Going on vacation



May 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm Leave a comment

What’s it like to graduate during the Great Recession? Meet guest blogger Erika Gratz

As I prepare for life, a few days after my undergraduate graduation, I find myself feeling overwhelmed. Now what? Parents have flown home, I’ve tied up the last loose ends with classes, and I am nearly finished with my student worker assignments. All my friends are moving back with their parents, my boyfriend works all day, oh, and then there’s me trying to find a job – something I’ve been trying to do for the last six months. With student loan repayment looming in the future, job wishes unfulfilled, armed with my degree in Journalism and a minor in Art I wonder, should I have opted to stay in school?

The past five years have flown past. It seems so cliche to say, but I can still remember the first day I walked on to campus as an official college student. I carried a box labeled “stuff” as my parents and younger sister followed me to my new home – a 16 foot by 13 foot Minnesota State, Mankato dorm room.

If you were to open that box, you’d find a few picture frames with photographs of my family and friends, a tattered Scrabble box with most all its pieces, some jewelry, my Minolta SLR film camera, and a random set of books including, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff” (a book my mom gave me the summer before college). This random box helped me along the way as I got my undergraduate degree.

I transferred colleges two years in; I knew what I wanted to do, but the college just wasn’t the right fit. That box of stuff got me through the hard and fun times.

The photos reminded me of where I came from and where I wanted to go. The well-loved and well-worn Scrabble saw many late nights and even a few early mornings too. It was a source to bond with roommates, floor mates, and even my good ole’ parents when they came to visit.

And the jewelry… they provided the perfect excuse to dress up, look smokin’ and laugh the night away with my college girlfriends.

Maxx, the Minolta camera (my baby) served its purpose and helped me pay my way through school. As I look back I realize I photographed not just for class (I was an Art and Photojournalism student), but also for fun and for money. I shot four weddings, 12 senior portraits, three newborn portraits, an engagement portrait, and countless landscapes, which I sold or auctioned across the state.

Then there’s the book. Tip number 56 and 96 were circled; “Be Grateful when You’re Feeling Good and Graceful when You’re Feeling Bad” and “Be Open to ‘What Is.'” I’m not sure why I had circled those particular sections years ago, but as I reread them, they help to calm my nerves. I flip to an earlier page, tip 17 reads: “Surrender to the Fact that Life Isn’t Fair.” (Damn right!)

Amazingly the box labeled “stuff” is still around. I may have to resurrect it while I figure out what my next move is. In the meantime, I’ll play a few rounds of Scrabble with my boyfriend until I get it right.

May 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm Leave a comment

Southwest Airline’s Christian blogger


This morning I was reading about Jessica Turner, who has been hired by Southwest Airlines to be the company’s new “mommy blogger.” As a blogger, she’s extremely appealing. Her voice is both lively and down-to-earth. Her son, Elias, is adorable. But what caught my eye wasn’t her advice about flying with an infant –I’m a travel writer who has three kids, so this is a service I don’t need. Rather, it was that with just one click of the mouse, I learned that Jessica is a proud Christian. 

Why is this interesting? Because I don’t think that in the pre-social media days a company would be so comfortable letting a spokesperson be so frank about her personal life. (I could be wrong, but I doubt the Florida Citrus Commission was giving two thumbs up to Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusades, even if they privately agreed with her.) Today, the most successful bloggers trade on the fact that readers feels like they know the real them.

I come from a professional background where you are never supposed to betray a bias toward one opinion or another. (That I believe all journalism is in some way biased is the topic of another post.)  When I was working at a newspaper during the election, I was careful to follow the rules of my employer: no yard signs, no campaign buttons. But if you visited my facebook page and saw the Obama love-fest taking place with the vast majority of my 266 friends, you could make a pretty educated guess about how I voted. 

So why does it matter to me that Jessica Turner is Christian? Not because I consider myself to be part of her flock. My husband is agnostic at best. I am a Catholic who thinks that our current Pope is sadly steering the church towards even greater intolerance. And on more than a few days, I wake up on the non-believer side of the bed. Still, despite my serious misgivings with the church and my husband’s status as a near-atheist, our children have been baptized and are being raised in a free-wheeling church that is on the verge of being cut loose by the diocese. 

What I find refreshing about Jessica Turner’s Christianity is simply the fact that a company is allowing her to be who she is and in turn allows customers to make their own informed choices about whether or not they want to follow her or patronize the company that’s paying her to blog. I don’t think that employing Jessica Turner makes Southwest a Christian airline. And I wouldn’t be writing the same kind of mash-note to a public school that was promoting one faith over another. But I like Jessica and her equally frank husband’s online personas and that they haven’t been watered down to a one-size fits all marketing message. And that makes me like Southwest Airlines even more than I did when they came to my hometown and lowered the one-way airfare to Chicago to $39.

May 9, 2009 at 6:05 pm Leave a comment

What do college students think of the recession?

Mettle Magazine explores how the recession impacts students graduating from college.

Permit me to brag: Every semester, I teach a class at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication where the students create their own single issue magazine and accompanying website.  This semester, they chose to explore the recession from their point of view — no small task when you consider how the economy is impacting their first steps out into careerland. Please check our their website and send them your good wishes.

This semester we worked hard on incorporating multimedia into the class. Here’s my favorite video.

May 8, 2009 at 9:23 pm 1 comment

Comments on news stories a tricky proposition

Per my earlier post about whether or not it is okay to censor blog feedback, here’s an interesting story from the San Francisco Chronicle about how allowing readers to post comments has been a great way for news sites to engage readers, but a headache to police given that some posters use their anonymity to engage in offensive rants.

May 4, 2009 at 4:48 pm Leave a comment

Changing job titles on a resume

Yesterday a corporate communications expert talked to my journalism class about communications jobs in Washington, D.C. In a bit of resume advice, she told them that if their job title doesn’t accurately describe their duties, they can change it. You could almost hear the air being sucked out of the room. “But that’s lying,” one student said. 

“It’s lying if you change the level of your position,” the communications expert answered. But if a title doesn’t reflect what you actually do, she said, you are hurting your chances to catch a potential employer’s eye. 

I checked this out with a friend who is a recruiter. She agreed that as long as you also list your official title — i.e., “senior editor/queen of the world ”  — it’s okay. That’s because in an era of inboxes clogged with emailed resumes, you need to include as many potential keywords as possible to make it past the digital gatekeeper. 

I’ve received more than a few automated job rejection letters over the past six months. I’ve never taken any liberties with my job titles. Now I’m wondering if I’ve sold myself short. I’d be curious to know what other employment experts have to say on this topic.

May 1, 2009 at 1:48 am 3 comments

JobAngeled and Bag Blog Grammar

Thoughts about bad blog grammar and how the web has changed English grammar.

Continue Reading April 25, 2009 at 3:56 pm 4 comments

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