Freelance journalism is the future

Did you know that 1 in 3 American workers are freelancers?

That stat is about the overall workforce, but journalism definitely isn’t exempt. There are 30 percent less full-time journalists today than in 2000, according to Pews’ 2013 State of the Media report.

The Student Center at Hofstra Unviersity, where the SPJ Region I conference took place. Photo credit: Paul Berendsen, Wikimedia Commons.
The Student Center at Hofstra University, where the SPJ Region I conference took place. [Photo credit: Paul Berendsen, Wikimedia Commons.]
The days of health benefits, job security and a healthy pension might be over. But more newsrooms are building elite armies of freelancers, according to a recent panel at the Society Professional Journalists (SPJ) Region I Conference at Hofstra University.

The grind can be hard. Any given week a freelancer could be juggling 5 or 6 stories for multiple publications, all of whom expect you get it done. This excludes marketing yourself and researching pitches.

As veteran freelance journalist and author John Hanc says, “There’s always a deadline.” It’s a “hard-work business,” but it is possible to be well off.

To get the first job, in the words of Sandra Mardenfeld, sometimes you have to do “a little bit of targeted stalking” to get the job (or an interview for your story). Know your target. Do your research. Reach out on LinkedIn, Twitter, even Facebook if you have to. Know what they’re looking for and pitch ideas.

Liza Burby, Sandra Mardenfeld, Jason Molinet and John Hanc at the Effective Freelancing panel. Photo Credit: Susan Keith on Twitter.

Liza Burby of Anton Media Group remembers when she worked for $10 per week and produced 100 clips (100!). The experience matters and local journalism is the best place to do “renaissance reporting,” where you can report on multiple topics and build all sorts of skills. Not only do you get bylines and exposure, but you build a reputation and sources.

So beware the first impression. It’s a double edged sword. Make no mistakes, hand in good copy and be a friendly face when you visit for a good reputation to follow you. Just be sure to keep it up. But if you mess up, even locally, you can bet said editor won’t hire you again and a bad reputation might stalk you.

You don’t want something like that stalking you, right? No work means no pay.

A nearly empty Starbucks cup in a Stony Brook University lounge. [Photo Credit: Janelle Clausen]
A nearly empty Starbucks cup in a Stony Brook University lounge. [Photo Credit: Janelle Clausen]
That being said though, Hanc noted that one of the worst things you can do is “go whining about how you made more as a Starbucks barista” on your first contract. You’re in no position to negotiate. Those bragging rights come later. When you write with the Washington Post, Politico or Smithsonian- which should be done early as possible- then you might get away with it. Name power is important.

But creativity is vital. Papers are always looking for fresh content. Send pitches- the amount varies on your schedule- over with 2 to 3 sources and statistics at the ready. If you need help keeping them in steady supply, build off previous stories you’ve done.

“Ideas are your currency,” Burby says.

Sound like a lot of work? It is.

But every day is an adventure where you control your own destiny. So long as you have consistency, quality, ideas, passion and communication skills, you can find a healthy future in freelance journalism. If a panel like this shows up again, I highly advise you try attending.

Journalist turned Twitter addict

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The pressure is always on to spend time on social media. Before this class, even with a professional account, I had no desire to.

Now I’m addicted.

Whenever I’m reading the New York Times, I think “woah, this would be a cool thing to share on Twitter.” I inspect and Google News for stuff that might be interesting. When actually on Twitter, scrolling my life away through an infinite dashboard, I think of what is worth reblogging.

Twitter has over 288 million active users- and I'm in the top half of them. Chart: Statista
Twitter has over 288 million active users- and I’m in the top half of them. Chart: Statista

I keep up because consistency is rewarding. Since I became more active, my follower count jumped by almost 60 and hops around 130. It signals to people, essentially, that you’re both interesting and actually alive. Dead accounts are boring. So despite Twitter having over 288 million active accounts, I’m in the top 44 million with my follower count.


Not too bad, right?

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 5.40.22 PMThat being said, I’ve worked on my engagement. I don’t just reblog or post articles, although I often do thanks to involvement on the Stony Brook Independent and boredom. Interesting article plus picture usually equals success for everyone, since engagement goes up nearly five times with a photo. But they always encouraged me.

I humanize myself more. I say good morning (creatively as possible) on the way to class and feature a dramatic picture. I comment on my own life in addition to current events. But I show that I’m not just a journalist and I’m not a machine- I’m a person, trying to make people laugh a little.

