Five Ways to Utilize Pinterest as a Student Journalist

An African elephant photographed on Becca's favorite continent. Courtesy of Worldwide Challenge photography team
An African elephant photographed on Becca’s favorite continent. Courtesy of Worldwide Challenge photography team

So, my boss, Becky is having a baby, and the women I work with are planning a shower for her.

Recently, Becca Gonzales, one of the newest writers on our team and a graduate of The University of New Mexico, showed me how to find baby shower ideas on Pinterest. After we examined fun shower games and party favors, she showed me how to find writing advice and pin it to one of my boards. Now I’m hooked.

Below, Becca, who earned a degree in Multi-media Journalism with a Psych minor, describes five ways student journalists can use Pinterest to find ideas and organize their thoughts. Really, though, any writer can benefit from using these ideas.

You can find Becca here: here:


Pinterest is not just for aspiring Martha Stuarts any more.

Pinterest – a popular and unique social networking site – has gained traction since its founding in March 2010. The site allows users to choose “pins” from their favorite websites and photos, and organize their interests into categories. Popular categories include fashion, food and, of course, crafts.

But news publications have begun to create their own Pinterest accounts and the site is becoming more widely-utilized as a whole. Student journalists have long been encouraged to create professional Facebook and Twitter accounts for the sake of their future career. But these same students – whether their interests lie in breaking-news broadcast or magazine features – can learn from hopping onto this trend as well.

Here are five ways student journalists can make the most of their Pinterest account.

Follow the media

Like Twitter, and most other social networking sites, Pinterest is only truly valuable when you do not go it alone. Follow people, follow them widely and follow those most important and relevant to you. 

That said the news media have begun to create Pinterest accounts themselves. The New York Times, CNN and Vogue magazine all have Pinterest accounts, as do many smaller news publications. Following these publications on Pinterest can allow you first access to any visuals which may accompany big stories or alert you to national trends that you may want to write about later. Following these publications, just like reading their stories, can help you learn how to be an efficient journalist as well, even on Pinterest.

Follow your audience

Any journalist knows that you, your editor and your boss primarily answer to one group of people – your audience. Newspapers were founded for the good of public information and discourse, and magazines write for their readers. If there is any group of people who will lead you to your audience’s interest and understanding of issues, it is your audience itself. So follow your audience.

Follow your friends, your peers, and the community of people you write for. This often can indicate trends in interests, pop culture and consumerism. Certain circulating quotes can point to prominent figures who your audience would like to know more about – so perhaps there is a profile awaiting. Likewise, travel boards can indicate places they would like to explore, even if from afar, and videos may point to issues worth discussing. Pinterest is the perfect place to locate public interest, as this was what the site was created for. Take advantage of this to speak to your readers. 

Get the word out 

Like Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest is a means of advertising your own stories and the stories of the publication you write for. Include an interesting graphic or photograph with your story (and if it is not your own, be sure to credit your source), and pin it! This can be especially helpful if you are writing on a subject that fits neatly into one of Pinterest’s popular categories, such as fashion or travel. 

However, even if your story does not fit into one of these categories, pinning it can be helpful. Utilizing hashtags, which are albeit less popular on Pinterest than on Twitter and Instagram, can help reach people who are not following you but are interested in the subject of your article. Even if your first couple of articles do not gain traction on Pinterest, putting your work and information out on as many platforms as possible is always beneficial. 

Collect your thoughts and ideas 

Whether you are a student journalist, or just the average Joe or Jane, Pinterest is a great means of simply categorizing your interests, thoughts and ideas. This can be especially helpful with thoughts and ideas pertaining to potential stories. Finding an interesting YouTube video, a blog on a hot topic or an intriguing website and pinning it to an “ideas” board may eventually lead you to a novel topic, subject or angle. This approach can produce outstanding evergreen features and make you aware of trends. And who doesn’t like a collection of interesting ideas for a dry week on the student paper? Using Pinterest the way most users do – to simply collect one’s thoughts and interests – is valuable as well. 

