Dear Q&A Team,
I am a student journalist graduating from college in a couple of months, and I am stressing out because I have not put together my journalism portfolio. Typically, when do student journalists or working journalists put together a portfolio? Also, can you please provide some tips/advice on how to set up a portfolio?
Dear Missing Portfolio,
Deep breaths! Four ProfNet experts are here to provide all the information you will need about creating a journalism portfolio.
Best Time to Set up a Portfolio
“At Campbell U. and most journalism programs, we encourage students to begin thinking like the person they want to be from their first day in class,” says Michael Ray Smith, journalism professor at Campbell University. “Think and act like a journalist. Say to yourself, ‘I am in between jobs; I am upskilling.’ Use the time to build a portfolio and keep replacing second-rate work with better work until it’s time to unleash your talent on the marketplace.”
However, this shouldn’t discourage a student journalist from setting up a portfolio later in their education. “I think it would be beneficial at any stage,” explains Sarah Marshall, technology editor at Journalism.co.uk. “Student journalists should definitely create an online portfolio. You are selling your own services, so you need to demonstrate what you can do.”
Different Types of Portfolios
If you are a student journalist applying for a position, ask the employer if they want to see your portfolio, and how you should submit it (hard copy, disc, online), advises Larry Burriss, professor of journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.
If you have been working as a journalist for several years but are seeking a new position, the same general rules apply, says Burriss.
“If I had been working for a few years, I would simply ask what kind of portfolio the employer wants, and how many items. Some employers will want to see a few items from a number of years, while others will want to see a few items from the last two or three years,” he explains.
Burriss offers these tips for putting together a portfolio:
Online: Keep the navigation simple and clear. Most users know how to use a navigation bar located at the top. You don't want the reader to have to guess about working through the portfolio. When it comes to navigation, this is not the time to show off how clever you can be.
Hard Copy: When presenting a hard copy of your news clips, do not bother putting fancy borders around the stories. Simply insert photocopies in plastic sheet protectors. On the other hand, if you are applying for a design job, then both the clips and presentation itself would be under evaluation.
Disc Copy: Have a separate file for each item, and be consistent with file names, e.g., 001RobberyStory.PDF, 002TrafficFeature.PDF, etc. The numbering makes sure the files are in the order you want. Also, notice that the file name includes the kind of story it is.
For any type of portfolio, submit 6-10 clips, says Burriss. “Remember, the clips are your best work. More than 10 and the reader will tend to forget them. Fewer than six makes your portfolio seem a little thin.”
It is especially important that student journalists looking for their first full-time professional job focus on including professional outlets rather than school outlets, which are more impressive than class projects, suggests Burriss.
If you are a student and you don't have any professional clips, go get some! “Do some volunteer work; get an internship,” advises Burriss.
Components That Make up a Portfolio
Besides including news clips in your portfolio, you can also include a short bio and business-like headshot, says Smith.
In addition, “a tight mission statement would work and some LinkedIn type recommendations could help. The best ones are short anecdotes that highlight the candidate's past successes,” says Smith.
“You should also include testimonials from satisfied readers, viewers, customers, teachers, etc.,” adds Burriss.
When putting it together, Smith advises to use the same principles as a person uses for a resume: “Be neutral on colors, and so on. No pinks. No unusual fonts.”
Free Platforms to Use
Here are some platforms recommended by Smith and Marshall to create your portfolio:
Helpful Examples of Online Portfolios
For help with the design of your portfolio, Daniel Rodgers, art professor at Campbell University, recommends the book “Graphic Design Portfolio Strategies for Print and Digital Media.”
Here are two good examples of online portfolios from Campbell Students:
Marshall likes Josephine Moulds’ portfolio: www.josephinemoulds.co.uk
One final tip: Marshall recommends you only include the work you are proud of.
Good luck with the creation of your portfolio! I hope you land your dream job!
- The Q&A Team
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