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Say Hello to The New and Improved Journalists

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Photo by: Ariana DeCastro

What do you answer when somebody asks you, “What does a journalist do?”

There’s a pre-conceived notion that journalists are always behind a desk, typing away on their keyboards, drinking coffee, dialing their phones and hunting down sources to interview.

While yes, many of us journalists are always typing on our keyboards and searching for our next reliable source, the new generation of journalists is so much more than that.

The new-and-improved journalist is a writer, photographer, videographer, video editor, podcaster, social media manager and many more.

The new-and-improved journalist is the definition of “Jack of All Trades,” but instead of being a master of none, they’re a master of many.

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Photo courtesy: knightfoundation.org

One journalist can do it all by themselves now. With the right equipment, journalists can be their own camera man and video editor. They even have the means of publishing with a click of their finger and don’t have to wait until their story is printed on paper, or published on air. Mobile devices have made everything more accessible.

If there’s one thing I learned from being a blogger and a journalist– but also being on the other end as a news receiver and consumer– is that visuals make all the difference in an article. A relevant, captivating photo reigns my attention to a story more. A well-edited and developed YouTube video engrosses me more in a story. That’s why it’s crucial for journalists– old and new– to know how to do almost all of it.

I specifically enjoy recording and editing videos for YouTube. While it’s time consuming, it’s very easy for me to do because I enjoy putting different pieces together into one big project.

The one thing I would like to do more would be podcasting. I found myself really comfortable speaking and I would like to dabble with longer podcast sessions. I would also love to learn more about editing podcasts to make them more fun and entertaining to listen to.

Journalists can learn the basics of video editing, photography, podcasting and using social media in a five-week course (or by themselves!) if they really wanted to.

And trust me– you want to.

If you’re competing for a job against someone who can do it all, you want to be as good of a competitor because you can do it all, too.

Here are some must-see journalism movies that need to be on your movie list before the summer ends:

Happy summer!

What You Need to Know About SEO

Photo courtesy of searchengineland.com

Photo courtesy of searchengineland.com

If you’re on the job market looking for a position in the journalism, business, and advertising field, there’s a new skill that many companies are looking for.

The list of requirements will almost always include, “SEO knowledge.”

But what exactly is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization.

According to searchengineland.com, “It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.”

In simple terms by redevolution.com, “SEO is the simple activity of ensuring a website can be found in search engines for words and phrases relevant to what the site is offering.”

In my article, for example, I’m utilizing the art of SEO by using the words “SEO” and “search engine optimization,” consistently and efficiently. My web article will potentially rank higher than other articles that don’t utilize those keywords enough.

And that’s a big part of what it is: keywords and just how well you use them.

But why is it now a requirement for professionals?

Journalists and SEO

As journalism transitions from being print-centric to web-centric, SEO has become more important for journalists to utilize and learn about. Journalists with SEO knowledge will not only have more hits on their articles, but they are also helping the news website or news institution that they work for to gain more traction.

Bloggers and SEO

It’s hard to gain a following as a new blogger, so knowing SEO will ease at least a little of that dilemma. Knowing how to rank higher in search engines will allow readers to find you and your work. A new blogger with SEO knowledge will certainly have more readers than a blogger who doesn’t. It’s a great stepping stool to gain more readers and followers.

Advertisers and SEO

While most advertising companies prefer paid advertising, familiarizing with SEO is still important. Paid advertising is a powerful tool but SEO still helps to get more clicks. It adds higher traffic to paid advertisements. Read here to learn more about that.

Businesses and SEO

Businesses are at a disadvantage if they don’t utilize SEO in their business websites. There have been many arguments that SEO and content marketing do not go hand in hand but I disagree with that argument. SEO and content marketing actually overlap and help each other.

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Because of the recent technological advances, SEO is more prominent than ever. People are so used to using their smart devices in a fast-paced manner so when they use search engines, they’re used to clicking the first links that they see. SEO is crucial to be in higher ranking.

Many companies have created a position for SEO specialists because of this.

“[SEO] makes it easier for the customer to spot what they’re looking for,” said Erika Paman-Mercado, Connection and Innovation Catalyst for the Zappos Customer Loyalty Team. “When people put keywords in, they can’t find Zappos at the top. If the search engine finds us higher, it’s an opportunity for higher conversion for us.”

