Twitter follower count is your job security

This past weekend, April 17 and 18, was the Society of Professional Journalists Region One Conference held at the Hofstra University Student Center in Hempstead.


The panels that I found most intriguing and beneficial were “How to Brand Yourself” and “Emerging Trends in Photography.” The photography panel allowed guests to witness drone photography in action right there in the Student Center Theater.

While this was amazing to see in person and learn about (helicopter rides for aerial shots go for about $200-750+ an hour), I found the panel on branding oneself a little more valuable.

Bill Corbett, of Corbett Public Relations, Hilary Topper, of HJMT Public Relations, Rob Basso, of Advantage Payroll Services, and Giovanna Drpic, of FiOS1 News were the panelists. It was held in a small room, which kept things intimate.

The panelists explained various ways to market oneself based off of personal talents and interests. One student journalist in the audience asked how to narrow down her focus as a person interested in many topics, to which they responded that it is necessary to pick a single focus and hone.

Corbett, who refers to a cell phones as a “personal marketing device,” displayed his acronym BRAND in a digital presentation that he created. It stands for “believe in yourself and others will follow,” “reputation is your most valuable asset,” “authenticity builds trust,” “name recognition comes from personal marketing” and “determination is required for continued success.”

Corbett then followed this by saying that one’s follower count on Twitter is “job security.”


Drpic then explained that she was once asked in an interview, very bluntly, how many Twitter followers she had.

If that number isn’t high, and you haven’t marketed yourself and gained popularity yourself, a potential employer might reject you. Basso backed this up by agreeing that journalists these days have to build a following themselves that they can bring to the company, rather than rely on the company for an audience.

CartoDB, a Spanish software company, maps Twitter

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Photo from

CartoDB is a Spanish mapping software company that literally visualizes data by creating interactive maps. This company recently teamed up with Twitter to allow any user to create such a map.

Personally, I am excited that this kind of data journalism exists, because I’m a visual learner. I learn new topics easier and quicker when I can attach visuals to ideas.

The specific service that was created hand-in-hand with Twitter is called “Mapping Twitter.” Users can create interactive animated maps that collect information in real-time from geotagged tweets all over the world.

Particularly intriguing is the “Sunrise around the world” interactive map. Dark, shadowy waves represent the movement of the sun’s rays while golden sparkle-like specks pop up wherever the sun is rising at that moment.

Other than globally mapping little sunrises, “Mapping Twitter” created visually appealing interactive maps for events such as the Indian elections, the Super Bowl 2014 and the United States versus Portugal World Cup game.

CartoDB, which was recently chosen as one of the top ten startups in Spain, employs about 24 people and generates an annual turnover of about $2 million, according to Alex Barrera of It has offices in Madrid, Berlin and New York and has served places like The Wall Street Journal, United Nations Environmental Programme, BBVA and the World Resources Institute.

April is for assault awareness

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, otherwise known as SAAM. Stony Brook University recognizes SAAM through a month-long calendar of events hosted by various clubs and organizations on campus.

Photo Credit: National Sexual Violence Resource Center

SAAM is an annual national campaign run by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO). Student groups and administration alike have been hosting events that will address issues relating to sexual health and even empowering survivors, as well as bystander intervention. Other sponsors include the Weekend Life Council, Center for Womyn’s Concerns, Program in Public Health, University Title IX Coordinator, SBU StandUp Charter, Camp Kesem, H Quad, Kelly Quad, Students United for Action, The Next Generation, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, LGBTQ Services, and the Career Center.

A calendar of the events can be viewed here:

Photo Credit: National Sexual Violence Resource Center


On Wednesday, April 15 at 1 p.m., during campus lifetime, there will be a march called “A Walk in Their Shoes” through the Academic Mall to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. This will be run by the Suffolk Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Donations will also be accepted that will be sent to domestic violence centers all over Long Island.

This march will serve as a good visual representation of the larger issue that is domestic violence and sexual assault.

