CJA directors talk social media, journalism in Naperville

The Chicago Journalists Association took its executive and associate board directors on the road for the first time last month to lead a workshop for students at North Central College in Naperville.

The three-hour event on April 29 featured a repeat of CNBC associate social media producer and CJA associate board director Lyanne Alfaro’s social media presentation and a panel discussion that focused on advice for aspiring journalists.

“Social media is an important tool in today’s society, which is why I think it’s necessary to have a workshop so that students would know how to use it for better use,” said CJA associate board director, Stella Fanega, who was instrumental in organizing the event on her campus.

“I tend to be more of an advocate of make it look as raw as possible,” says CJA associate board director and CNBC associate social media producer Lyanne Alfaro on using Snapchat and Instagram for reporting.  Photo credit: Stephanie Choporis

Alfaro maintained a similar format to her February workshop by showing videos, providing reporting tips for various social platforms and letting the roughly 15 North Central College students experiment with Snapchat profile stories.

The second portion of the event was designated for the panel discussion, which included a mix of executive and associate board directors: CJA president Allen Rafalson, Chicago Tribune business reporter Becky Yerak, Chicago Sun-Times urban affairs reporter Maudlyne Ihejirika and recent University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign graduate Christina Oehler. Jarred DeHerrera, who serves as the managing editor of North Central’s student newspaper, also participated.

Yerak kicked off the discussion with thoughts on what has made her a more effective journalist. She encouraged the students to “continually invest” in themselves and seize opportunities. She explained how she utilizes some of her money and yearly vacation time to attend journalism conferences.

The panelists also discussed how visuals and various digital tools have re-shaped their roles.

“Whatever platforms our readers are on, we have to go there,” Ihejirika said, explaining how it’s no longer acceptable to go without social posts on an all-day assignment.

Panelists gather at the end of the workshop. From left: CJA directors Becky Yerak, Christina Oehler, Maudlyne Ihejirika and Allen Rafalson along with North Central College student Jarred DeHerrera.  Photo credit: Stephanie Choporis

Yerak added that she now needs to shoot video on her phone and consider photos to pair with her stories. DeHerrera advised the crowd to use social channels when becoming immersed in a beat, and Oehler indirectly advised everyone to learn Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and related products.

The conversation ended with a brief discussion on the longevity of printed content. Ihejirika believes a segment of the population will still want to read something tangible; therefore, she thinks newspapers and magazines will always be around. Yerak agreed.

If students struggle to find newspaper jobs, Rafalson encouraged them to look to corporations. As an added bonus, he said a job in this environment will teach them about the world of business.