Two of the most prominent followers I gained while live tweeting #Oscars2015.
Two of the most prominent followers I gained while live tweeting #Oscars2015.

Live tweeting proved the power of engagement to me quite clearly too.  When I was live tweeting #Oscars2015, I gained two powerhouse followers: DJ Many, with over one million followers, and Daniel Goddard of The Young and the Restless fame. There were plenty of likes around too. The Stony Brook Independent also reblogged a lot of what I posted- it was almost as if I was an entertainment correspondent. Hashtagging that definitely helped.

I always have my phone. But, contrary to what the journalism school wants to believe, I also have a life (sort of). TweetDeck helps me maintain a presence whenever I’m busy. Usually my phone will buzz seconds later because my friend messages me thinking I’m actually online, but that’s a story for another day. She’s new on Twitter (yet has almost half my followers because she comments on big things).

So have I improved? I’d like to say yes. But is there more I can do without becoming partisan and annoying the Republican followers I somehow got by posting politics? We’ll see.

Not like I’m totally addicted yet or anything. 537 tweets is nothing!

Gaming free

Jennifer Dziuba, 23, a lifelong gamer and aspiring video game developer, delved into gaming culture, the changing industry and how free women are to game online in peace in this interview. When the semester ends, she will graduate with a degree in Video Game Design and Development from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The gaming industry is still dominated by men, but Dziuba is unintimidated in her career path. Dziuba represents the growing number of women entering the gaming workforce. Game development and gaming in general, she said, never weren’t options for her. Gender was irrelevant.

She has, mostly, averted a largely toxic online environment for women. Whether it’s the game’s story, law-breaking theatrics or being able to play with friends, video games have always proven liberating for her. She has 100s of hours each in the Saints Row and Pokémon games, Team Fortress 2, Skyrim and other games across countless consoles and her gaming laptop.

Invisibilia: A Fearless Podcast

Close your eyes. Sit back. Enter a voice that weaves together a story smooth as silk. Now picture something terrifying and imagine if you could “disappear fear” and all the consequences that come with it.

Invisibilia hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller. Photo courtesy of John W. Poole/NPR.
Invisibilia hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller. Photo courtesy of John W. Poole/NPR.

Invisibilia hosts Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, not so ironically, approach this without fear in Fearless, a two-part feature exploring the origins of fear and what happens without it.

“World with No Fear,” the first half, masterfully incorporates natural sounds like fart noises (children who don’t yet know fear), dramatic piano, gunshots and news headlines to make a point. It immerses within us (even bombards) the idea we almost can’t escape fear. We are exposed to an unusual amount of it that makes no logical sense. Add in the occasional chilling music and you certainly feel a little uneasy.

Appropriate for an episode on fear, isn’t it?

The art for Invisibilia's episode Fearless. Image by Daniel Horowitz/NPR.
The art for Fearless, one of Invisibilia’s earlier shows. Image by Daniel Horowitz/NPR.

As with any good story, both in print or in broadcast, the soundbites are kept short and sweet. Sometimes it’s simple as “No, not really” when asked if someone felt fear. Other times, it was an explanation from a neuroscientist simplified. A lot could be read simply from how something was read, too. It was approachable for someone who has taken almost no science courses in their college life.

The podcast certainly has a novelty factor. Only 400 people in the entire world are completely incapable of feeling fear, due to the calcification in an almond sized part of the brain. Their heart doesn’t race. The adrenaline doesn’t go. But traumatic events aren’t traumatic either, because intense fear isn’t assigned to the memory, meaning said person could find themselves in more danger than most. The fact they could speak with someone with this condition speaks to the credibility of Invisibilia as a whole.

While the sound and interviews help tell stories, so does the verbal imagery. There were “puffs of smoke” from gunshots and “people falling and not getting up” on the day of America’s first mass shooting. It was certainly powerful enough to understand the tragedy. Meanwhile, metaphors and similes like “in a sea of emotions” and “fear is as basic as blood” make the script all the more rich.

But the hosts are also conversational, adding to the ease factor. After being bombarded by dark news headlines, they say “[fear is] not exactly novel,” for example. And at the end of the first podcast when previewing part two, they joke that the founders of NPR would be screaming about what they plan to do next.

It was “Disappearing Fear,” part two, that shined in the casual aspect. Fear becomes an even more approachable topic. At one point, Russian music plays in the background when a Russian grandmother using rejection therapy is mentioned. At another, when one is asked if their fear of snakes is cured (after a long explanation on why we fear them), the reply is completely bleeped out.