The recipe for followers

The beginning of this semester marks the birth of my professional Twitter account @bridget_downes. Since January, I’ve worked my way to 46 followers. My personal account has 228. Gaining followers is a feat that takes time if you don’t happen to be a celebrity.

Screenshot by Bridget Downes.


To gain followers, you must follow a recipe: post frequently, tag all posts, and interact with people. Posting frequently is important because not only does it show your followers you’re alive and kicking, but it provides a constant feed of information, which is what people want.

Tagging posts is another helpful tactic. By adding #freedom to your tweet regarding your 320 homework, any Twitter user who searches for freedom may stumble upon your tweet. This increases the chances of people visiting your Twitter account and potentially clicking “follow” when they enjoy your amazing, fully comprehensible, well-tagged tweets.

Adding hashtags won’t hurt your SEO, either. In fact it would do the opposite. So add all the appropriate hashtags your heart desires, without being excessive. If you add too many, people will stop reading them.

Comic by Sarah Lesson/

Interacting with people is another important ingredient in the recipe to gain follower count. People like being responded to. People like being acknowledged, noticed. If others see that you interact with your followers, they might be more inclined to approach you. This is also a good way to network. Twitter is a social medium, after all.

In addition to my personal Twitter account and my professional one, I run the account of Stony Brook Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood. I work as the social media coordinator for Vox, which includes running Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. This means I am in charge of publicizing and promoting our events to increase turn-out. As a group, we also post relevant articles that deserve signal boosting to spread awareness.

Screenshot by Bridget Downes.


Under the Vox account, I follow Twitter and Instagram accounts that have similar messages and goals as our group. This leads to follow-backs, based on similar interests.

Though I don’t have hard proof, I’ve heard people say that some accounts gain followers by going on a “follow spree,” and then unfollowing the accounts after gaining the follow-backs. Although this sounds effective, it seems morally wrong in my opinion. So I’ll stick to the original recipe.

The Dystopian Town of Night Vale

“Welcome to Night Vale” – Podcast Pilot Episode

“Welcome to Night Vale” is a radio show-style podcast of a fictional dystopian society known as Night Vale, with a twist of dark humor. The series parodies a typical radio show of an average, mundane town.

It was created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and was published by Commonplace Books. The music sets an eerie ambiance, created by musician and composer Disparition.

The first episode features parody news stories, such as a new dog park being built where neither dogs or people are allowed. There’s also a new person in the neighborhood: Carlos, who is a self-proclaimed scientist with nice hair. Unmarked helicopters sometimes circle Night Vale from above, and parents are instructed to keep their children away from them. A new waterfront recreation area is being opened, in hopes to create a “bustling marketplace,” despite there being no body of water in sight. This is seen as a mere “drawback” to the situation, as Night Vale is a fictional town located somewhere in the Southern United States.

Joseph Fink explained in an interview with NPR that he came up with the idea to create a podcast about a fictional town located in the desert where all conspiracy theories were real.

“Glow Cloud” – Episode 2

This week, a mysterious glowing cloud has caused a death in the town of Night Vale, but no action will be taken. The post office, which has been sealed due to screams coming from within, was ransacked, with the smell of burning flesh in the air and words written in blood on the walls.

A floating cat was spotted in the radio station’s bathroom, as well. “It’s nice to have a station pet,” says the narrator, Cecil Gershwin Palmer, voiced by Cecil Baldwin.

This podcast series  is successful in its attempt to parody a regular news station’s daily newscast.

Hashtag J-school probs

It was my first year at Nassau Community College–fresh out of high school. I was a motivated student, determined to make the most out of my college career as soon as possible. When I saw a sign for the Student Activities Fair, I jumped at the opportunity.

I scanned the list of clubs that’d be attending and circled the ones that interested me and matched my hobbies. My issue was that I’d circled too many and had to narrow it down (to at least five) to be able to hit them all. I wandered from the Philosophy Club table to the creative writing magazine before stumbling upon the table for the Vignette. The Vignette is NCC’s biweekly print paper, and little did I know I was going to find my niche, meet lifelong friends (Janelle and Diana), and have the time of my life  experiencing opportunities I never even imagined.

