The Journalism Industry: An Editor’s Perspective

Nora Turriago ’16
Contributing Writer

On April 8 at the Campus Center, Justine Harman, a New York-based journalist and assistant editor at ELLE magazine, met with Smith students for an informal lunch gathering, where she discussed her career path and the journalism industry, and gave advice to those looking to pursue careers in journalism.

“It took me years of trial and error,” Harman said, reflecting on the journey to her current career at ELLE magazine. After graduating in 2006 from the University of Pennsylvania, she spent two years at WKT Public Relations. She began blogging about her work experiences, and soon started a job in an assistant position at People.com that later turned into the role of a fashion writer at PeopleStyleWatch. Now at ELLE magazine, Harman had plenty of experience to share with curious students.

For Harman, when she first approached the magazine business – particularly with a focus on fashion and entertainment – she questioned how to make it in an unfair industry, especially an elitist one. She stressed the importance of taking initiative when looking for opportunities in the journalism industry, be it through submitting pieces to newspapers, maintaining a blog or doing an internship. Through these various platforms, she maintains that those interested in journalism will gain experience, as well as a body of work.

“Have something to come in with, guns blazing,” Harman said, pointing out how crucial a portfolio of work is. “Give it to them straight, write it really smart, keep it clean, have a second set of eyes on it.” With a constant demand for internship positions in the journalism industry, a body of work that reflects effort and care will stand apart from the rest.

Once an internship is secured, Harman spoke about the distinguishing factors between a good intern versus a great intern.

“A great intern can read the social cues around them, and can tell when you’re really busy,” Harman said. “Be professional, mature and really conscientious about the people around you and what they need.” With a successful internship, networking with others in the industry has the possibility of leading to new jobs. Harman explained that her contacts from her previous job in public relations came in handy with her later work – especially since no one else had those connections.

When choosing the body of work to show possible employers, Harman reminded students to be sure to target their audience. If someone applied for an internship at ELLE magazine, Harman mentioned, and submitted an article on basket weaving, “that would not get my attention.”

Portfolios should also be rid of errors. “Make them look as professional as possible, as if you had written for the New York Times – because some of these applicants probably did.” Harman also encouraged students to use the Smith alumnae network, and to check out websites like www.ed2010.com and www.mediabistro.com for possible internships and jobs in the journalism and fashion industries.

Leave a Comment