Professionals present publishing pointers

by Christina Jedra / Beacon Staff • November 15, 2012

Writerspanel chapman
Panel speakers work for Ploughshares and The Phoenix, among other publications.
Panel speakers work for Ploughshares and The Phoenix, among other publications.

During the Nov. 8 panel about finding jobs in the publishing industry, one theme was clear: Getting a job in the field is difficult, but with hard work and flexibility, it is possible. 

Sponsored by Career Services and Undergraduate Students for Publishing, the panel in the Bill Bordy Theater consisted of four Emerson alumni who shared their experiences and advice for Emerson students interested in publishing. They looked back on the difficulties of getting their first jobs, spoke about rejection, and advised students on the big and small things that matter when trying to break into the industry. There was a Q-and-A followed by a networking session after the moderated conversation. 

Panelist Marissa Giambelluca, an editor at Page Street Publishing and a writer for Scene Magazine, opened the discussion by addressing a concern many writers have. 

“You’ll encounter people saying publishing is going downhill,” she told the audience. “You can hear it, but you don’t have to believe it.” 

Giambelluca told the story of her post-grad job working at a tuxedo shop while sending out her resume and writing samples. 

“Ninety percent of them wouldn’t answer, but 10 percent of the time, I got something out of it,” she said. “The second that you hit rock bottom is the second you’ll probably get an interview.” 

Valeria Navarro, a junior who attended the panel, appreciated the panelists’ candid stories.

“It was very insightful. They had interesting words to say about how they got their positions,” said the journalism and marketing communication double major. “I think [panels] are useful when they have the right people. [The panelists] were from places I’d apply for a spring internship.” 

Panelist Laura Levis, assistant editor of Harvard Magazine’s website, explained the importance of staying humble and focusing on self-improvement. She recounted receiving edits from her first story at her new job. 

“It was a sea of red. I had tears in my eyes,” she said. 

But that didn’t deter her from working harder. 

“Make every lead you write better than the one before,” she said. 

Andrea Martucci, managing editor of Ploughshares, emphasized that good writing is only a part of getting a job in publishing, adding that job applicants often disregard her at networking events because of her young appearance. 

“Do not ignore people you think are the little people. They may be the one hiring,” Martucci said.

Martucci, who co-founded Em Magazine during her time at Emerson, listed multiple pieces of advice. She recommended being aware of the industry’s technological changes, researching a company before going to an interview or writing a cover letter, and being able to wear many hats on the job.

She also noted a major problem she sees in the many cover letters she has read. 

“They don’t tell me what they’re going to do for me,” she said. She explained that applicants often make the mistake of saying how the job or internship will benefit them instead of saying how they can be an asset to the company. 

Jackie Houton, managing editor of The Phoenix, answered a student’s question about the prevalence of freelancing after discussing her job at the newly redesigned newspaper-turned-magazine. While she said reliance on non-staff writers varies at each company, she stressed that a story pitch needs to be targeted to the specific publication. 

While the dialogue of the panel often veered to what writers shuld do if they aren’t holding publishing jobs, the overall tone of the discussion was encouraging. 

Giambelluca recalled trying to break into the industry and advised incorporating writing and publishing into temporary jobs. 

“It’s finding what you love in the jobs you don’t like,” said Giambelluca, who created a blog for a real estate office where she worked before she was hired at Page Street.  

Gerry Garvin, assistant director of Emerson’s Career Services Office and moderator of the event, said that panels are beneficial for the students who attend. 

“This is the best way for students to get information about the job market. There’s nothing more current,” she said.  

During the panel, Houton emphasized an idea that was stressed throughout the event: working your way up in publishing is a process. 

“Every clip you get is a stepping stone to the next one.”