Watch this video below to see what SEO ranking factor professionals must master this year.

Things to Do on The Las Vegas Strip for Free

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Photo by Ariana DeCastro

When people come to Las Vegas, they’re usually ready to splurge a good amount of money towards good food, delicious drinks, and sinful slot machines.

But tourists don’t always have to spend their money to see all that Vegas has to offer.

Some of the best Vegas sights are free to see! This post is a guide on spending a fun night in Vegas for free!

Your First Stop

The Bellagio: Head inside to see their Conservatory & Botanical Garden filled with beautiful designs by horticulturalists. The Conservatory & Botanical Garden changes its decor seasonally, with themes ranging from “Summer Under the Sea,” the “Harvest Show,” and the “Holiday Show.” It’s really a sight to see.

Your Second Stop

Outside of The Bellagio: The Fountains at Bellagio is a must-see spot. This is one of those signature Vegas spots that many people will visit multiple times. This elaborate water show performs with slow and fast music, so each time you go, you’ll never know what to expect.

Your Third Stop

Caesars Palace: From The Bellagio, you want to make the walk to Caesars Palace and walk through the Forum Shops. At the center of the Nike Factory Store and Cheesecake Factory are statues that you’d think are just… well, statues. But they’re actually animatronic figures! And these animatronic figures make up the “Fall of Atlantis” show that recounts the myth of Atlantis. There are unbelievable water and fire effects that you’d never think could happen inside of a building. There’s so much fire and water that you actually feel the heat and the mist on your face during the show.

Your Last Stop

The Cosmopolitan: On the third floor of The Cosmopolitan, there is a large lounge area with a pool table. It’s a great place to hang out with friends and cool down, especially in the scorching Vegas heat. If you find the Secret Pizza place that’s in The Cosmopolitan, I highly suggest ordering a slice (or a box) of pizza (no shame!) and enjoy the rest of your night eating pizza and playing pool.

(Parking tip: Park at Planet Hollywood across the street from The Bellagio and The Cosmopolitan. It’s less congested to get to get to the Planet Hollywood garage and easier to get out after you’re done).

And there you have it! You spent a night in Vegas not spending a dime! (Besides for that pizza, but that’s okay).

Comment below if you know of any other places to go to in Vegas for free!

Happy touring!

How To Make Sure Your Instagram Posts Are Visually Appealing

Have you ever looked at someone’s Instagram feed and think, “Just how do they do that?” You probably see their followers commenting, “Feed goals,” and you think, “I wish my photos were pretty like that.”

Well, you’re not alone.

For so many people, Instagram has been a portfolio of their photographic work. It’s become more than just a place to filter your selfies with and has really become a place that people showcase their photographic skills.

Some people just click their camera once and get a great photo, but for many people, it takes more than one try. For amateurs like myself, I’ve found a quick way to accomplish getting a visually appealing photo on Instagram.

Photo by Ariana DeCastro

Photo by Ariana DeCastro

The main two things I use when I take photos are my handy dandy LED lamp and white rug from IKEA.

The white light from the LED lamp allows me to achieve great lighting, even when I’m taking pictures at night, and the white rug gives me a solid background that brings cohesiveness to all of my photos no matter where I am.

VSCO also plays a huge part of how well my photos look. It’s my favorite photo-editing app because it has so many filters and so many editing tools as well. Many of the editing options don’t over-filter photos, but merely enhances them, which is what filters are meant for.

I really suggest that you download VSCO app if you love to take photos!

So those are my secret weapons in achieving many of the my most-liked Instagram photos.

But lighting and background aside, I think what makes someone’s Instagram so appealing is when it has cohesiveness to it and that the photos really represent that person’s interests.

Instagram is my favorite social network because I don’t need to know someone to follow them– I just have to like their photos, and on Instagram, people’s photos represent their interests.

Make sure you showcase yours!

Watch the video above to see a step-by-step “behind the scenes” video of how I take my photos for Instagram!

 

Hogwarts Just Got a Little Closer To Home (& It Brought a Lot of Espresso With It!)

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Photo by: Ariana DeCastro

A new coffee shop in Nevada brews up magical caffeine concoctions for Henderson and Las Vegas locals.

Bad Owl Coffee is a Harry Potter themed coffee shop, full of decorations that allude to the Harry Potter series, and as an avid Harry Potter fan, it’s become my favorite place to hang out!

