Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Media Ride-Along with HerCampus UF

Her Campus is a new website run by student journalists and is described as “a colegiette’s guide to life.” It is an online-model magazine geared toward college women, and it has individual staffs at more than 120 campuses across the country. The website was founded by Stephanie Kaplan, Windsor Hanger and Annie Wang while they were still undergraduate students at Harvard in March of 2009.
Since its launch, it has formed content partnerships with several large magazines such as Seventeen and Self, as well as marketing partnerships with several companies like Juicy Couture, Pinkberry and Rent the Runway. Kaplan, Hanger and Wang have been named to Inc. magazine's 30 Under 30 Coolest Young Entrepreneurs, Glamour magazine's 20 Amazing Young Women, and The Boston Globe's 25 Most Stylish Bostonians.
In an interview, Her Campus’s chief executive officer and editor-in-chief, Stephanie Kaplan, said the three founders met while they were running Freeze, Harvard’s lifestyle and fashion online magazine. Once that website started taking off, they wanted to start something similar on a national scale, so they came up with Her Campus. She said all three women felt that there was a demographic not yet being met by the current media.
“There is a lot of media for teen girls and a lot of media for young women, but very little media targeting college women directly,” Kaplan said.
She said the founders did not have to raise money for the site. The site has been profitable from the beginning, she said, because they have kept costs low and have brought in enough revenue. What also helps is that they don’t have much competition, she said.
One of the company’s missions is to “define and provide a model for the future of online magazines by individualizing content.”
“Her Campus supplements news sites rather than competing with them,” she said. “We do not see any real competitors since no one else has a comparable model to ours of national content supplemented by local content, all produced by student journalists.”
The site is marketed mainly by word-of-mouth. Facebook and Twitter are the main traffic sources for the site. Even on the University of Florida campus, marketing for Her Campus can be seen everywhere, from flyers on Turlington Plaza to hand-drawn chalk advertisements on the sidewalk in front of Weimer Hall.
Kaplan, Hanger and Wang are the only three full-time, paid staffers. They currently don’t pay their writers, but Kaplan said they plan to make their first full-time hires at the end of the summer.
“Our writers benefit by getting clips and experience,” she said.
The website makes money by doing what Kaplan describes as “strategic marketing programs” for companies that are looking to reach the college market. Advertising is just a small piece of that plan. The programs often include sponsored content, product sampling, on-campus events and integrated branding on the site.
For example, Sara Kaner is a sponsored blogger for Her Campus at UF. She started writing in December, specializing in weight loss, exercise and diet. She is one of multiple people writing for the “Lose the Freshman 15” blog, writing about her efforts to lose weight.
The Freshman 15 blog is written by Her Campus staffers all across the country. It is a contest partnered with Self Magazine, and the best blogger wins a summer internship with the magazine in New York City.
As a sponsored blogger, she receives free products from her sponsors, including Sargento Cheese, Honest Tea, New Balance, Pop Chips and Truvia. Kaner blogs every day. She had more than 2,000 people read her first post, and on a good day, 600 to 700 people read.
“It inspires me that people say they can do the same thing I do and also work out and lose weight,” she said.
She tries to engage her readers as much as possible, responding to comments they make – whether good or bad.
“It’s the reality of the blog world – you’re gonna get the good and the bad,” Kaner said.
As editor-in-chief of UF’s Her Campus, Victoria Phillips is the last person to see any content that goes up on the website. She is responsible for the content management system, inputting all of the stories and making sure it uploads correctly.
And “content” includes more than just words. Phillips edits photos and video on top of stories.
One of her duties is making sure that the content follows what the national office deems appropriate for Her Campus. A region director reaches out every week to check in on stories, marketing and publicity.
“The national office does a great job of keeping everything cohesive and the same,” Phillips said. “The types of things I’m going to be publishing, and the way I’m publishing is going to be the exact same as Her Campus UC or Mizzou.”
They are only required to publish one story per section per week, but they update twice a day.
“We want to be the place students come when they want to know what’s going on on campus, when they want to procrastinate instead of studying for exams – we’re the website to go to.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011


With my new internship at, I find using Facebook as one of my most important needs as a writer because of one particular topic I’m starting to write about – football recruiting.

These players that are getting so much attention from so many schools really don’t like to talk to people at all these days, especially over the phone. With this new beat, I’m finding myself sending a lot of friend requests to these players so they can get to know me and have a feel for me so that I can in turn get a story out of them.

Once I get that story, I like to post it on that player’s wall as everyone who knows him or her get to see the exposure of someone they’re close to, while essentially just promoting the site I’m working for.

But in terms of everyday stories as well, Facebook is a major asset. You can use it to fact-check a person’s name, age or hometown, or even ask a follow up question if you interviewed them.  Some news agencies even use pictures posted on Facebook for their stories on the person or subject matter.

Like I’ve said before with all things technology, we need to fully embrace it because it helps us more than it hurts us.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

UF student determined to make bikes more available abroad

For many people around the world, obtaining a bicycle is a key obstacle keeping them from clean water, food and prosperity.

This summer, University of Florida sports management student Michael Breske decided he wanted to help people worldwide in obtaining this crucial transportation and is in the process of bringing a local chapter of Bicycles Against Poverty to UF and the Gainesville community.

Founded in 2007 by Muyambi Muyambi, a Ugandan student at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, BAP is a microfinance project in which money is collected to purchase bicycles and repair kits for families in less fortunate parts of the world.

The items are purchased from vendors in those areas as a means of contributing to the local economy while saving money on transportation fees and other costs.

