Boston fashionistas in the blogosphere

In today’s incredibly competitive fashion industry, young hopefuls desperately trying to break into the scene have an easy way to start: blogging.

Sarah McManus fits that mold perfectly. A 2005 Northeastern graduate, Sarah is a fashion stylist and blogger who started her own site, ShopSarahMac.com, last summer. Although she had been working privately as a fashion consultant she found that moving to the Internet really helped her business. Within a week of creating her own website, she already had a new client.  

“People have really been responsive,” said Sarah of her site. “It just picked up sort of a fan base. I didn’t even think I was a good writer or anything, but people really started to like it.”

Writing wasn’t even something Sarah had thought about until after ShopSarahMac had been up and running. Once she had the platform, she found that it wasn’t hard to write her own posts. “With my job I’m always looking for stuff, clothes and shoes and makeup,” explained Sarah, who uses her shoping finds as inspiration for her writing.

Currently, Sarah writes a weekly “Boston Trends” column for the Examiner, a hyperlocal news site that allows writers to share their thoughts on a specific subject. She is also a contributing writer for AnyWearGirl and ShopItToMe. Sarah began writing for ShopItToMe from a connection she made through her Twitter. Although she never saw herself as a “twitter-er” she has discovered it is an amazing tool.

“I just found a lot of fashion people putting up links to their posts. I found that when you do those things people really go to the page and really look at it,” explained Sarah of Twitter. “You meet the same people in your circle. I’ve met so many people in Boston that I didn’t know before.”

A few weeks ago, Sarah went on what she describes as a “first date” with a Boston Herald writer that she met on Twitter. After interacting on Twitter, the two decided they had a lot in common and went to grab lunch away from the computer screen and out in the real world. Although Sarah says their initial meeting was a bit awkward at first, she believes it’s those connections that make utilizing social networking sites completely worthwhile.

“It really does make a difference. You can see who works where and get in with them that way. You just meet the same sort of people and then, once you start talking, it’s ‘Hey want to do a shoot?’ or ‘Do you want to be part of this style Boston thing?’ Staying in touch with those people is definitely a good idea, and that’s how you can – by using Facebook and Twitter. It just seems easier now than anything else.”

Kara Weymouth is another Boston fashion blogger who utilizes social media. She has been blogging and tweeting under the name Bostonista since she graduated from Emmanuel College in 2007.

“Twitter and Facebook are definitely amazing tools if used in the right ways. It’s really unbelievable what you can do with them. I definitely have made contacts that way, in terms of editors and writing and it definitely is a great tool,” she explained.

Kara is currently working full time as a kindergarten teacher. Although she hopes to one day break into the fashion industry, she isn’t quite ready to give up a steady paycheck to make the jump. In the meantime, she has found that blogging is a great way to get her feet wet.

“It’s not exactly a great market right now,” noted Kara of the fashion industry. “I think blogging is a really great way just to get into it and to get yourself out there.”

The beautiful Martini Severin, BeyondBostonChic.com blogger. Click the image for more pictures of Sarah, Martini & Boston fashion. Photo credits to http://fashioni.st

For Martini Severin, blogger at beyondbostonchic.com, simply writing about fashion is what she loves. Martini started blogging when she noticed a lack of Boston fashion writers in the blogosphere.

“I was always interested in the arts, in photography and design and anything having to do with making things look pretty. Clothes and fashion seemed to be kind of an extension of that,” explained Martini, who works full time at a non-profit working on child development policy.

“As a byproduct of that I started looking at a lot of the street style blogs, and just at blogs in general,” she said.  “I noticed that there weren’t that many in Boston. I thought, well you know Boston isn’t know for fashion however there are people who are quite stylish and doing quite wonderful things here. I wanted to be able to tap into that and capture the essence of the city.”

While Martini doesn’t utilize social media, she believes that being a blogger isn’t about hits or advertisements, but about having a conversation with other people on the Internet.