While at one point the hosts joke they are straying from professional journalism into the realm of “wild fact-based speculation” as a joke and laugh a bit on air, the topic as a whole is so very human. Fearless- both “Disappearing Fear” and “World with No Fear”- have encouraged me to listen to Invisibilia more. It’s still journalistic, telling a story and informing the masses.

Journalism: the second chance

My mother holding me back in the day, just before she realized I was destined to write.
My mother, Joann Clausen, holding me back in the day just before she realized I was destined to write. Photo courtesy of Joann Clausen.

We could trace my journalistic future back to the Doggy Times, where my six year old self single-handedly wrote, managed and published a fictional newspaper about their imaginary friends.

But we should also look at my school life, where I could count my real life friends on one hand. A boy “asked me out” while his friends cawed in the background and once, when I accidentally broke a desk, snickering persisted until another teacher lectured the chorus class for an agonizing ten minutes. I rarely vented my grievances like these aloud. Only the librarian and my mentors earned my full trust, fostering a love of knowledge and escaping the present.

Writing, whether it was essays, comics, and short stories, however, always gave me solace.

The Vignette newspaper staff in Fall 2011. Photo courtesy of the Vignette Facebook page.
The Vignette newspaper staff in Fall 2011. Photo courtesy of the Vignette Facebook page.

So when I went to Nassau Community College, it only made sense to timidly step into the Vignette‘s (the student-run college newspaper) office, with a piece about the how hackers replaced all the videos on the Sesame Street YouTube channel with porn in hand. The opinions editor exclaimed how happy he was to have someone write this, and subsequently put it in the next issue. I became a copy editor a semester later, then spearheaded the features section for the rest of my time at NCC.

I found a home.

The group, featuring myself, Bridget Downes, Sunasia (“Sunny”) Turnbow, Diana Lopez and others grew together like a crazy, semi-dysfunctional family. We talked about everything from sexuality and drugs to the poor state of the country. If you missed your birthday like I did, you’d find your desk drowning in colorful sticky notes. Don’t rule going to a themed party as if you were in the 1950s, either.

Sunasia Turnbow, Diana Lopez, Kara Curtin, Bridget Downes, Megan Murphy and I in Washington D.C. as springs began. Yes, we made it to the bus and survived the trip to the Newseum. Photo courtesy: Kara Curtin.

We could laugh through hell together. Imagine a fully loaded truck, with tires ready to burst any time, roaring through New York City to chase down a bus leaving for the Newseum in Washington D.C. We did stuff like that. We even overcame Superstorm Sandy and, in my opinion, pulled through the aftermath together.

Working with the editorial board to throw the paper together was a pleasure. It wasn’t work. I had no problem writing multiple stories in the Features section and contributing across the paper. There was freedom. I could write about anything, like Mitt Romney’s ridiculous plans to cut the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and just how and why Sandy was so devastating, to smaller things like the efforts of local blood drives to supply the nearby medical center. It was strangely satisfying.

Stuff like this led to Richard Conway, our faculty adviser, calling me “a shy tiger of a journalist.”

Accepting the SUNY Chancellors Award, given to less than 300 students in the entire SUNY system, from Chancellor Nancy Zimpfer in Albany. Photo credit: Joann Clausen.
Accepting the SUNY Chancellors Award for Student Excellence (CASE), given to less than 300 students in the entire SUNY system, from Chancellor Nancy Zimpher in Albany. Photo credit: Joann Clausen.

My career at NCC ended with a 4.0 GPA, dozens of articles published and several accolades.  I got recognition from my staff, the campus community and even the state of New York. But more importantly, I found my destiny as a journalist and a community of like-minded people.

Life here at Stony Brook University may be a struggle, but not being in the journalism program would be worse. It’s my very foundation.

Rocking the Photo Assignment

They say a photo is worth a thousand words. In the case of Ian Schafer, Bridget Downes and Jon Winkler’s story on RockYoFace’s mic night, almost every single word is quality.

The one downside is the shortness of captions. Knowing a little more about the people could have helped. Overall though, I love how the trio conquered low light conditions and used them to capture the event’s ambiance. The photos alone, spanning from wide to super tight, do the heavy lifting quite well. I can almost hear the music in my head!

That being said, here are a couple of interesting pictures:

The crowd at the University Cafe for the Open Mic Night. Photo Credit: Bridget Downes
The crowd at the University Cafe for the Open Mic Night. Photo Credit: Bridget Downes

The set-up shot is wonderful. There’s no doubting this is the University Café. But more importantly, it foreshadows the cool blue that would be present in a variety of later shots and introduces this as a performer’s haven. Also, with almost all eyes directed toward the stage standing as a warm-colored beacon, the contrast is an effective tool.