Being part of the school paper allowed me to fulfill all of my interests: writing articles, taking photographs, and publishing poetry. I tried my hand at copy editing and discovered a newfound love for it (though grammar has always been a talent of mine–something that is instinctual for me). I was (and still am) passionate about such issues as environmental science/sustainabilities, feminism, and social justice issues in general.

I worked as the Photo Editor for the Vignette for at least two semesters, during which I was the only photographer covering most events.

The members of the Vignette and I went on two trips to the College Media Association convention at the Sheraton Hotel in Times Square. We also went on a trip to the Newseum in Washington D.C. These trips were unforgettable. At one of the conventions, I had the chance to visit the offices of Rolling Stone for a tour–an exciting adventure for a 19-year-old.

This led me to the Stony Brook School of Journalism. My NCC career was ending quickly because I took winter and summer classes–I didn’t have a break for two years (which was fine with me because the classes were fun and I loved my classmates and professors).

My best friend, Mai Fahmy, who has been attending Stony Brook University since 2011, told me that there was a new school of journalism open. I disregarded this, because, at the time, I thought I didn’t want to go into journalism. Eventually, I applied anyway, not expecting much, since I was rejected from Stony Brook when I was in high school. But, to my surprise, I was accepted.

I decided to pursue journalism because I recognized that I can use my voice for the things I was passionate about–things that needed more of a voice. Journalists have power. My career has shifted, though, with my time at Stony Brook, from producing content to editing content. I’ve also taken more of a multimedia focus since I started here at Stony Brook.

I’m beyond grateful to have access to the latest, state-of-the-art technology that this J-school provides. In addition, the Professional Friday trips introduce once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see famous publications up close and even network with important people.

I was born with a relentless, unforgiving sense of curiosity. I’ve always had the desire to peek behind “Employees Only” doors, even if it meant being kicked out of a store. I love being behind the scenes. And I always challenged authorities. Because what could I lose? What could I gain? Respect. Knowledge. I came to a self-proclaimed revelation a few years ago: question everything. Had I not been asking questions constantly, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m always hungry to learn. My family and friends know me as a person who is obsessed with the truth, no matter how brutal it is.

I live by the words, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.” Even by the wise words of Tina Fey, “Say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.” Always says yes. You never know who you’re going to meet or what you’re going to learn.

It’s also about loving the art of writing. I’m a huge fan of literature–classics such as Hemingway, who was actually a journalist himself. Thoreau, Whitman, Cummings, are some of my favorites. But I also wish to integrate creativity into article writing as much as possible, since poetry is my favorite thing in the world. Though objective article-writing is the total opposite of figurative language that is rich with imagery and metaphors, both are like painting pictures using words. In “How to Write with Style,” Kurt Vonnegut said it perfectly. Writers should “put together a sentence as intricate and glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra.”

So now I’m here, persevering through this sometimes hellish, sometimes wonderful journey at the Stony Brook J-school, all the while tweeting things with a hashtag of #jschoolprobs.

Faces of the LIRR Critique

The featured image used for this post works well because it is a wide, establishing shot. The train can even be seen in action, seemingly heading towards the viewer. Though the picture would have been more balanced compositionally if the train was more to the right (rule of thirds), it works placed in the middle (focal point) because viewers can assume it will follow the tracks that lead out of the photo on the right.

The photos should be larger. All it takes is to change the settings for the way photos appear on the blog. It’s harder to see the details of each person’s face if the photos are small. Yes, one can click the photo to see an enlarged version, but we can’t depend on viewers to do that.

The warm colors of the photos are an inviting common theme, but the story is about how harshly cold the winter has been (as well as the fare increasing).