“What you really want is to communicate with people and open a dialogue,” said Martini. I think I’m slowly building my community and really figuring out who my readers and what they’re about.”

She feels her voice as a blogger is unique, and although it’s only her unpaid side job, she finds simple joy in thinking and writing about fashion.

“It sounds really flippant, but it’s an interesting thing to think about what really shapes our society and to actively take time to notice how people are expressing themselves,” said Martini. “I think normally I would just keep those things to myself, but because I’m a blogger, when something strikes me I can actually talk about it, I can open a discussion about it and see what people are thinking and feeling.”

April 27, 2010. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Making ourselves marketable

Today, Dan Gregory, faculty advisor at Northeastern’s School of Technological Entrepreneurship, came to speak with us about entrepreneurship. In 2001, Gregory’s company fell apart, and he began a consulting business to help clients launch new start up companies.

He spoke with us about gaining marketable skills and his work with students in helping them create ideas and begin start up companies. As he was addressing a room full of journalism students, he had us mention skills we have gained that may make us good employees in the future. As journalists, we write well, gather information, write and produce on deadline, communicate clearly, have a range of social and multimedia skills and as a whole, have the ability to know what kinds of questions to ask, and when.

Making yourself marketable isn’t something that’s easy. Here at Northeastern, we’re the step above, as we have the co-op program and strong resumes to back up our skills once we graduate. As we speak, I am in the middle of my co-op search, and am learning how to represent myself. I am surrounded by people, both at Northeastern and across the country, struggling with the same question – how do we market ourselves?

As a soon to be senior, I’m definitely starting to worry about where the future will take me. I know that I have great skills, but how can I apply those skills to something I really love? This fashion blog has been a wonderful outlet for that – being able to write about something I love (and am probably too opinionated about) has been great. The problem in my mind is that everyone has a fashion blog, and everyone can be opinionated, and now, absolutely everyone can create a blog. So how do I set myself apart, especially in an incredibly competitive industry, like fashion writing?

I guess that’s something I’m still grappling with. If you have any ideas, feel free to send them my way. In the mean time, I’m still crossing my fingers for my dream job working for the Regionals at the Boston Globe. Ah, the waiting game.

April 14, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The debate surrounding anonymous comments

Today, I was pointed to a New York Times article about how news sites are rethinking anonymous comments. To be honest, I don’t exactly find this a compelling debate. As a journalist and a blogger, I both encourage comments (both positive and negative) on my stories and posts, and expect that anything said on the internet, even if it is posted under the veil of anonymity, can be traced back to an IP address. I fully support news sites requiring users to register with their full name and email address – this is a completely valid requirement and one that most sites should eventually adhere to. That being said, there’s no chance that every single user, especially on sites like the New York Times and Boston.com, will actually follow those rules.

In cases like the one involving Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold, in which more than 80 comments linked to the Judge’s personal email address were posted to The Plain Dealer’s website, I believe the editor had every right to expose the true identity of the commenter. This woman is a public figure, and the postings on the articles had to do specifically with the rulings made on cases she had faced in her court room. Just because she posted using a generic username “lawmiss” does not mean she is not responsible for the comments. As mentioned before, posting anonymously on the internet has consequences, and if you are willing to say (or type) things, you should be willing to own up to them – it’s as simple as that.

As journalists, we write knowing that we’ve got the first amendment behind us – the freedom of speech, the freedom to express ourselves and, more importantly, report the truth. That is what merits the exposure of Judge Saffold, and that is what merits all investigative journalism. Just because we as journalists have graduated from j-school and been hired by a publication doesn’t mean we are all knowing, and sometimes we need negative comments and the public eye to keep us in check. If we can write what we want, why shouldn’t commenters be able to do the same?

There will always be morons in this world, whether they’re yelling at us on the streets, at work or in the privacy of their own homes via the internet. If somebody has something particularly nasty to say, it’s their right to say it. Delete the comment or ignore it and move on. I hope you’ve got bigger and better things to worry about.

