Social media is changing the way journalists work

According to Managing Media Work by Mark Deuze, social media is changing the way that reporters do their work. In chapter 22, “Life is a pitch”, the author makes it evident that journalists must do everything in their power to stay ahead of the competition. Nick Penzenstadler of the Appleton Post Crescent agrees, and he leverages all types of social media–and the web– to uncover stories that no one else is covering. In his session, Get the Dirt: Harnessing Search Functions in the Web to Get the Story, at UW Oshkosh’s NEWSPA conference, Penzenstadler showed students how to get information from sites that they may have never heard of.

Although one of the key features of new media lives, according to the chapter mentioned above is “long hours”, Penznstadler showed the audience how he can answer 20 in depth, personal questions about basically anybody in under 30 minutes– just by using what’s readily available on he Internet. I’m not going to lie, the amount of information that he discovered about Dr. Ann Schultz, Oshkosh West principal, was slightly creepy.

Mashable recently wrote about the trend of journalists using social media during their average work days. The article revealed that the top three reasons why they do this is to find leads, notice trends and find sources. Penzenstadler said that he mainly uses social media to find sources. He said that Facebook is one of his greatest tools when doing this, since most people list their family members right on their profile, and many list their phone numbers.

Another interesting thing that social media does for journalists is that it helps them bypass government regulations when writing an article. Penzenstadler talked about this when he wrote an article about deer hunting and he needed sources who had gotten injured while hunting. He said that the DNR told him about a minor who had shot himself in the leg while hunting, but they would not give him his name or contact information because he was under 18 years old. Penzenstadler showed that he simply used sites like Facebook and Twitter to quickly find the teen’s contact information and address.

There is no doubt that social media is changing the way that things work. Penzenstadler reminded everyone at the session to monitor what they put online, as everything can be accessible with the right tools.


Is a citizen journalist really a journalist?

There is no doubt that the field of journalism is evolving. Some are more reluctant to adapt to the change than others in the field, but the truth is that, soon, adapting will be necessary for survival.

In previous years, the word journalist was clearly defined. It was someone who worked for a news outlet, either a newspaper or broadcast station, and earned a salary for reporting news to the community. These people usually worked long hours and had a knack for developing concise and informative stories that were relevant for society. Their role in the community was vital, as they were responsible for keeping citizens informed.

Unfortunately, there were often stories that were missed because there were only so many reporters to go around. This was most noticed when breaking news would arise. Coverage of critical moments in history were missed when a reporter wasn’t present.

That is drastically different today. With the development of new technology such as advanced digital cameras, smart phones and social media networks, any person has the power to report news as they witness it. This is what is now called a “citizen journalist”, but there has been a lot of controversy lately about whether these people are considered real journalists or not.

An incident in 2010 with a Seattle teacher outlined the issue. Teacher Melissa Westbrook was a blogger about the Seattle School District for over a decade and had gained a strong readership in the community. So, when the school called a press conference, she wanted to be admitted. However, the school denied her access and said that it was open to “traditional media only”. Melissa argued that she was a citizen journalist. After a heavy argument, the school reversed their decision and started to admit bloggers.

This decision, of course, didn’t sit well with the traditional media. Whether the industry is ready for it or not, this is an issue that is becoming more and more relevant. In fact, most of the video/picture coverage that traditional media use now comes from citizen journalists who were at the scene when the incident occurred. Some media outlets today even have a section dedicated to coverage from citizen journalists. Many would argue that the added perspective makes the news better, but some say the opposite.

What do you think? Do you think that citizen journalists enhance or weaken our news coverage?

UWO PRSSA grips success at 2011 National Conference

On Tuesday, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) returned home from the society’s national conference that was held in Orlando, Fla. I am the president of the organization and attended the conference along with eight other students.

We started off our week in Orlando by giving a Chapter Development Session to about 400 PRSSA students from across the country. We were selected as one of only eight chapters in the nation to do so at the 2011 conference. Our challenge was to select a topic that we were considered “experts” on and to create a presentation on the topic that would inspire conversation among session attendees.