After an interview process that ensures those with the most need are taken care of, the selected families receive a bicycle based on contract conditions that require half of the bike's cost to be repaid within 18 months.

The money that is repaid is then reinvested into the organization's efforts, which also include teaching bike repair and credit management workshops.

Breske wanted to continue volunteering this summer after returning from working in orphanages in Haiti in May. It was then that he discovered BAP on a website.

He said because BAP achieved so much success at a small school like Bucknell, UF seemed like a good place to start a new chapter.

Breske said he is currently in the beginning stages of getting things established at UF.

His progress so far includes getting information from UF on becoming an official organization on campus, creating a Facebook group to spread the word, and being in constant contact with Muyambi so he can follow his footsteps.

Breske said he is also working on a proposal asking the University Police Department to donate a portion of the abandoned bikes found around campus that are auctioned every year.

With those donations, Breske said the organization would fix up the bicycles and then sell them locally, so the money collected could be used to fund new bikes, repair kits and the learning workshops abroad.

"When you break it down, it's really an effective way to help people in need," Breske said. "Everything is purchased in those respective areas and it helps their economy."

He said the program is a great example of the old proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

To date, BAP has donated over 170 bicycles to families in Uganda and is working on extending its efforts to Haiti, Muyambi said.

In regard to Breske's efforts here in Gainesville, Muyambi said finding people who are truly committed to the cause is the hardest part because people tend to get interested in other things, and sometimes lose sight of the overall goal.

He said when BAP received grants from organizations like the Clinton Global Initiative, 100 Projects for Peace and, other students bought into the concept realizing that "it was real and it was going to happen."

Breske hopes to have a strong foundation of students to help with the organization this fall. Along with upperclassmen, he hopes freshmen at UF get involved because they "are the future of the club," and he wants to leave it in good hands when he graduates.

"It's truly like a passion project for me," he said.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Case Study 10

Linking has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to stories posted on sites that adhere to journalistic values. Adding links is a great way to enhance the readers’ experience while visiting your site as they can roam to related content as they please. But, this does provide the opportunity for them to roam and never come back, as well as having them think you endorse the sites they are led to.
I agree with the principles and values set forth in the Poynter piece, but one thing clearly stuck out to me. If you plan on disclosing that links are representative of their owners and not your organization, you should clearly not add links to sites that deter from your standards – regardless of how supportive the content is. But I do agree with the disclosure aspect, especially related to user-added material. You don’t have traffic without the users, and allowing them to contribute to the forum furthers their loyalty.

With that said, I think every site should participate in some sort of linking as the most important issue is keeping traffic coming to your site by providing them with a great experience. Adhering to the suggestions in the art of linking article in regards to the kind of links to post will help this. Nothing is more frustrating for readers than clicking on links that are unrelated, or having to do work to find related content after bring brought to a homepage. This reminds me of a tip I got from a former co-worker who said when a customer asks you for something, walk them towards it, don’t point them in the general direction of the item. I also think that having both inline links and link lists are great for stories. Inline links show readers a direct relationship to the point in the story they are at, and link lists add content to the overall idea stories convey.

Along with losing site users thanks to the links you provide and not endorsing materials you might link to, The Thorny Question of Linking gives a great example of what can go wrong when providing links. The example with Kobe Bryant’s rape case was a difficult case to deal with because there is no right or wrong answer with the reasoning provided. But there is some uneasiness that might be created by providing the victim’s name. I agree with Robert Niles’ notion of being consistent. If you accept the fact that people will find it anyways, provide the link. BUT if you choose to take a stand against it, then don’t.

Strat 18

I had a hard time looking up corrections online, but this assignment did bring me back to a Gainesville Sun article I read a few weeks ago where my friend was identified incorrectly. The sentence reads: “Sara Kaner, a 23-year-old education student, said the group raised more than $5,200 to paint educational scenes in the hallway and to landscape an outdoor area.” Sara is a 19-year-old public relations student.

I thought it was hilarious to say the least. But, honestly, how do you mess that up? Ages, majors and phone numbers are the first things I write down when I interview people at events. There’s always a situation where you may misinterpret what someone said, or you just need some sort of verification in general, and this is where checking your facts should be second nature. If you got that wrong, how does the reader know how much money the group raised for the project, or if Duval Elementary was the fourth school the group renovated, or even if Sara’s name was spelled correctly?

I know this is the simplest of examples in being skeptical as an editor, but it goes without saying that no one fact should be overlooked. Everything should be questioned. I think this error was mostly caused by negligence of the writer, and not the editor, but still both deserve the blame.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chicago Murder Trial Begins for Suicidal Blond

Former Model Killed Three Beloved Musicians in Car Accident in Bid to End Her Life, Prosecutors Say 

They probably never saw her coming.
It was around lunch time on July 14, 2005 in a suburb north of Chicago where three local musicians we’re stopped at a traffic light in a Honda Civic and then slammed from behind by a red Mustang convertible.
At a speed estimated at 70 miles per hour, police said former model Jeanette Sliwinski, 23, ran three red lights before hitting the other car in an attempt to kill herself.
Witnesses said both cars went airborne on impact and landed upside-down on the pavement.
The three men died. Sliwinski walked away with a broken ankle.
Today, more than two years later, her murder trial begins.
"The one thing that would have brought this thing to closure would have been had she been successful in what she set out to do that day,'' said Dave Meis, older brother of victim Douglas Meis.
Sliwinski's lawyers have denied that she was attempting suicide. Her current attorney did not return a call seeking comment on the case.
The suicidal crash and subsequent arrest brought the model internet infamy. Many blogs and Web sites have posted modeling pictures of Sliwinski since she was arrested. (Click here for pictures.)