For those who don’t know, I am a Web Content Editor at Columbia University. One of my main responsibilities include packaging content for the University homepage and its news site. In this role, my editorial team and I discuss the best way to present institutional narratives to a general audience on our digital platforms.
Usually, we do this on a story-by-story basis. But throughout 2016, we took on a much bigger project – building a whole website to introduce Columbia’s new campus Manhattanville to the world. This project was led by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs’ executive vice president, David Stone, and vice president of strategic communications, Deb Sack.
With the help of our director of multimedia development, Sheri Whitley, my communications office searched and found a boutique digital interactive agency based in Brooklyn to develop the design and content management platform for Manhattanville.Columbia.edu.
Because the agency was responsible for most of the labor, I believed my role would mostly consist of content migration and layout. But after deciding on the design aesthetic of the website, David and Deb (my bosses), expanded my participation. Because of my editorial background and understanding of web development, I interpreted how their vision should be executed. I translated what my bosses wanted into a concept the agency could understand, and vice-versa.
James Massey, born in 1940, grew up in the West Grove witnessing the community’s civic evolution. Photo by Tatiana Cohen.
“It’s very important to live in a country where you can say almost anything you want to say and not have threats to your life,” said 68-year-old and West Grove resident James Massey. He was referring to having lived in fear of the KKK in Coconut Grove and feeling liberated to speak his voice when he became eligible to vote in 1961.
I found his story when I hit the streets of “West Grove”, a sub-section of Coconut Grove, historically comprised of Afro-Caribbean settlers, to find voices representative of this community for an online multimedia project called Witnessing History in the West Grove 2008.
It’s an area that often is overlooked by mainstream media in South Florida, but that is civically active. And the goal for my University of Miami class of journalists was to document and package on the 2008 Election Day the stories representing this community’s sentiments on having a black president.
Andrea Ballocchi (right) and Walyce Almeida working in the West Grove to produce Witnessing History in the West Grove 2008.
My classmate Andrea Ballocchi and I were producers on this project. We coordinated and supervised the teams of students and what stories they would work on as well as came up with the website’s design concept and ensured the execution.
It was one of my favorite jobs and it inspired me to pursue becoming a producer – a role I’m currently seeking to fill. (Check out my resume.)
Massey’s story and many others on the site made the project so rich and meaningful. And my talented teams told those stories beautifully. (Thank you Tatiana Cohen for helping me find James Massey and taking those gorgeous pictures of him.) Take a look at the multimedia website and let me know what you think.
Witnessing History in the West Grove 2008 – screenshot
Voracious, bulldog, hungry – those were words my editor Joseph B. Treaster at the Knight Center for International Media said needed to describe me if I truly wanted to be a journalist. He reported for over 30 years at the New York Times, which makes those adjectives perfect to describe his professional style.
I learned quite a bit from him about being persistent and speedy. It came in handy as I worked as his Associate Editor on 1H2O.org, an online magazine about the worldwide water crisis. Part of my job was to edit and gather content as well as work with freelance journalists around the world reporting from their respective hometowns, such as Marko Phiri in Zimbabwe and Ada M. Alvarez in Argentina.
And because the journalism job market in Miami was tough, I decided to apply some of my newfound voracity in learning and practicing web development skills. So not only did I maintain 1H2O.org, but I also had the opportunity to develop the design and structure for the following two websites.
Knight.miami.edu – The Knight Center for International Media focused on stories for positive change in communities around the world.
Aguasnegras.glocalstories.org – Aguas Negras or “Black Waters” is the term used for the polluted water source for Mexico City and surrounding farmlands. Photojournalist Janet Jarman investigates how this environmental issue affects the locals and their businesses.
Most students go into the workforce right after getting a bachelor’s degree. When I was done, all the rapid changes were occurring in journalism such as shifting business models, replacing old reporters with multi-tasking ones, integrating social media in news, and so on.
With no professional experience and just a degree, I knew I had little chances of landing a decent job in journalism. So I went back to school. The University of Miami had just launched its multimedia journalism master’s program. Perfect timing!
During my undergrad years, I started to dabble in coding and web design, which I did every now and then during grad school as well. At one point, my classmate and friend, Andrea Ballocchi, started working with UM’s Director of the Arnold Center for Confluent Media Studies, Ali Habashi.
Ali gave us one simple site to make for a student organization. Then his fiance asked if we could do a portfolio site for her. That turned out to be fun because she’s a classical pianist. Check her out!
So here are the projects:
Marina Radiushina – an international classical pianist
Engineers without Borders – a student organization at the University of Miami