By Anna Streetman
KENNESAW, Ga. – Today, CNN producer Jennifer Matthews offered some valuable advice to journalism students at Kennesaw State University.
Calling smartphones “the future of digital journalism,” Matthews stresses the importance of being handy with a smartphone: “The better you are with a phone, the more marketable you are,” she says. She adds that many videos that go viral are shot on smartphones, and that they are the easiest and quickest way to produce and share content.
She strongly recommends getting a mentor to help navigate the world of journalism. According to Matthews, finding a mentor can be as simple as just reaching out with an email or a phone call expressing interest in their work: “There is no rule that says you can’t email or call somebody and say, ‘I just wanted to let you know I love your work. I’m in town this weekend and was wondering if you’d like to get some coffee and maybe give me some advice,’” Matthews says.
She adds that simply having a mentor isn’t going to cut it – it has to be a mentor that will give you the truth.
“If you have a mentor who loves everything you do and never has any suggestions or tough love for you, they are not a good mentor,” Matthews says. “You need a mentor who will give you the good, the bad, and the ugly. You need some tough love. I had a mentor who was so harsh about my work that she almost made me cry. My mother was about ready to have a word with them. But it’s only made me better.”
As a part-time instructor at Kennesaw State, Matthews knows the value of going above and beyond when it comes to school assignments.
“People tend to overlook what you can do,” says Matthews. “It’s important to be proactive. Save all your newspaper clippings and links to articles you have written. Showcase your skills on a personal website. Always be looking for news. Go a step further with your schoolwork.”
Her number one advice: build a digital presence. Matthews suggests creating an online “brand,” and recommends that your Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all have the same name.
“Online presence is everything,” Matthews explains. “You should have your own website, active social media, and a LinkedIn account. Having a resume alone just doesn’t cut it these days; you have to be present online as well. I go by the name ‘Ms. Matthews To You’ on all my social media. It’s my brand and how people know me. It’s important to have that type of brand with your work.”
According to Matthews, another important thing to do is “invest in yourself.” Matthews recommends having a decent smartphone, a camera, and investing in Adobe Premiere. She also stresses the important of knowing your value: “If you feel like you are in a place where you aren’t being heard, leave,” she says.