This week’s interview is a bit different from our previous interviewees. Shauna Stuart is a multimedia journalist who is making a name for herself online through social media and her incredible storytelling instincts. She is vivacious, intelligent and makes sure to add nothing but value to the lives of her followers. A true multimedia journalist, she is a jack of all trades and is taking the time to master many. Let’s get to know, Miss Shauna!
Question: What does Miss Shauna Stuart do?
Shauna’s Answer: Well, besides blushing when I’m addressed as “Miss”, I’m a freelance multimedia journalist and producer.
Question: Where did you go to school and what was your major?
Shauna’s Answer: I went to University of Maryland. At UMD, I was in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, where my major was broadcast journalism. Even though my track was in broadcast news, such as radio and television broadcasting, I learned to do a lot of multimedia reporting or reporting for different platforms.
Question: What is a multimedia journalist?
Shauna’s Answer: Instead of strictly using one method to create a story, multimedia journalists use a variety of methods such as copy, audio, video, and graphic visualization.
Long story short, a multimedia journalist is a journalist who uses a wide variety of methods to report a story. Since I’ve graduated from college, social media had become far more useful for breaking stories and engaging audiences. In the past year, there has been a surge in journalists learning how to program and code, and is set become a required skill set for journalists in the next 2 or 3 years.
Question: How do multimedia journalists keep up with all the new required skills?
Shauna’s Answer: Since I’m still at the early stages of my career, I’m always learning. One of the easiest ways to figure out new skills to learn/ strengthen is to look at job descriptions that require more years of experience than you currently have. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t applying for the job right now, or if you haven’t been working for 5 years. Job descriptions foreshadow skills needed in the future.
Question: How did you start your blog, The Vibrant VJ?
Shauna’s Answer: In the field, VJ is short for “video journalist.” I came up with the name as a way to encompass my interests in video, audio, and digital media.
While I like to be fancy and say The Vibrant VJ is my digital alias, it’s really just the name of my blog, and the name I use for a couple of my social media profiles. Think of it as personal branding.
A year ago, I experimented with starting a blog, and got off to a rocky start. I wasn’t producing much content. But as 2012 progressed, I started blogging more once I found a niche and started using social media such as Pinterest and Storify more actively. I started my blog on Posterous, however I had so much trouble with the platform that I ended up rarely blogging, since it was such a hassle. In August, I transferred it to WordPress and have been blogging more actively.
Question: When did you find social media?
Shauna’s Answer: I was extremely laissez faire about joining social media networks in 2006 when I graduated from high school. I didn’t get a Facebook profile until a week before I went to college. I joined Twitter in 2009 and sent one tweet. I didn’t start actively using it until 2010. My interest in social media really accelerated when I graduated and saw how useful it was for journalists and storytelling. Now I can’t get enough.
One of the catalysts for my growing interest in social and digital media was sustainability of long form videos and documentaries. My senior year in college, I shot a long form video in Haiti. It was a CBS/ 60 minutes news style video about two students who visited Haiti after the earthquake. I was really excited about completing the project, but I never really shared it outside of my classroom.
As we’ve seen with documentaries such as Half the Sky and projects like the POV Hackathon the innovation of long form storytelling depends on digital media and social media platforms.
Question: What are your favorite social networks?
Shauna’s Answer: I think Twitter is my favorite social network, since I learn about a lot of other new social networks on Twitter. Right behind twitter is Pinterest, which I use as my personal bookmarker. I recently got invited to Waywire and Storination, so I can’t wait to start playing with those.
Question: Which social media tools do you prefer to use?
Shauna’s Answer: My two favorite social media tools are Storify and Topsy. Topsy is a great tool for searching the web and social platforms. I use Storify to create stories using the best content on social media.
Question: Do you have any social media mentors?
Shauna’s Answer: I learned a lot about social media tools and strategy at Everywhere Agency, especially from senior digital strategist, Britton Edwards. I met Dana Jones about two years ago, and she’s also a great social media diva who is building and maintaining a digital footprint from the ground up.
As for journalists who do the best job of using social media for news coverage, I have to say the social media team at Reuters. While I don’t know any of them personally, I do admire the way they leverage social media for live tweeting and live blogs.
Question: As a multimedia journalist, how does social media help you tell the story?
Shauna’s Answer: No matter how much digital media advances, the foundations of journalism are accuracy and storytelling. Journalists need to be able to tell a story, and social media tools enhance the storytelling process. Even though we’ve seen a surge in citizen journalism, the work of professional journalists isn’t any less important. In fact, the job of professional journalists is to filter through all the noise of social media and Web 2.0 to ensure accuracy. A lot of people are willing to tell a story on social media. Far less are willing (or even know how) to do it accurately.
Question: How do you share your personal life through social media?
Shauna’s Answer: Since I use Twitter as a professional supplement and networking tool, accuracy is most important to me. I don’t really use my Twitter profile to vent thoughts of frustration about the deepest aspects of my personal life, so I don’t worry about getting “too personal” on a social network. I do use my Twitter personally. However, I save tweets about certain subjects for evenings and weekends.
Question: What advice do you have for new social media professionals or journalists trying to get into the social media sphere?
Shauna’s Answer: My advice is really simple. Just dive in. Don’t worry about how you will look in the beginning when you have very few followers on Twitter, or few subscribers on a social network. Focus on creating good content.
For the youth on social media (especially Twitter): Follow seasoned professionals, but also connect with your peers.