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.

Alumni Q & A: Stacy Jones, Data Editor at Fortune

Stacy Jones works as a Data Editor at Fortune. She graduated from Rowan University in 2009 with a B.A. in Journalism and a Minor in Psychology. She as a M.A. in Online Journalism from the University of Maryland-College Park.

Briefly describe your job. What do you do on a daily basis?
I’m in charge of a very small department. It’s just me and a full-time data reporter. We have to dabble in a little of everything to get things done. I’d say I’m 70/30 split on data retrieval/cleaning/analysis and coding. Grace, the data reporter, is the inverse; she’s a stronger coder and still picking up data analysis skills. So we make a nice team. We work mainly in Javascript (D3.js), Python and SQL.

In the mornings, I read the news and scan for stories that might have an obvious data angle and send notes to the editors manning the joint Fortune-Time-Money news desk. Sometimes I go the extra mile and point them in the direction of datasets I know are trustworthy and would help with reporting.

For the past couple weeks, Grace and I have been working on a longterm project. We make sure we stay on the web traffic scoreboard by splitting up our days. She spends the first two to three hours of the day working on a short-term post. We publish around lunch-time, and then we switch gears to spend time on our bigger project in the afternoon.

Sometimes, when our open newsroom is especially loud/distracting, I book a conference room for us on another floor, and we camp out there for the day. It’s way easier to focus on coding when we’re not in the middle of the 24-hour gotta-post-it-right-now news churn.

One of the big goals I had when taking this job was to increase overall data literacy in the newsroom. My colleagues have come a long way, and I’m really proud of that. It’s not easy to be new and to propose changes to a publication’s culture. So every couple of months I host workshops and have been working on setting up office hours so reporters can consult with me on data project ideas.

What is one thing you love about your current job?
I love being a mentor to Grace, who just graduated last spring. There have been a few occasions where I’ve been able to stand up for her and encourage her in ways I wish I had been when I was still an intern or at my first job.

I also love being surrounded by magazine reporters and editors who have such deep knowledge of the business world. All data needs context and human voices before it can tell an engaging story. So when I happen upon a Walmart database, I have an award-winning retail reporter who will sit down with me to go through it and help me make sense of it.

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Alumni Q & A: Alison Mastrangelo On Covering the Super Bowl

UPDATE: March 3, 2017 – Alison has a new job as a weekend sports anchor at Denver ABC affiliate KMGH-TV.

Alison Mastrangleo works as a Sports Director/Anchor/Reporter at FOX21 News in Colorado Springs, CO. She graduated from Rowan University in 2013 with a double major in Journalism and Health and Physical Education. In February, she will cover Super Bowl 51.

What is it like covering the Super Bowl? Is it as crazy as it seems?
It is insane. You work every single hour, but it is the coolest thing ever. It’s so hard to explain because when you tell people, they think it’s just like a vacation. It’s not a vacation. This week, we’ve been working on four shows for my FOX station. We shoot for the early show, and then we’re live every night at 9 pm and 10 pm. One day we worked in the car for eight hours because we didn’t have anywhere to edit. We were editing, tracking and doing everything in the car.

Do you have personal highlights from covering the Super Bowl?
Media Night so far has been my favorite thing. It’s for the players, but also for media around to world to come together and make a spectacle of ourselves. I grew up watching the show “Kenan and Kel.” At Media Night, I saw Kel. I went up to talk to him, and then we got to do the whole Good Burger motto from his show, and I was reliving my childhood.

Last year you covered your home team Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Is it different this year?
With the Broncos, all the players didn’t know me personally, but they knew my face, so when I’d go up to them, they’d say, “I know you, I’ll talk to you.” This year I have to squeeze in just to ask a question, so it’s a little bit harder. And you don’t know all the little anecdotes like when you’re covering the team all season long, so that’s been a challenge.

How do you distinguish yourself from other reporters and media outlets?
We look for local angles. There are actually two Colorado connections. The Patriots’ Nate Solder grew up in Colorado, and the Falcon’s Ben Garland grew up in Grand Junction and went to the Air Force Academy. Or I try to turn it to more of a human-interest thing. So one day instead of doing the X’s and O’s on the offense and defense, I’ll go up to different players and ask them about their superstitions and some fun facts. You have these big guys who will say, “Oh, I’m a writer” or “I’m a spear fisher.”

c3ymiwlucaave9jWhen you are not covering the Super Bowl, what’s your regular work routine?
I produce, write and anchor three shows. There’s a sports show at 5 pm, 9 pm and 10 pm, and they’re about two to three minutes long. And during the week, I’ll try to get to some of the local high school games or set up local features. Before we came out here we shot a story on a skateboarding church. During the Broncos season, we’re up there for all their home games and week one practice.

What is one thing you love about your job?
I love that it’s always different. I might come in thinking I’m going to cover one thing, and it changes because sports is still news. And I love being out in the field telling stories.

What’s one of the biggest challenges of your job?
The long hours. Some days I’ll come in at 8:30 am and I’ll be working until 11:00 pm, and you might be working five or six days a week. You hit a wall after a string of 14 hour days, but that’s any job.

Do you have any advice for aspiring journalists studying at Rowan?
Do as many internships as you possibly can. I interned at FOX 29 in Philly, and I did their morning show for a semester, and I did their night show. I learned so much. Just try everything. Don’t be annoying about it, but show you want to learn. I met some of the best mentors in my internships.

Sports journalism is a very competitive business. Any advice for aspiring sports journalists?
I’m unique because I started doing news and went into sports. My advice is to try for sports jobs first, but be aware that in a typical news station, if there are 10 reporters, then there will two sports reporters. Also be prepared to work in a very small market. But it can happen. When I graduated from Rowan, I couldn’t imagine covering one professional football team, let alone covering a Super Bowl. Now I’m on my second. I’ve definitely pinched myself.

Trymaine Lee named to “40 Under 40” alumni list

tumblr_obfzlgm1rx1vcy93io1_r1_500Trymaine Lee, a 2003 graduate of Journalism program, was named to Rowan University’s “40 under 40.” In 2005, Lee was part of a Pulitizer Prize winning team at The Times-Picayune newspaper. He has worked at The New York Times, Huffington Post, and is currently a national reporter for MSNBC. He is working on a book about gun violence in America called “Million Dollar Bullets.”

Read the 40 by 40 profile of Lee.