Alumni Q&A with Renée Ernst, Producer of Social Publishing at CNN

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Photo courtesy of CNN

Renée Ernst is a Producer of Social Publishing at CNN. Ernst graduated from Rowan University in 2008 with her B.A. in Journalism. Previously, she managed social media at the Huffington Post and The Record. Follow her on Twitter at @renee_ernst

Can you describe your role at CNN and what you do?

I am part of a large dynamic team that focuses on pulling key moments from CNN on TV, finding viral content that is being shared on every social media platform, running the accounts of the show pages (like AC360) and publishing the content to CNN’s main social media accounts. We also plan social strategy and look for new platforms to use. I help oversee what gets published to the main CNN social accounts.

I understand you took a break from journalism for a few years. What did you do? And what made you want to come back?

I begrudgingly left the media in the first place. Journalism has been running through my veins since I was in high school, so the decision to leave was not made lightly. I was young. I learned a hard life lesson at the first newspaper where I worked full-time as a breaking news reporter. The resulting takeaway was not to give up, especially when someone senior to you says you can’t hack it. During my two-year hiatus, I worked on my master’s degree and worked for the government, but I found myself missing journalism more and more every day. When the opportunity to return presented itself, I did not hesitate to come back.

Can you talk about the process of building the social media presence at The Record?

It was daunting at first. When you work at a company whose priority (at the time) was print then digital, it can be quite a mountain to climb. The Record was just starting to acknowledge how important the web site was when I took over the paltry social accounts that existed. So, I was not even on the radar of those running the newspaper at the time. I had an incredible boss, who believed in me and supported my campaign to make social media matter in the newsroom. I got reporters involved, and then we had the biggest story of the year: Governor Christie’s staff orchestrating traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge.

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Sports Broadcaster, Teacher and Author Fulfills Super Bowl Dreams

EdBenkinBookIn recent weeks, Ed Benkin, a sports anchor for KYW and WIP Radio, has seen the fulfillment of two Super Bowl dreams.

The first is the publication of his new book, The First 50 Super Bowls: How Football’s Championships Were Won, which came out at the end of December 2017. Benkin, who teaches a sports broadcasting course at Rowan University and is an almnus, said vintage footage from the 1970s and 80s inspired him to dig deeper into the history of the big game.

The second is that Benkin will travel to Minnesota to cover his first Super Bowl in person. Even though he expects to be working nearly 24/7 in the week leading up to the game, he plans to “soak in the atmosphere” of one of the biggest days of his career.

“It’s kind of hard to top the Super Bowl in almost anything,” said Benkin. “It’s so much more than a football game.”

Follow Benkin’s Eagles Super Bowl coverage on KYW106094WIP and on Twitter @EdBenkin

Rowan alumnus Trymaine Lee named MSNBC correspondent

Congratulations to Rowan alumnus Trymaine Lee (2003), who was recently named as a correspondent at MSNBC. Lee has worked at The New York Times, Huffington Post, and most recently as a national reporter for MSNBC.

Lee was one of several members of The Times-Picayune newspaper to win the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News reporting in 2006 for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

To find out more about Lee, read a Rowan University profile and follow him on Twitter @trymainelee

Alumni Q & A with Ashley Kalena, Manager of YouTube Strategy for National Geographic

Ashley Kalena works as a Manager of YouTube Strategy for National Geographic. She graduated from Rowan University in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism. In 2008, she earned her Master’s degree in broadcast journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

She will participate in a Student Alumni Association event called Sips ‘N’ Tips on Wednesday, November 8 at 6 pm in the Student Center Pit at Rowan University.

Describe your job. What do you do on a daily basis?
I manage YouTube for National Geographic.  Pretty much what that means is that I write and implement the strategy for all three U.S. based channels and then act upon that strategy.  I also run the content development for YouTube, which means at any given time I am working with producers, editors, production companies, and talent to make video content that’s right for the platform.

Can you share some of your work that particularly proud of?
This is going to be very hard to narrow down!  Earlier this year, I executive produced a live aftershow in LA discussing the 25th anniversary of the LA Riots, with live feeds from three locations.  It was hosted by Soledad O’Brien, had 11 guests who all offered different points of view on the conversation:

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Neil deGrasse Tyson multiple times on video projects.  I’ve produced at least 35 videos with him.  I’ve even been in a few with him!  Including this one, where I played the game Heads Up with him.

In June of this year, I hosted and co-hosted two lives from Napa Valley for Get Outdoors Day.  I was also the Executive Producer on these shows as well.  It was a really cool experience.  I put volcanic ash on my face for all to see!

What is one thing you love about your current job?
I am very creative and very organized.  My job calls for both these traits so I’m constantly being pushed to challenge myself in new ways.

What is one of the biggest challenges of your current job?
One of the biggest challenges I face is not being able to control resources or budget – this comes from above me.  So, I always have to get creative with how to spend the money I do have and make use of the people around me in the best possible way, because they are great resources too.

Briefly explain how you arrived at this point in your career — from Rowan University to the present?
During my last year at Rowan, the broadcast specialization was added, and I quickly realized this was the area I wanted to pursue.  I took as many classes as I could that year to prepare myself.  Since Rowan didn’t offer a graduate program at the time for broadcast journalism, I applied elsewhere and got accepted to Syracuse University.  I received my M.S. from the Newhouse School.  From there, I got offered a job in Washington DC, at Travel Channel, where I worked for two years.  I then took a position at National Geographic, where I’ve been for over seven years, in various roles.