Tweaking the soundboard  to make sure levels are set for the Open Mic Night. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler
Tweaking the soundboard to make sure levels are set for the Open Mic Night. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler

Banking off from the wide blue photo is a colorful, medium behind the scenes shot, fulfilling the diversity quota. The angle shows the small, delicate details that need to be managed to make the show go just right. It is something attendees would otherwise ignore. For that reason alone, I can’t help but appreciate this picture.

Tony Gordon of Wonderfjul belts it. Photo Credit: Ian Schafer

I don’t know what song Tony Gordon sung, but I hear a musician singing something much deeper than what modern pop music offers. The depth of the darkness, extra space and warmth of the main subject are not a weakness in this case, creating something that goes beyond the event itself.  It doesn’t hurt that Gordon falls perfectly on the rule of thirds line, either. A similar theme can be found in some of Schafer’s other photos; they are of a nice, close-up quality that truly captures the moment, whether it’s striking a high note or a smile.

Don Uccellini plays a solo set with his hollow-bodied Gretsch. PC: Bridget Downes
Don Uccellini plays a solo set with his hollow-bodied Gretsch.
PC: Bridget Downes

Downes might’ve once quipped that she’s “doomed to have a future as a stock photographer,” but I humbly disagree. The diagonal angle conveys motion, also seen in the right hand’s motion blur. Some might not like that, but a higher shutter speed would have ruined the whole shot. The look on Uccellini’s face meanwhile showcases authentic passion. Combined with the strong contrast between the darkness and his red hollow-bodied Gretsch, I can’t help but love it. The artist is in his prime.

The crowd at Open Mic Night enjoying Nelson Pascuzzi's poetry
The crowd at Open Mic Night enjoying Nelson Pascuzzi’s poetry. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler.

A fitting way to end the assignment came with this photo, capturing an audience member mid-smile and others looking on. It implies that the performance was an enjoyable one for most people involved. One note here is that it’s a side profile rather than a full face shot, but the smile’s still clear. It’s a lovely environmental portrait, with what I presume are band posters in the background.

So, allow me to end on a fitting note too: rock on, guys.

Photos, Photos Everywhere

Stony Brook University is a huge campus. There’s always something to do (even if it doesn’t feel like it) or someone interesting to meet (even if you feel like you don’t have time). That being said, here are a few photo story ideas that we might be able to tackle:

A view outside a window in Douglass College in Tabler Quad. The snow continues. Photo credit: Janelle Clausen.
A view outside a window in Douglass College in Tabler Quad. The snow continues. Photo credit: Janelle Clausen.

a) Snowy Brook – Pardon the pun, but we really have seen nothing but snow lately. Do we even remember what grass looks like? One story idea is to try and find 10 to 15 places to sled on campus, both known and unknown, safe and mostly safe. While many people are familiar with Tabler’s hills, surely there must other places.

b) Bike America – Imagine you are taking a bike tour across America to fight cancer. How cool would that be to photograph? You would be exposed to the full spectrum of human emotion- sadness, joy, confusion, anger- and see countless places few could only dream of in your trip from sea to shining sea for a good cause. Unfortunately, the impossibility of shooting such a thing is as infinite as the possibilities would’ve been. The next best thing we have is attending“Bike America” here at Stony Brook University, which tells that story.

The show is centered around college students on a “journey of self-discovery,” so it is relevant. But every actor is deeply invested (or so I’d like to imagine) in their character and this show. An interesting photo event would be profiling everyone involved in the reimagined “Bike America” or telling the tale of what goes on to make this play work. As I discovered trying to profile EastLine Productions on Long Island, it isn’t easy.

Logistically, it’s slightly less impossible. It would require permission from the director, actors, Staller Center, and probably Theatre Arts department. But we would theoretically have until March 8 to arrange for something like this. Artsy people (or people in general) often don’t mind promoting their craft either.

Tristen Terracciano
Tristen Terracciano, 18, dressed as Zero from “Borderlands 2,” aims his ‘rifle’ while at NerdFest 2.0. People like him would likely be present at PAX East. Photo credit: Janelle Clausen

c) PAX East – Sorry, I’m cheating. This isn’t on Stony Brook campus, nor is it for the faint of heart. It will be from March 6 to March 8 in Boston, Massachusetts. The best way to describe it as is a major step-up from NerdFest 2.0 here at SBU, attracting thousands of people (game enthusiasts, more specifically). Note this description:

“Before PAX existed, the only place in North America you could see an E3 style exhibition floor was… well, it was E3. Since that show was for industry insiders only, PAX has been the only place the public could see, hear and experience the insanity that is a game industry expo hall. With over a hundred thousand square feet of show floor and all genres, platforms and styles of games represented, this area makes for one of the highlights to the PAX experience.”

