting your reel online (your website, Vimeo or YouTube, for example) is even better.
Keep the reel to less than 10 minutes, preferably six to seven. If you are interested in on-air reporting or anchoring, start with a montage (at least five, no more than nine) of about a minute of on-cameras: bridges or closes, anchoring or introducing a package. These can be very short – 10 seconds or less, more like teases – don’t have to tell a story; they should simply illustrate what your on-camera presentation and skills look like. Be sure to include the on-cameras that are in the packages to follow. Then, at least three packages with transitions in between. Show your best work, and include a variety of pieces: hard news as well as lighter work.
If you are interested in producing or camera work, your reel montage should show snippets of your shooting and editing skills (a combination of footage you shot whether or not you were the reporter on the story). The packages should be stories you reported.
No matter which format you use, your reel should have your name and contact information on a slate at the beginning and end. Keep the slate simple – no fancy fonts or colors. The slate should be at the top and end of the reel. If you do send out a DVD, use a quality plastic cover to protect it when you send it out — the cheap varieties tend to crack. Remember to label the front of your DVD — include your name and phone number.
Be sure to attend one of “The Reel” workshops given each semester by Career Services. The workshops on making a demo reel for jobs on camera and behind-the-scenes will offer many more tips on how to best present yourself and your work.