Collect inspiration and guidelines 

Similarly, collecting specific news inspiration and guidelines onto one board can be helpful as well. Media is ever-evolving, and there are people and websites doing interesting things which student journalists may want to stick in their pocket for later. Jonathan Harris’s projects with social media, Mariane Pearl’s collection of inspirational and investigative stories and essays and journalists with thoughts on media ethics, philosophy and theory are starting points in collecting media inspiration. Helpful guidelines to pin may include AP Style websites or the Media Law Resource Center. 

These are some of the several ways to utilize this social media network. Hop on the network, explore what else there is to see and pin away!

Is It a Good Idea?

Mountains in Kazakhstan (Photo by Tom Mills, Worldwide Challenge photographer)
Mountains in Kazakhstan (Photo by Tom Mills, Worldwide Challenge photographer)

Content comes from ideas. Sometimes it’s a story someone else tells. Other times it’s an opinion someone expresses. Still other times ideas come from reading what others have already written and then forming an opinion about it. But is it a good idea?

Here are 8 ways to assess a story idea.

1) Where did your idea come from?

If it came from reporting, it’s probably a stronger idea than one that just popped into your head. Did your reporting suggest a trend? Did it turn up a fascinating person? Did something puzzle or intrigue you?

2) Is the idea original?

3) Does the idea surprise you?

If not, how will it surprise your readers? Will they invest the time to read a story if they already know pretty much everything by reading the headline?

4) Does the idea have movement to it?

What’s movement? It’s change, motion, direction – something that’s new, something people are developing interest in, starting to talk about, or think about, or plan for.

5) Is there a story there?

6)Is there tension?

Tension comes with conflict, a problem to be overcome, a mystery to be solved. Tension is reading the first paragraph of a story and not knowing what the last paragraph is going to say.

7) Is the story true?

8) Do YOU like the story?

You’re going to be spending a lot of time working on this piece. Shouldn’t it be something you love doing? How can you expect your editors and readers to enjoy a story if you haven’t?

This is an excerpt from page 118 of INSIDE REPORTING. It first appeared in Amanda Bennett’s “TESTING YOUR IDEAS” article. Bennet originally listed 10 ideas, INSIDE REPORTING cut the list to 8 ideas:

“But I’m Not a Writer…,” she said.

colored pencils
Photo courtesy of


I hear this refrain frequently. And my reply is the same every time.

If you understand and practice the process, you can become a better writer.

Most of us think we bring a big idea with us, sit down at a computer, and bang out something brilliant in 30 minutes or less. When that doesn’t happen, we immediately conclude we can’t write, at least not very well.

Think about applying that method to building a house, or baking a cake, or playing a sport. None of  us would attempt to do those things without first planning and practicing.

Writing is a five-step process. If you work the steps, your writing will improve. I can guarantee it because I’ve watched it happen for other people.

The Writing Process:

1. Gather: Collect all of the information you will need to write your piece from start to finish.

2. Sort: Look through all of your information and ask yourself, “What is this really about?” Write down (or type) your answer in a sentence or two. Can you be more specific. This is the hardest part of the writing process. Get this right, and the rest won’t seem so difficult. Out of all the information you gathered, choose the pieces that best illustrate what you are writing about.

3. Organize: Order the pieces you have chosen into a format that makes sense to your reader. You will always understand your own writing because you wrote it. The true test of clarity comes when your writing makes sense to your audience. By ordering your thoughts in a logical progression, you  aid your readers as they seek to understand our message.

4. Write: Now that you’ve done the hard work of gathering, sorting and organizing, it’s time to write. Start at the beginning, end at the end. Read it out loud when you’re done. Ask someone else to read it.

5. Rewrite: Learn how skillfully using just five parts of speech can energize your writing. Explore six different ways to start a sentence that doesn’t begin with your subject. Consider integrating a bevy of tips and tricks into your writing repertoire.

But what about creativity? Isn’t all that structure stuff too confining? Can’t I just express myself? Let’s explore those thoughts together in the coming days and see what we can learn from each other.