Advisers: Staff should start digital portfolios NOW

I have ONE suggestion for EVERY student media adviser out there:

Have students start creating a professional online portfolio NOW.

Advisers—you could be leading the charge on this by making it part of your curriculum or production schedule if at all possible.

(As a university journalism instructor, I’ve noticed that college journalism and communications majors rarely come in with this start, and it would be a HUGE benefit.)

Here are four reasons why you should get your students ready for the professional world sooner rather than later.

  1. Without 20/20 hindsight, it is impossible for students to know what is their “best” or “most creative” work. Having all their reporting, writing, multimedia, design, photography, podcast, social media, and advertising examples collected will only benefit them in the future. Have them save it on a digital platform, and then they can view it as an omniscient narrator in the coming years.
  2. The tech to create a professional journalism portfolio is free and rather easy. My recommendations:
  3. The process of creating and maintaining an online portfolio allows students and advisers to see gaps (a.k.a. opportunities) for their journalistic growth. Do they have approximately 1 million articles in the feature writing tab, but one sad, anemic piece of photography or video work in another? During the next deadline cycle, have that student concentrate on areas of weakness to diversify their skill set.
  4. Blogging has a bad reputation, but it can be wielded for good (and non-narcissistic) purposes. Michael Hernandez has great tips for using blogs as part of a publication’s workflow. I encourage students to keep a blog on their portfolio site that reflects on their journalistic work, takes on coverage of world events, and provides thought-provoking commentary on other big journalistic ideas. A portfolio blog could also be a place for students to write and experiment without looming publication or a phalanx of editors. We all need that opportunity to create freely sometimes, although not too personally.

And just think: A staffer who has all of his or her reporting gathered and organized could perhaps be a huge help to your grading system. (Or perhaps this concept could lead into the notion of portfolio assessment for your student media courses.)

So, at the end of every deadline cycle, have students take 5-10 minutes and upload the work they did.

Whether their futures will involve a Journalist of the Year application, an admissions officer, a scholarship committee, an internship opportunity, a study abroad program, or a job application, these professional digital portfolios will be of tremendous use for years to come.

Amanda Bright

Amanda Bright, PhD, MJE, is a journalism academic professional at the University of Georgia, Grady College. Before that, she was a journalism instructor and yearbook adviser at Eastern Illinois University, a scholastic journalism adviser for newspaper and yearbook in Mattoon, Ill., a member of the Illinois Journalism Education Association, and a professional journalist.

Amanda Bright has 22 posts and counting. See all posts by Amanda Bright

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