Overall, some, if not all, photos should have been shot during the daytime when there is plenty of natural light to illuminate the faces of subjects. Using abundant natural light would help prevent blur and would make peoples’ faces clearer, as long as the necessary camera settings are used.

There is a lot of blur in some of the photos, which could have easily been avoided. Using a higher shutter speed and then changing the aperture and ISO appropriately would have prevented motion blur. Though it might increase noise in the photos, editing on Photoshop or Camera Raw using noise reduction would fix the issue. It is better to have as much information in the pixels as possible.

The photo of Amaira has a lot of dead space. It should have been cropped. Composition is something that needs to consciously be kept in mind when shooting, especially portraits.

The photo of Vaeni is good because it shows her as an active LIRR user standing in the doorway of the train. It is an environmental portrait. Rule of thirds is nice here.

At least three photos had subjects centered when they shouldn’t have been. Focus was also an issue. In the last photo, the ticket machine falls in the plane of focus on the left, instead of the subject standing on the right. It might appear fine at first glance, but he is out of focus. Other than these few issues, the portraits show human emotion, which is an ideal feature for this photo story. It was a good job telling the stories of the people of the LIRR!

Behind the students at Open Mic Nite

By Jon Winkler and Bridget Downes

In the midst of classes, jobs and the constant struggle of affording an education, some students just need an opportunity to express themselves.

Some may sing songs, play instruments, write poetry, tell jokes or just generally perform. Certain areas on Stony Brook University’s campus allow students that chance for expression. One of those places is Langmuir College, who will host its weekly Open Mic Nite next Thursday.

Taking a look at so many different students and comparing what they bring to the Open Mic Nite to what they do for classes at Stony Brook would be a great photo story. Think of it as a “Behind the Students” segment, where readers can learn about the vast talents of those working hard to earn their degree.

As a clear focus for the coverage of this event, we will do mini-profiles of some attending performers, or all, depending on the amount of people.

The lighting situation would be ideal, since a spotlight will most likely be pointed at each performer. We could get tight detail shots of the setting, such as a resting microphone or a performer’s guitar, and use shallow depth of field.

We will take portraits of the performers, but avoid mug shots in doing so. These will be posed shots, with interesting, layered backgrounds. Our aim will be good environmental portraits. These will be accompanied by the students in the act of performing. The photos should complement each other well and tell a good story of who each performer really is.

We will have establishing shots of the stage, as a potential opener for our photo story. We’ll be shooting by the mantra: wide, medium, tight, super tight, action, reaction, and capture the moment.

Replacing a pencil with a lens

Bend yourself into crazy positions for the Glow Yoga event on Wednesday, April 1 at 5 p.m. in the MAC courts, located in the lower level of the Campus Rec Center.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Glow sticks will be handed out and music will pump up the spirits of all attending yoga-lovers. This event would serve as a good photo story because of the visual effects that glow sticks provide in low-lit settings. With a DSLR camera set on manual mode with a high ISO, low F-stop, and low shutter speed, the excitement and fun of the colorful yoga positions should be easily captured.

Photo courtesy of

For even more artsy-looking photos, a camera with a very low shutter speed that is kept totally still–ideally set on a tripod–would be able to capture the light trails of the glow sticks made by the movements of the yogis, as pictured above.

For the story-telling aspect, a set of photos can follow a yogi doing “surya namaskara,” or the sun salutation, which is a set of “asanas,” or positions, of hatha yoga.

Not into yoga or glow sticks? The Stony Brook Weekend Life Council is hosting a roller rink event on Saturday, March 7 at 5 p.m. in Ballroom A of the SAC. There are currently no flyers or graphics available online, but one can be found posted on a board located on the second floor of the SAC. In the meantime, keep an eye out for any notice on their Facebook page.

A third photo story option is Open Mic Nite in Langmuir College on Thursday, March 5 at 9:30 p.m. Langmuir hosts an Open Mic Nite every Thursday in its main lobby. This event would work well because there would most likely be a spotlight set on performers, making a good lighting situation for photos.