As a group, we decided to create a presentation based on the success that our chapter has had in the past with PRSSA’s various national competitions. For the past 17 years, UW Oshkosh PRSSA has either received a 1st, 2nd, 3rd place or honorable mention in the National Organ Donor Awareness Campaign (NODAC) competition and had consistently received top titles over the years in the National Bateman Case Study Completion. We wanted our presentation to help other small chapters who are currently competing in these competitions. A video of our presentation will soon be available online. Keep checking our blog for a link!

Traditionally, the last night of conference is the Awards Dinner. This is something that we always look forward to. We were up for several awards this year, including the Tehan award for best developing chapter as well as our placing in last year’s NODAC competition. For NODAC 2011, UWO PRSSA chose to plan an event based on the hit TV show “Minute to Win It”. The campaign was called “Minute to Give It” and was designed to encourage people to tell their families about their decision to be an organ donor. The tagline “Minute to Give It: It only takes a minute to tell your family your wishes” was used throughout the campaign. We also hosted a nightlong event on campus that resembled the NBC game show. During the awards dinner, we were awarded 2nd place in the nation for our campaign, keeping our winning streak for the past 17 years alive.

This year, UWO PRSSA plans to compete in the Bateman competition as well as the NODAC competition. We are currently in the research stages for both campaigns and plan to start the implementation process during the spring semester.

How to work it at PRSSA National Conference

This post was originally written for To view it on, go here: 

This week, I am so excited because I am leaving for the Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) National Conference on Thursday, October 13, 2011. If you are unaware, PRSSA is the largest pre-professional group for public relations students in the world. There are about 10,000 student members nationwide who belong to about 285 university chapters.

UWO PRSSA with PRSSA National President Nick Lucido at last year's conference in Washington, D.C.

My school, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, has a small chapter with about 25 members in it. This year, we have 10 students attending the conference that will be held in Orlando Fla. Before I leave, however, there are many things that I need to keep in mind. PRSSA National Conference is a great place to network, learn and grow as a pre-professional. Below are some tips that I learned after attending last year’s conference for those who are attending this year’s PRSSA conference or any other type of professional networking conference.

Make business cards. Even if you don’t have an internship or if you haven’t declared your major, it is still really important to make professional business cards and bring them with you. Make sure that they are generic. You don’t want to necessarily put your internship employer or current job on your business cards because you don’t want to brand yourself with a company that is considered temporary. My best advice is to put your name and basic contact info, along with your “title”, which in my case is “Public Relations Student”.

Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Connect with people on social media. One of the easiest things to do when you meet people at a conference is to get their name and twitter handle. That being said, make sure you have yours on your business cards! Staying in contact with people via Twitter and LinkedIn will undoubtedly help you when you are looking for jobs down the road.

Bring copies of your resume. This is often the thing that most people forget to do. Although you may never take your resume out of it’s folder, it is a good idea to bring it because you never know if you’ll meet someone who is hiring or may be hiring in the near future. This is especially important to remember if you are a senior who will soon be graduating. Typically, I bring 5 copies and assume that the hotel I am staying at will have a copy machine if I need it.

At the awards banquet on the last night

Travel light. The thing that shocked me the most out of the conferences that I attended last year was the lack of free time that was provided during the few days that I was there.  Typically conferences are 2 to 5 days long, and the days normally start at 8 a.m. and often don’t end until 5 p.m. So, you won’t have a lot of time to sift through a huge bag for an outfit and you definitely won’t have much time to repack everything on the last day. Because of this, I usually just bring a carryon-sized bag and a small backpack. That way, I can control the amount of clothing that I pack!

Have you attended a professional conference in the past? If so, do you have any other tips that you think are important to remember? Are any of you planning to attend PRSSA National conference? Leave a comment below: I would love to meet up sometime when I am there!

Pitching Tips Every New PR Should Know

Recently, PRSA invited two members of the local media, Amber Paluch, local news editor for the Green Bay Press-Gazette and Trish Ossmann, assistant news director for WBAY, to discuss their preferences when it comes to receiving pitches for story ideas. Below is a list of tips that they suggested to ensure that your story gets placed.