There’d certainly be action. There’d be seemingly infinite people to photograph. You could tell their story of why they came here or of the spirit of the event in general. But perhaps, it’s also worth noting the universal relevance too: video games are one of the fastest growing entertainment mediums, constantly beating Hollywood. It might just be a battle getting to Boston though, considering the hours-long drive, hotel accommodations and buying tickets off Ebay.

No matter what you pick though, you can glimpse into another world. After all, that’s what photojournalism’s all about, right?

Lynsey Addarios: Showing the Depth of Human Tragedy

I had very little time to find a formal photoessay and write about it, but a profile on a photojournalist and her work has caught my eye. Her lone images are able to capture an entire story.

The brilliant assembly of photojournalism by Lynsey Addarios of the New York Times was recently featured in PBS NewsHour. She has visited several countries, like Sudan, the Congo, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. A major theme of hers is the  trauma resulting from sprees of kidnapping and war through Africa and the Middle East.

A portrait of Mapendo, a kidnapping and rape victim from South Kivu. Photo by Lynsey Addario.

The photo to the left is arguably one of the most powerful and most effective. This entire image encapsulates a story of widespread tragedy. The look in her eyes is powerful. The fact she is laying down shows weakness, almost defeat. When it comes down to it, this picture shows the victims of conflict. It’s something we need to act. Even the caption tells a powerful story:

Mapendo, 22, lies in her home in Burhale, South Kivu, weak and covered in a skin rash less than a year after she was kidnapped and raped by five men who wore uniforms and carried guns, in South Kivu, in Eastern Congo, April 14, 2008. Mapendo never had the chance to go to the hospital after she was attacked for lack of funds and transportation, and was so weak she could barely sit up. “I have sores all over my body and I have been suffering from these sores for many months now. I had a husband and child before I was raped. My child died suddenly when it was 3 years old. My husband was buried in the mines….”

The caption combined with the raw, hot colors, makes for ideal photojournalism. It may not be rule of thirds, but it is a unique, up close perspective.

Kahindo, another victim of rape ad kidnapping, sitting in a room with her two resulting children. Photo by Lynsey Addario.
Kahindo, another victim of rape and kidnapping, sitting in a room with her two resulting children. Photo by Lynsey Addario.

Another powerful image of hers, running along the same theme, takes a different perspective but masters it. The camera is distant. The subject, Kahindo, in North Kivu, sits in darkness with her two children who were conceived from a horrifying series of rapes. The dark seems symbolic of her life. It even serves as a framework for a life, just like it does in the photo.

Each photo presented her is symbolic, yet representative of a larger, human story on rape and kidnapping that takes us beyond numbers. All-in-all, I wish I had more time to appreciate the work of this journalist in a more formal photoessay and post, like many other smaller newspapers- and even NPR- have.

48 Seconds in Colonial Vigan

Trefor Moss tells the story of Vigan, a tourist hub in the northern Philippines, craving better infrastructure to get more revenue.

Trefor Video Screenshot
By clicking the above screenshot, you will redirected to a story about Vigan, a town struggling to attract foreign tourists and revenue. The video could not be embedded into WordPress. [Video and story by Trefor Moss / Screenshot by Janelle Clausen]
Moss’ imagery and narration leave no doubts that the city is unique. The cobble streets bustle with some natives, while fading buildings and old vehicles draw the eye. He even gets a shots of an older weaver and first person perspective of a horse-drawn carriage ride.

The interview shots leave lots of headroom, but the audio is quality and his sources verify what Vigan needs: foreign tourists and a rejuvenation of the local airport.

Trefor Moss provides a first person perspective of a ride through Vigan. Video by Trefor Moss/ Screenshot by Janelle Clausen.
A local businessman speaks with Trefor Moss. Screenshot by Janelle Clausen.
A local businessman speaks with Trefor Moss. Video by Trefor Moss/Screenshot by Janelle Clausen.

While perhaps not worthy of a Peabody Award, Moss demonstrated what mobile journalism is all about. The story was quick, clean and informative. It’s not a full length print piece, but a new world is opened to a global audience.

