February 3, 2021

In the spirit of Groundhog Day, it’s time to tackle a topic that comes up over and over when I talk with student journalists: presenting your work in an online portfolio.

Collecting your work doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. Free platforms like WordPress, Wix or JournoPortfolio will handle the technical side — you just have to collect and organize your work, no coding required.

Even if you’re not actively applying for internships or jobs, take some time to check in on your portfolio, make sure it reflects the work you’re currently doing, and remove anything that’s out of date. I’d argue that the best time to polish your portfolio is before you’re applying to opportunities: Next time you’re filling out an application, you’ll have an up-to-date site that you won’t have to scramble to overhaul.

These tips, adapted from a presentation I gave last year to a group of high school journalists and advisers, will help you create a portfolio from scratch or refresh your existing one.

Design your portfolio around your best work.

Sit down and think about what medium you’re focusing on: Text stories? Photo? Design? Graphics? Figure out what format will best showcase your work and find examples you admire from people who do similar work. A photojournalist’s portfolio will be more visual than a reporter’s, and free sites like WordPress have plenty of template options to help you make your site your own.

  • Be selective and intentional. Don’t include everything you’ve ever published; whittle down your work to what you’re most proud of.
  • Explain publication names if they’re not clear (i.e. VistaNow.org, the student publication of Mountain Vista High School). This goes for your résumé, too.
  • Check to make sure old links still work and save backups of your published stories. You’re your own best archivist, and you never know when your work will disappear when a publication updates its site.

Add context to your work samples.

Tell the viewer why you’re including specific work samples and what makes them significant. Don’t just include links and headlines — use your storytelling skills to tell your own story as a journalist. A few questions to think through:

  • What challenges did you face in working on this piece? What makes it significant?
  • What steps did you take in the reporting process? Did you file public records requests or push to get a sit-down interview with a school administrator? Explain those.
  • In a team project, what was your role? Explain that, especially if it’s not clear from the byline or you held a behind-the-scenes editing role.

Keep it organized.

Your portfolio should be as easy to navigate as possible for the viewer. Think of the method you want to use to organize work samples — publication, type of work, date published — and stick to one system.

  • You don’t need to have a separate page for every type of work. Scrolling through one long page is easier for the viewer than clicking through a bunch of different tabs.
  • Your contact information should be easy to find, but be careful about what you include publicly on the internet. (This goes for whatever’s on your résumé, too — do not include your address, and you probably don’t need to include your cell phone.)
  • Link to relevant social media accounts, but only ones you’d want your future boss to see. If you don’t use Instagram for journalism, it doesn’t need to be on your site.

More career resources from The Lead’s archives

One story worth reading

Professional newsrooms and their journalists are frequently at odds over what it means to be “objective” on social media, and last week was no different.  The New York Times fired freelance editor Lauren Wolfe after she tweeted that she had “chills” seeing President Biden’s plane land.

“Many of the battles over Twitter are really battles over journalism itself, and over whose perspective and judgment is central in an era when the country and the industry are wrestling with big questions of race and gender and power,” media columnist Ben Smith writes in the Times (yes, the same Times).

My colleague Barbara Allen addresses this issue in her most recent issue of Alma Matters, directed toward journalism educators: “We should listen to our students and young journalists who are trying to tell us that the old models of objectivity are dead. We ought to talk about what ‘making a difference’ — one of the key reasons so many of us got into this business — means to them now.”

Opportunities and trainings

💌 Last week’s newsletter: Letting story subjects appeal for a “fresh start”

📣 I want to hear from you. What would you like to see in the newsletter? Have a cool project to share? Email blatchfordtaylor@gmail.com.

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Taylor Blatchford is a journalist at The Seattle Times who independently writes The Lead, a newsletter for student journalists. She can be reached at blatchfordtaylor@gmail.com…
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