What advice do you have for aspiring journalists studying at Rowan University?
There is not set path for journalists.  Storytelling can exist in many forms and on many platforms. You have to be able to adapt with technology and trends, while still staying true to yourself, your integrity and your journalistic intuition – those skills will apply to whatever role you find yourself in.

Alumni Q & A: Nery Rodriguez, Multimedia Journalist at Jersey Sports Zone

Nery Rodriguez is currently a multimedia journalist for Jersey Sports Zone. He graduated from Rowan in 2017 with a B.A. in Journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @RUneryrodriguez

NeryWhat’s something you love about your job?
I go somewhere different each day. The fact that I don’t punch in or sit in an office, and I get to work from home is a plus to my job. But I really enjoy that every day I will be interviewing someone new, seeing different scenery and I get to interact with players and coaches from different communities. The other part of my job that I love is I get to see high school talents that are committed to big time college programs. It’s great to watch them grow in terms of their athletic careers and people as they start a whole new chapter of their life.

What skill(s) have you learned at your job that you believe will help you or has helped you in the field you are in?
I’ve learned how to be a better video journalist — camera positioning, where to stand, head room, etc. But some of the most useful information is common sense and learning to not get overwhelmed such as if something doesn’t go your way. If you miss a shot or you don’t have a great standup, you have to keep going. Aim to do a great job every time, but if it’s not your day don’t be discouraged and hang your head.

What is your biggest challenge at your job?
The biggest challenge I have at my job is trying to educate people on our site and what we do. Jersey Sports Zone is a company that started out just filming high school sports in Monmouth and Ocean County as “Shore Sports Zone.” This year the company went state wide, and I was hired as one of their first employees.

How has Rowan’s journalism curriculum prepared you for this job?
I love Rowan. I owe my talent and everything I have received from this job to my many professors. The curriculum prepared me for real life scenarios and helps me at my job every day. You can’t teach experience, but everyone at Rowan makes sure you have a good understanding of what to do when those key situations arise.

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Alumni Q & A: Waldy Diez, Staff Writer at Press of Atlantic City

Waldy Diez is currently a staff writer for Press of Atlantic City. She graduated from Rowan in 2013 with a B.A. in Journalism and a Minor in Spanish and International Studies. She has a M.S. in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University. Follow her on Twitter at @_waldy 

Describe your current job and what you do on a daily basis?
I’m a staff writer on the breaking news/digital team covering Atlantic,Cape May, Cumberland and lower Ocean Counties.

Photo: Erin Grugan

On a daily basis, I rewrite press releases from police and event coordinators, and call the necessary people related to that release, if necessary. If breaking news happens, I’ll go out to the scene, live tweet photos and videos, and try to talk to the Chief, Captain, or whoever is in charge at the scene to figure out what happened.

I also schedule social media for Twitter and Facebook, do push alerts and help figure out how to display the stories on the website to reach the greatest audience possible.

What’s something you love about your job?
I honestly love pretty much everything about my job. I’ve returned to writing and reporter after producing TV for nearly two years, and it’s the best decision I have ever made. It allows me to use almost all of the skills I’ve learned in previous years – reporting, writing, photo, video and social media. The Press of AC also has podcasts, but I haven’t gotten involved in that yet.

What skill(s) have you learned at your job that you believe will help you or has helped you in the field you are in?
This may sound silly, especially considering I’m still pretty young and live in a digital world, but I’ve learned how to report using only my iPhone. I take photos and video, edit the video on my phone, upload the video to our server from my phone, and sometimes file my story via email. I live tweet photos and videos and can even live stream video from a service we use that connects directly to our website if it’s prepared ahead of time.

What is your biggest challenge at your job?
My biggest challenge at work is coming up with my own ideas for stories to cover. Since I’m on the breaking news desk, I do a lot of press release rewrites, but sometimes there are slow days, and it would nice to have something concrete to cover. I’m getting better at it, but it’s still a struggle.

How has Rowan’s journalism curriculum prepared you for this job?
Rowan’s journalism curriculum gave me a good understanding about journalism and how it works. It taught me how to write properly and that the AP Stylebook is your best friend. It gave me the necessary skills to get a job shortly after graduating, then accepted into grad school to learn more about video and broadcast journalism.

Has social media played a large role in your career so far? How has it helped/hurt you?
Social media has played a large role so far. Half of my job is making sure the website stays up to date with new content, posting to social media and driving people to our website. We have analytics websites, and it’s helped me truly understand people’s social media habits. People truly are active at 9 a.m.noon3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Those stats help me decide when to post important stories to social media, as well as send push alerts, to get the maximum audience we can.

Do you have any advice for aspiring journalists/journalism majors?
Say “yes” to everything, but don’t be afraid to say “no” either. This will allow you to try and learn new things that you might like, or not like.

Ask questions if you don’t understand something. If you don’t understand what you’re talking about, the reader/viewer won’t understand, either.

Get sleep and eat properly. This seems silly, but it really does affect you. Nobody wants to work with somebody who is hungry, cranky or tired.

Lastly, have fun! If you’re not having fun, you’ll hate your job. It’ll lead to burn out which may lead to illness, you not enjoying time out with friends or your life in general.

E.J. Aguado ’13 leads social media strategies for MLB

E.J. Aguado, a 2013 graduate who works as a new media strategist for MLB Advanced Media, is featured in the Summer 2017 issue of Rowan Magazine.

Aguado develops social media strategies for the Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, Orioles, Indians, Twins and Rays and credits his experience writing for The Whit and his Sport Journalism courses as key to his career.

“Writing is super important for social media,” says Aguado, “That’s why I think they were impressed with me. My job didn’t exist 15 years ago. How people worked with the teams three years ago is completely different from what happens today. There are so many opportunities.”

Read the full article below.

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