Story by Polly Irungu
For the last seven months, I have been working as a campus editor-at-large for The Huffington Post. One of my main duties is facilitating conversations on the importance of sleep for college students for the #SleepRevolution campaign, which is part of HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington’s mission to change the culture of sleep in America.
As a HuffPost campus editor-at-large, I have been organizing #SleepRevolution meetings, and collaborating on events with other organizations at UO that have similar goals. I have also been recruiting other UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) students to join the HuffPost stable of bloggers.
But the highlight of my work with HuffPost so far has been going to the company’s New York City offices for a two-day summit, June 30 through July 1, specifically for campus editors-at-large like me. To help us learn and strengthen our skills as aspiring journalists and editors, we met with various departments of the HuffPost’s editorial staff and participated in workshops and panel discussions.
Here’s my two-day summit itinerary.
Day 1: Social media gold and meeting Arianna
The first day of the summit began at noon. Over lunch, we had the chance to get to know fellow campus editors-at-large from across the United States. As one person said, seeing each other’s bylines for the last couple months was cool, but meeting in real life and sharing common goals was as sweet as it gets.
After lunch, we toured the HuffPost offices. One reason I have an enormous amount of respect for Arianna Huffington is because she not only talks the talk, but walks it too. She makes sure the office work culture contributes to the healthy lifestyle she values. To that end, her offices have resources to help employees stay healthy, such as a nap pod and sleep room that staff can sign up to use as needed.
Next we heard from the editorial staff in various departments, from Voices to Social Media, during workshops. One of my workshop highlights was meeting with the global social media editor, Ethan Klapper. After taking a social media class with SOJC Senior PR Instructor Kelli Matthews, I had already begun to think about how I can turn my passion for social media into a career. So sitting a couple of feet away from a global expert and learning best social practices from him was pretty fulfilling.
Before writing for social, Klapper says to ask yourself three questions:
- Who is my audience?
- Will people read and share this story?
- Am I offering a unique take or adding to the conversation? Or is this just going to be noise?
During his workshop, we did an exercise on writing headlines for our stories. He said a headline is a critical part of the story, and we need to remember that most of our audience is on mobile. The best practices for writing a headline: Write it first, before the story. And keep headlines to 65 characters. Let’s just say I have some more work to do in that department. But I got plenty of new insights to help me improve each story.
Day 1 concluded with a discussion with Arianna Huffington herself. It was surreal meeting her. She talked about her vision of growing the organization and emphasized the importance of voting in the upcoming presidential elections. Oh, and she complimented my hair.
Day 2: Good metrics and support
The last day of the summit was shorter, but we still had time to add to our bucket of insights. We continued our discussions on writing for social media, using multimedia in posts and the blackout-drinking culture in college.
One of my highlights from this day was meeting with the analytics team and reviewing the data from my blog posts. For the nine blog posts I’ve written to date, I’ve received over 32,000 unique page views. This would not have been possible without HuffPost’s cross-promotion over its various social media channels, which have shared my posts with thousands to date. What’s more, Arianna Huffington has tweeted my publications from her personal Twitter account six times. From senior management to editorial, the staff is clearly invested in helping us campus editors-at-large grow.
The Huffington Post is a great platform for aspiring journalists to grow their writing and reporting skills and receive a ton of exposure. It’s also a chance to network with readers, writers and the wide world of journalistic excellence. If you would like to become a HuffPost contributor too, please reach out to me!
Polly Irungu is a multimedia journalist and social media strategist who plans to graduate from the SOJC with a degree in journalism this fall. She is currently working as a digital content creator for the SOJC’s Communications team, a campus editor-at-large at The Huffington Post and a freelance production assistant for the PAC-12 Networks, and she’s also been published on CNN, KVAL and YesJulz. A National Association of Black Journalists fellow in 2015 and 2016, she participated in the NABJ and National Association of Hispanic Journalists student newsroom to provide coverage of their historic joint convention for NABJ Monitor and Latino Reporter. She’s also looking forward to working in the Online News Association’s student newsroom this September. Previously, she has worked for TrackTown USA, Def Jam Records, Dell and Adobe. She made the 2013 and 2014 Daily Emerald Ducks Who Will Change the World list, and in May 2015, she was named the Women4Africa International Young Achiever of the Year. You can view her work at www.pollyirungu.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @pollyirungu.