As soon as a customer walks in, they are transported to King’s Cross Station, where they’ll find “Platform 9 6/8” (photographed on the left) that mimics Platform 9¾ from the Harry Potter series.

Half a luggage cart disappears into the wall, and Hedwig, Harry’s owl, is placed on top of the cart, just like in the story!

While the all of the decor I photographed at Bad Owl Coffee was well-put-together and well-thought-out, the photo on the left is my favorite because it’s part of a signature Harry Potter moment that every fan knows.

It was a bit difficult to photograph the decor because the coffee shop is always packed with people, but I tried to do the coffee shop justice as a fan.

I used my Canon EOS Rebel T5 camera and had the perfect natural lighting for some of the photos so I didn’t need to do much adjusting or editing. When I photographed the coffee shop at night, I did have to manually adjust my camera to make the photos brighter.

Nonetheless, Bad Owl Coffee has great lighting for photos and you’ll notice that people can’t resist but to take them!

The tables are decorated with customized decals that allude to the Harry Potter series, such as Harry’s lightning scar, the Deathly Hallows sign, the snitch from Harry’s first Quidditch game and many more. There’s also a bookshelf display with the Harry Potter books in them near the lounge area that resembles the Hogwarts common rooms.

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Photo by: Ariana DeCastro

“It’s a different environment,” said Kristina Hamlin, UNLV student and Bad Owl Coffee barista. “You walk in and it’s all Harry Potter.”

While Bad Owl Coffee’s décor caught people’s attention, their drinks, pastries and sandwiches get customers to stay.

“The most popular drink would have to be our Butter Brew latte which is our version of the Butterbeer drink from Harry Potter,” Hamlin said.

The drink was so popular that they would run out, but they now make sure they are fully stocked on the ingredients. While the Butter Brew latte is what a lot of people order, they offer a variety of other specialty drinks such as their earl grey tea called “The London Fog,” their English toffee latte and their pistachio latte.

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Photo by: Ariana DeCastro

There are also special drinks from their “Espresso Bar” such as the “Mint Mojito Latte” and the “Biscoff Cookie latte,” a cookie butter drink which is riddikulus-ly good! (See what I did there, fellow Potter fans?)

Hamlin also added that most men order their nitrogen-infused cold brew coffee.

“When I tell the customers— especially the male customers— that the nitrogen-infused coffee is like Guinness without the alcohol, they automatically order it,” Hamlin said. “I highly recommend it for strong coffee drinkers, but for those who aren’t heavy coffee drinkers, the sea salt nitro is milder.”

Bad Owl Coffee also offers pastries such as almond croissants, butter croissants, chocolate croissants, macarons and many more pastry selections delivered fresh every morning from a local bakery.

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Photo by: Ariana DeCastro

They also recently developed a sandwich menu so that customers can enjoy a meal there for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bad Owl Coffee has been featured on Cosmopolitan, Fox, Eater, Las Vegas Weekly, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Thrillist, and is located at 10575 S. Eastern Ave. #160, Henderson, Nevada.

Browse through their menu and find which magic-infused pastry and espresso you want to try.

Happy eating and ‘caffeinating’!

A Little Twitter Bird Once Told Me…

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Courtesy of dragoart.com

Twitter is the place to be.

When I first heard of Twitter and when I first joined, I thought it was merely going to be a “quick status update” platform that keeps my friends in the loop of what I’m doing and what I’m thinking.

But it quickly evolved into something so much more than that.

Twitter now offers a quick status update of everything going on in the world.

We all owe the birth of #hashtags to Twitter.

From #JeSuisCharlie to the more recent #PrayForOrlando, Twitter gives people a platform to connect with local, national and international news. Whether it’s to tweet support or to tweet disapproval, Twitter has given people the opportunity to voice out their opinions and be heard. #Hashtags are used to track current news and see what the public is saying.

It makes this big world we live in a little bit smaller.

This makes Twitter a crucial tool for all journalists. While it’s hard to give thorough information in 140 characters, journalists now have to try. That’s what the average person wants– quick, sound bites of news.

In a fast-paced technological world, with so many social media platforms and websites to visit, people crave for a place to get their news fast and quick.

And that’s Twitter.

You can get your entertainment news, sports news, fashion news, political news, all news on Twitter.

