Alumni share magazine success stories

What do the associate editor of MAD magazine and the Web editor of and have in common? They are both alumni of the College who returned to share their success stories with aspiring magazine editors and journalism students at the student-run panel discussion, Breaking into the Magazine Business, on Oct. 8.

The event was sponsored by Ed@TCNJ, the campus chapter of a national networking group, Ed2010, that’s dedicated to helping college students reach their dream magazine jobs by the year 2010. Tammy Tibbetts, one of the panelists, also founded the chapter at the College.

Over 50 people attended the standing room-only event and listened as Dave Croatto of MAD and Web editor Tibbetts fielded questions from club president Sharon Tharp and vice president Nancy Sai.

Croatto, who grew up reading MAD and dreaming of one day writing jokes for them, got an internship with the publication the summer of his freshman year at the College and is now in his fifth year on staff at the magazine. Croatto, a former Opinions editor at The Signal, cited his time at the paper and “being forced to write every week” as some of the most valuable preparation for his career.

Tibbetts, who originally wanted to be a print journalist, landed a dream internship of her own at “Ladies Home Journal” but later turned down a position there for a chance to take control of two up-and-coming Web sites as an editor for Hearst Digital Media. She enjoys being in control of the product and being able to take part in every aspect of production at the Web sites.

Tibbetts, a former journalism student with minors in Spanish and womens and gender studies, also cited her time with The Signal as excellent preparation for her present job. She feels that her minors have come in handy, allowing her a better understanding of the young girls and Hispanic population that she writes for.

When asked if he would change anything about his college experience, Croatto said he would try to do a lot more and urged present students to “try everything, fail at it while you can . There’s this huge safety net right now. You’re 20, it’s okay (to fail).” Tibbetts echoed Croatto’s advice and felt that passion is what students need to succeed in their chosen field.

During the Q-and-A session, an audience member asked the editors how to survive in the changing world of journalism where it seems print publications are becoming a thing of the past.

Tibbetts felt that when it comes to digital media her age was a huge asset when she started out simply because she was so familiar with computers and what people her age wanted in an online publication. She feels that some skills will never go out of style.

Croatto added, “It’s all about how you spin yourself. Emphasize what skills you have that are relevant to bridging the two fields.”

For those students who will be pursuing internships of their own, Tibbetts warned of “the photocopy test.” She said the interns who will be successful are the ones who can follow simple copying instructions the best and don’t view the task as being “beneath them.” According to Tibbetts, an intern’s job is to make the editors look good above all else.

Croatto added his own advice for how to make an impression on potential employers. “Be good. Be confident. Look people in the eye. Send a thank-you note and follow through without being stalkerish.”

When asked to leave the crowd with some final pieces of advice, Croatto said, “Write a lot: The Signal, Unbound, any place you can, even if you think they’re jerks or cliquey, it’s not gonna be any less cliquey out there in the real world.”

The crowd seemed to enjoy the humorous and heartfelt advice of Tibbetts and Croatto, many lingering after the panel to speak with the two editors. In continuing with Ed@TCNJ’s tradition of mentoring, Jennifer Smith, senior communication studies major, said, “I definitely hope to follow in their footsteps – maybe I’ll even be lucky enough to come back to (the College) with my own Ed success story!”