Six UMass journalism graduates returned to campus to share their thoughts about how to succeed in the business.

Julie Robenhymer, a senior writer with Hockeybuzz.com, said it best at the end of last week’s “Back from The Front” alumni panel:  “If you’re not a self starter this is not the path for you.”

It’s advice that’s always been true for journalism students but perhaps is even more appropriate today.  Robenhymer, a 2004 Journalism graduate, is an avid hockey fan but was out of sportswriting for a few years before she was offered a job at the popular Web site.

Why?

Because she got the attention of the editors at Hockeybuzz.com with e-mail comments about the site.  For several years now, she has gained a following by using Twitter, blogs and video to deliver stories via a powerful personality.

“I always wanted to be the one who stood out,” said Robenhymer.  “For our industry in sports media, I see the future being dependent upon the personalities of who are in it.”

The ‘self-starter’ advice was echoed by several alums, including S.P. Sullivan (’10) and Eric Athas (’08) Thursday night — both of whom spent their “down-time” during their college years learning a variety of multimedia tools, including how to shoot and edit video.  Sullivan also weighed in on the ongoing debate in academia over whether journalism schools should be teaching specific tools, saying instead that professors should focus on storytelling rather than how to shoot photos on a specific camera.

Rather, Sullivan and Athas said it was incumbent upon student journalists to learn multimedia skills on their own.

“Journalists always have to be students and learning,” said Athas, now a producer for The Washington Post’s web site and the founder of AmherstWire.com.   “Learn as much as possible.”

Also returning to UMass for the panel were: Mike LaCrosse (’10, reporter & producer, ABC40), Michael Phillis (’10, staff writer, Lexington Minuteman) and Mary K. Alfieri (’10, advertising & PR, The Loomis Group.)  David Perkins acted as moderator during the 90-minute discussion.

“I couldn’t have been happier to see these six former students–or prouder of them,” said Karen List, director of the Journalism Program.  “They are such bright lights, and I so much appreciate their coming back to share their insights with all of us.”

“I thought I was pretty terrific,” said Perkins.

As for whether they were “doing more with less” in the current journalism environment, Sullivan, a producer with MassLive.com was blunt:  “This is what we all signed up for.”  He blogs, edits text and video, tweets and….writes.

His advice, and the advice from most on the panel:  Learn it all and be ready to do it all.

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