April 12, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Also Know As: Love

Lovetta Conto is no ordinary girl. Born in Liberia, Africa on the brink of war, Lovetta was forced to leave her mother & move with her father to a refugee camp in Ghana. Although the camp housed over 47,000 displaced Africans, Lovetta managed to stand out in her community. She helped build a school for children with no families at the camp, and helped advocate for special education for disabled children because of her blind friend.

At the camp, Strongheart Fellowship founder Cori Stern spotted Lovetta. She met with other members of the team, and based on her “inner resilience and exceptional leadership aptitude,” she was chosen to be the first “Strongheart Fellow”.

Lovetta was brought to America and has since grown immensely as an individual. She is now seventeen, and has learned to read and write. She has also created her own jewelry line, Akawelle, a name that comes from the term “aka – also known as” and “wel’le” which means love in Lovetta’s native language.

The beautiful Akawelle necklace my mom sent me

The necklace Lovetta designed is made from bullets that came from Libera. Although the conflict in Liberia ended in 2003, thousands of shell casings from bullets are found scattered across the land. The bottom of the bullet shell is included on the necklace, as well as a handcrafted leaf pendant made from melted bullet shells.

“I chose the word “life” to be inscribed into the leaf to remind myself that new life can begin after hardship. It is even possible for new life to arise from something as terrible as war. Men and women can both wear the bullet and leaf. It’s strong – I hope they remind each person who wears them that no matter what they’ve been through, they can rise.”

A friend of my mom’s gave her one of the necklaces that Lovetta makes. My mom, inspired by the story and knowing that she would probably never actually wear the piece, mailed it to me. I got it in the mail today, and I already plan to wear the necklace all the time. I love the message of her cause, and how much incredible work she is doing with her life. Necklaces are available for sale on the website. They are a bit pricy – the one my mom sent me is priced at $75 – but the proceeds benefit an amazing cause, and if you have the cash to splurge, are totally worth it.

April 9, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

In news we trust

These days, there are a million and one places to read the news. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a traditionalist who sits down at the breakfast table with your Cheerios & the morning paper, an on-the-go reader who skims the headlines on your smartphone on the commute to work or somebody who simply flips on the TV to catch the morning or evening news – everyone has their own news consumption habits based on their lifestyle. With blogs and independent websites growing faster than ever, news consumers have a multitude of options when it comes to what, how, when and where they are reading about what’s going on in their community, country and around the world.

Newstrust is a website that takes news consumption of the twenty first century a step further. The site allows news consumers to post and rate stories they’ve read from a multitude of news websites. Users, who are required to register using their full names, can read articles and comments posted by others, post stories they’ve come across or written themselves and comment and rate other stories that have already been posted.

recently signed up for Newstrust, as I’d never heard of the site prior to the introduction Mike LaBonte gave our class on Monday afternoon. I added and rated three stories to the site – a New York Times article about cyber bullying, an LA Times story about off-shore drilling in California and a Boston.com feature about at home shopping parties.

Once you’ve registered, the site is relatively easy to navigate. I created a profile and immediately started uploading stories, reading other articles people had posted and poked around in the different news categories. Rating stories is relatively easy – it’s much more convenient if the news site you’re using has the rating toolbar built into their site, but either way, assigning numbers to stories and adding commentary is relatively easy. It is, however, tedious. Having to answer a handful of general questions about a news article, ranging from how factually accurate the story is to how relevant and well written it is, wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I’m a busy student – I have a full course load, I work part time and when I do sit down to read the news, it isn’t necessarily to over analyze articles. And to be honest, there is so much news out there, I’d much rather be spending my time reading a second article instead of choosing whether a particular story deserves a 3.3 or a 3.7 rating. If a story I read is bad, I shrug and click to a different page. If it’s good, I post the link to my twitter account so my friends can read it as well.