Send pitches via social media. Although the number one way that media professionals prefer to receive pitches is via email, Paluch sid that most reporters at the Press-Gazette and other area newspapers follow PR pros on Twitter in order to get story ideas. Often, it is a quicker way to connect with a reporter on a more personal level and get response.

Make subject lines interesting. Keep in mind that reporters receive a numerous amount of pitches daily, and they all typically have the same subject line. According to Ossmann, if an email’s subject line reads “press release” she most likely won’t even open it. “Since I get a lot of pitch emails everyday, the ones that have boring subject lines are usually skipped. You have to make it interesting so it catches my eye and makes me want to open it,” Ossmann said.


Flag important emails. News stations are definitely competitive with other news outlets in the area, so missing an important story could cost them a lot of money. If you have a breaking news story, it is best to flag the email or even call a reporter direct. They will appreciate your information and it will make your relationship stronger.

Be aware of large-scale events. As much as they wish it wasn’t so, reporters have to focus their time on covering large events that take place in their area. Sometimes, important and newsworthy stories are skipped when something like the Superbowl or a big marathon is taking place. It is important to remember that, even though you may have a great story, it may not be placed during a time like this.

Be careful with exclusives. Exclusives are a great way to build your relationship with a certain news outlet or reporter, but be cautious of what message that is sending to the other news outlets and reporters that you are connected to. Ossmann said that she and her coworkers watch every station during the evening news and will notice if a company spoke to another station and not them. Even if they had a great relationship with that company previously, it is damaging to be selective on who you give story ideas to.

Always get back to reporters ASAP. According to both Paluch and Ossmann, the number one complaint of reporters is that PR people don’t get back to them when they said they would or in a timely manner. Often, the reporter will get frustrated and move onto another story at a different company. It is important to have media relations as a number one priority amongst your daily tasks to ensure that you are getting them the information they need.


Include enough lead-time. Even if you have a breaking news story, the media often needs at least an hour to prepare and arrive on site. Both Paluch and Ossmann agreed that breaking news stories should be pitched about an hour or more before air time and all other stories should be pitched 3 days to a week before.

Include extra information. If a pitch includes the contact information for sources, photos and video (if applicable), the story is more likely to be placed. Reporters are very busy just like we are, and any way that we can make their lives easier is appreciated. One note from Ossmann: make sure that pictures and video are good quality, or they can’t use them on live TV. In addition, Paluch mentioned that if you are planning on sending a lot of digital media, make sure to only send it to one email account or their servers get jammed and the only way to fix the problem is to delete your pitch.

Keep these tips in mind and you will be on your way to securing more placements! For more information on PRSA and to see a schedule of PRSA-NEW’s upcoming events, visit

View from the Bottom: Crucial Skills the Classroom Won’t Provide You With

Originally posted on Weidert Group’s blog.

The other day one of my best friends, who attends a UW university that shall remain unnamed, called me to give me an update on her newly declared major, public relations/ web presence. I always love to hear what she’s doing because I think there is a lot that can be learned from the perspectives other colleges are taking on the industry.

Our conversation was going great until we started talking about internships. I asked her what she was planning on doing for the summer, hoping to hear about an awesome opportunity she got in her college town. Instead, she replied with, “Internship? Where the heck do you expect me to get one of those? We don’t have to get internships here.”

It took all I had in me not to scream at her. But, that would not really help anything.

The sad thing is that there are a lot of students, across the state and our country, who are graduating with degrees in the public relations/communications field and feel the same way. It doesn’t matter where you go to school, internship experience will be required at almost any place you apply. After working at my internship at Weidert Group for seven months, I can’t stress enough how important it is for college students to secure internships before they graduate.

Because if you don’t, you will be stuck interning after you graduate, in order to obtain the necessary experience for entry-level jobs in this industry!

Here is my list of the top five things (that employers see as necessary skills) that you won’t learn in the classroom:

1.) How to pitch the media. This is something that many of us will be doing everyday after we graduate, and it is one of the main skills that prospective employers look for when they are hiring. Have you had success pitching the media? Do you know what goes into a proper press release or media alert? What’s the difference? My internship has provided me with the ability to pitch print and digital media, as well as form relationships with local media professionals. Now, I can go into an interview and show them my media placements, display my media contacts and discuss their preferences in press release layout.