And just think, it only took 48 seconds and a smartphone!

The story has an option to be shared via Facebook, a hyperlink, or Twitter. As with any other video on the WorldStream app (which, unfortunately, hasn’t too active lately), it can be viewed anywhere from one’s phone without eating too much time. It is truly journalism on the go.

TreforOne concern comes with the Twitter handle beside the story. @ppr7l6 does not exist and could leave a viewer scratching their head. “Huh?” someone might ask. “Where is he?” So much for self-promotion.

At least that problem can be solved quickly by looking up his actual name (displayed beside and underneath the video) on Twitter and finding his actual Twitter handle (@Trefor1).

But the story doesn’t end there.

Moss, who specializes in covering the Philippines, has promoted and expanded upon his coverage via social media. The image he chose to showcase his longer piece gets one’s attention. It not only reveals that Vigan is alive (hence it being a tourist hub), but showcases 18th century Spanish architecture to prove the catching up it needs to do. Such a site is rare, yet fascinating.

Like any mobile journalist, he knows how to promote his stories. Moss also took an alternative approach (with the same article) to reach the more serious side of his audience with a colorful infographic on the Philippines’ abysmal record in attracting foreign tourists.

Now, if only the Wall Street Journal did not have a pay wall. Like Vigan’s lack of modern transportation and not so convenient infrastructure, the news site blocking the story does not encourage me to extend my stay. If I wasn’t a poor college student though, I’d consider subscribing for the journalistic quality.

y u do dis
Why do you do this to me, Wall Street Journal? Screenshot by Janelle Clausen.

NerdFest 2.0 Builds on Last Year’s Smashing Success

It was game on at NerdFest 2.0 at Stony Brook University.

The Gamers Guild, collaborating with several other clubs, hosted the second annual NerdFest in Student Activities Center Ballroom A on Feb. 13 from 5 to 10 p.m. It attracted over 100 people interested in all things “nerdy” throughout the night, like video games, science fiction, books and anime.

Science Fiction Forum President Anya Skylarova, 22, described NerdFest as something bringing “the nerdy clubs” together as a community.

“It’s basically sort of ‘anti-Valentine’s, but not really,” explained Science Fiction Forum President Anya Skylarova, 22. “We’re personally celebrating something we really, really love. We’re celebrating our passions, our fandoms, and that’s really what NerdFest is about.”

Board games like “Eldritch Horror” were stacked on chairs and round tables. Playing trading card games was also an option for some. It was also an opportunity to just chat and listen to a steady stream of gaming music pumping in the background.

But curious onlookers and gamers alike huddled around televisions, where “Super Smash Brothers” was a hit from the word “go.”

“My friends are coming here, so I thought I’d take a look,” said Jeremy Jacob, 19, a psychology major. “I’m into the [“Super Smash Brothers”] Brawl, Melee scene and it’s pretty cool.”

People generally came in casual attire like T-shirts showing off their interests, but some took it to the next level. Dumbledore’s Army club members behind their assigned table seemingly jumped from the pages of the Harry Potter series, as they helped other people make wands with sticks, paint and super glue.

Marion Johnson, 20, an English major in a blue TARDIS dress, paid tribute to both Doctor Who and Harry Potter.

There were also a few cosplayers, people dressed up as fictional characters, who put more than two days into their craft and attracted major attention.

Tristen Terracciano, 18, a freshman Computer Science major, fully dedicated himself into creating his costume to become Zero, a character from Borderlands 2. He views it as an extension of himself.

“I chose Zero because I think he’s a badass and I figure I emulate him very well,” Terracciano said. “He’s in the shadows and he’s an assassin. It took me about 50 hours to make this entire costume.”

Alice Quiros, president of The Gamers Guild, weaved through a myriad of obstacles to set up the event. It involved getting the contact information of all the other clubs and finding funding for such a large event- not an easy task, considering “a few more clubs” were involved than last year. While it was “still good,” there was one small issue.

“We don’t have a sandwich bar sadly, which was a favorite last year,” Quiros said.

But it was still good enough for Jonathan Stein, a recent SBU grad, who returned just to see his old friends at NerdFest 2.0. To him, it seemed “even bigger than last year.”

“It’s gotten more people, it’s gotten more games and things to do everywhere, more clubs doing things, making wands, doing puzzles, playing video games, ‘Smash Brothers’- I need to do that later,” Stein explained.

But there was one thing people definitely weren’t doing here.

“It’s NerdFest,” Stein joked. “It’s not like anybody’s dating one.”