While I believe Newstrust is based on a noble concept, I don’t think it will be a mainstream site any time soon. The majority of Americans barely read the news, let alone have time to rate it. The average news consumer doesn’t have time to sit down and rate every news story he or she reads and I just don’t see most Americans taking time out of their schedules to post an article to the site.

However, if a news consumer were looking for a more in depth analysis of the news, Newstrust is an excellent resource for them to utilize. And for those select few who are constantly watching, reading and breathing news coverage, Newstrust is a great site for observing what others are saying about the stories they’re reading.

As for me? I think I’ll just read the comment section.

April 8, 2010. Tags: . Class Posts. Leave a comment.

What’s journalism without… math?

Walk into a college lecture hall filled with journalism majors and ask the students sitting in front of you to raise their hands if they hate math. I can almost guarantee you that every single hand will be raised. It’s no secret that us word folk aren’t exactly fans of those things you call numbers and equations.

What is a secret, one that Boston Globe reporter Matt Carroll has been aware of for a number of years, is that however scary math and number analysis can seem on the surface, in reality, understanding those numbers can do wonders for the average newspaper story.

“Database journalism is important and understanding Excel can give you big boost,” said Carroll, who is the brain behind the “Mass Facts” section on Boston.com. Carroll has used his number knowledge to analyze everything from the percentage of male school teachers in Massachusetts school districts to how many Dunkin Donuts each MA town really has.

Some of these numbers may seem irrelevant – who cares how many Dunkin Donuts actually exist in Weymouth, right? But when working on larger articles, especially investigative pieces, numbers can add a great deal of weight to a story.

Carroll showed our class how to use Many Eyes, a free online tool for displaying data sets. The site allows anybody to upload data sets and display them graphically in a multitude of ways. Once uploaded, these sets become public domain, but the results are visually fascinating. Check out this map, which shows the percentage of the United States work force that are employed fashion designers.  Along the same lines but displayed completely differently, here is a bubble chart that displays the number of fashion designers, by city, in the US.

“It changes your viewpoint,” explained Carroll in regards to his use of numbers. “Nobody else had these numbers. Nobody else thought to look at them.”

April 4, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Rejection, relief and more waiting

My official J Crew rejection letter

This morning, I awoke to a flat, hand addressed envelope from J Crew in my mailbox. I knew immediately that they were rejecting me, and wasn’t even going to bother opening the letter until later. Instead, my curious roommate Lyndsey ripped open the envelope and read the letter out loud. I was bummed, but eventually we both started laughing at how ridiculous the letter sounded. I wondered why the manager didn’t just call me directly, and why the company needed to send me an official rejection letter.

But to be honest, I was pretty relieved to get the letter. There are a multitude of reasons why, but the biggest is that over the past two weeks, I’ve been planning a cross-country road trip with my friend Alex. Once I’m done with classes at the end of April, I have all of May & June off with nothing to do. Alex finishes finals at UPenn the first week of May, and has a month off before he starts a summer internship in Los Angeles.

The plans for my road trip with Alex this summer!

We’ve been hypothetically plotting this trip for a few years, but now we both have the time off to actually make it happen. Alex’s mom offered to let us drive her car, so we would start the trip in LA and end in Boston. I can’t stop thinking about the trip, and I’ve spent hours making maps, googling cities and adding to the itinerary and budget sheet Alex and I have created.

So what does this have to do with J Crew? If they had offered me the job, I would have been tempted to take it, meaning I would be forced to be in Boston all of May & June to work. While my bank account would be much happier with me making money (although lets be honest, I’d probably spend my whole pay check on their clothes anyways) rather than spending it, just the idea of my road trip dream going out the window makes me cringe. Really, the rejection is a good thing, especially since once I start a full time co-op in July I’m not going to want to be working retail on the weekends. I am bummed, because J Crew seems like an awesome company to work for, but I think my stint in retail is over, at least for now.

On the topic of jobs, I got a very disappointing email from my co-op advisor today, saying that the Globe won’t be making calls about second interviews until the end of next week. On that front, the waiting game continues.

April 1, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 10 comments.