2.) How to network. Networking is one of the most important skills that a PR professional can possess. After all, one of the biggest parts of our job is managing relationships, right? My internship had provided me with the opportunity to attend countless networking opportunities ranging from client/ corporate events to fundraisers and Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) meetings. At these events, I have met PR professionals in our community that have big influences at their companies (something that will be nice when I am a professional myself).

3.) How to plan implement and measure a PR campaign. Yes, our classes give us a lot of theoretical practice when it comes to PR campaigns. But, what they don’t give us is the experience owning a campaign, approaching a business with a plan and making countless adjustments to the plan when the business says, “Sections B, D, F and G don’t work for us.” While interning, I have had the chance to work on PR campaigns from beginning to end. Unlike in the classroom, I get to go to client meetings, see their reactions and make changes to the document as they happen. You tell me what class allows you to do that.

4.) How to track social media and campaign results. This goes way beyond Hootsuite analytics, people. One of the things that I was most overwhelmed by during my first few weeks on the job was the outrageous number of analytic, measuring and marketing platforms that different companies use. Being that I work at an agency, we have to know them all, because our clients all use different ones. During my time at Weidert, I have used Vertical Response, Google Analytics, Survey Monkey, MyMediaInfo, WordPress stats, Pitchengine and, yes, even Hootsuite analytics. One platform that I need to learn in Radian 6, and you should consider learning it, and the others mentioned, too! The more you know, the more attractive you are to employers.

5.) How to be professional. Yes, there is a certain way that you have to act around your company’s executives and CEO’s. There’s also a way that you have to act around clients. These personas differentiate quite a bit and it is really something that you have to learn as you go. Thankfully, I have been able to make mistakes at my internship, an extended learning environment, versus my first professional job. Mistakes in the real world tend to me more embarrassing and come with heavier consequences.

So, I encourage you to look for an internship if you were previously opposed to one. In fact, Weidert Group is currently hiring a marketing intern and a graphic design intern; consider applying! They are so important and are vital to your success after graduation. If you have questions, or don’t know where to begin, contact me at or Weidert’s internship coordinator, Abby Gutowski, at

UW Oshkosh New and Emerging Media class produces excellent students who can help you improve your online presence

Dear Oshkosh companies and organizations,

One of the things that I love about my degree program at UW Oshkosh is that there are constantly new classes added to our curriculum in order to keep up with the ever-changing demands of the public relations and marketing industries.

Recently, I took a 7-week course entitled ‘New and Emerging Media’, where we learned basically everything there is to know about social media and its application to businesses of all types. The class was a trial course and was designed to be intensive, meeting for two hours, three times a week. The great thing about the class is that it is split into two 7-week sections. So, the first half of the class (which I already took) was all theory and learning the base of different social media channels. We focused highly on how social media can be used for businesses and reviewed the different functions for different industries.

Now, I am taking part in the second half of the course, which is the application of the theory we learned in the first 7 weeks. This part of the class is cool. While the first seven weeks were extremely valuable (we had to set up our own blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook profiles if we didn’t previously have them), these second seven weeks are even more valuable. For this section of the class, each student is assigned their own client, a non-profit organization in our community that has expressed interest in setting up a social media presence. Using what we learned in the first seven weeks of class, we are expected to work with the client (by ourselves!) and set up a strategically planned social media presence.

So, why am I randomly discussing this? Good question.

After taking the first seven weeks of the class, I became very aware of the many companies who have lack-luster social media pages, or no social media presence at all. Many of these companies simply don’t understand the business advantage to being on these sites or they just don’t have the budget or manpower to be on social media.

If you have read my previous posts on the benefit of hiring interns, this is just another reason. I am currently in a class with 10 other students, who happen to all be very knowledgeable on social media, and can be a big help to your organization. If you are struggling with any of your social media channels (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare), email me at and I will hook you up with some great students who would love to help you succeed online!


Social Media obsessed intern