It also gives readers and journalists a place to interact conveniently, and that’s the keyword: Convenience. With Twitter alone, journalists will be able to reach more audiences.

But that’s not where the magic ends.

Twitter also helps with data collection that involve public health and safety, and helps with data collection that make marketing more efficient and accurate. Read Andrew Hutchinson’s article here, to learn more about that.

Twitter has become a phenomenon and it’s adamant that journalists choose to join it, or risk getting themselves– and their work– left behind.

Which Theme Are You On?

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Courtesy of Anna Smith of Annabode + Co.

The way my blog looks expresses what I believe my writing to be: simple and to the point.

I’m a sucker for all things minimal. Even though my personal blog is full of color, I still prefer the classic look when it comes to professional sites, and a black and white color scheme achieves that. That’s why I chose Scott Allan Wallick’s veryplaintxt as my WordPress theme with the help of Adam Clarke’s, “8 Blog Design Tips to Make Sure People Stop to Read Your Content.”

The simplicity of veryplaintxt allows the photos on my posts and my sidebar to stand out. Instead of subconsciously glazing over the photos, your eyes will actually be drawn to it.

The two-column feature organizes my content in a simple way. You’ll know to look for my content on the left and other networks to connect with me on the right.

The typography is clean and crisp and does not distract the reader from the content at all. However, had I had the option to make the text a little bit bigger, I would have opted for that choice. Still, it’s nothing the zoom button can’t fix for us visually-challenged!

That’s the only downside to this theme: there’s not much you can do to change its layout, color or font. But I think that’s also its strong-suit– it’s cohesive and it doesn’t give you the option of changing things that will take away that cohesiveness.

To spice up the theme and still make it my own, the sidebar is really what I customized. I added my own menus, an Instagram photo carousel and a collection of a few of my pins on Pinterest.

It added color, dimension, and me in it. And making sure everything you do has a little bit of you in it is a theme that could never go out of style.

If you are looking for a minimalist theme on WordPress, check out colorlib.com’s Stunning Collection of The Best Minimalist WordPress Themes For Business, Portfolio and Blogs 2016, and browse through their picks!

A Journalist of All Trades

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(Photo taken from Instagram: arianadecastro_)

Journalists are expected to do it all now. On top of investigating, researching and writing an article, to being their own photographer and videographer, journalists are also expected to post all of that content on several social media platforms.

Needless to say, a journalist’s pool of tasks has doubled and requires a lot of time in a fast-paced web world. So is it necessary for journalists to do it all?

A journalist’s job is to reach the public and the best way to do that now is through social media. Journalism made its transition from being print-centric to digitally centralized, and to effectively share news to the public, the people must have access to news in the easiest way possible: through their phones.

Robert Niles discusses in his article, “Newspaper columnists ought to be the perfect bloggers. So why aren’t more doing it well?” that “Social media tool are just that… tools,” and I absolutely agree. Social media is a tool that journalists can use to expose their work more effectively.

Like painters have their canvas and singers have their microphones, journalists now have social media.

Social media allows journalists to reach wider audiences. Niles said, “You can do work you believe to be great, but if no one reads it or no one who does cares, what was the point?” Social media gives journalists the opportunity to build a community of followers that read and care about the work they present.

But like I asked earlier, is it necessary for journalists to do it all? Absolutely not. But I do think it’s necessary for journalists to learn it all. They must be able to do traditional journalism right alongside modern journalism.

According to Gwen Teckel’s article, “Traditional Journalism: Is it Old News?” traditional journalism is defined as journalism work published through “traditional” outlets such as papers, radio and television, while modern journalism is defined as work published on blogs, websites and social networks.

The ideal journalist now is one that is both.

Just like many other professions, technological advances have appeared that require professionals to change and adapt. For example, surgeons may begin to use cutting-edge technology, but they are still required to know the basics of a surgery. The same goes for journalists. They may have to know how to tweet, snap, Instagram and post on Facebook, but what good are all of those skills if the main content isn’t written and researched well?

Modern journalism intertwines with many aspects of traditional journalism and I believe it always will. There will always be people who prefer news the traditional way, others who prefer it the modern way and people who prefer it both ways.

I’ve encountered many people who say that traditional journalism is a dying art but it’s not. It’s an evolving one, and it’s crucial that journalists– new and old– evolve with it.