Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Posts Tagged ‘UMass’

Monday Morning Intern: Yes, there are journalism majors in 2009

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 29, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please tune in Mondays to hear about Emily’s latest intern adventures. Extra credit to Emily this week as she writes this post from home, suffering from a broken foot!

“What’s your major?”


“Oh, so you want to write for a newspaper?”

“Not necessarily.”

This conversation happens in my life often, along with looks of pity for picking a major the world believes is dying. I usually spend the next part of the conversation trying to convince friends and family why it is a good major for me, but it seems they’re stuck on the word “journalism” and nothing I say can persuade them to think more positively.

First, it is important to remember that journalism is not dying, it’s changing. Secondly, the skills learned in journalism can be applied to many other professions besides working in the news industry. After all, Sandy Lish, co-founder of The Castle Group, was a journalismmajor at UMass Amherst as well.

“I entered the major backwards, I knew I didn’t want to be a journalist but I knew I liked to write,” said Sandy. The skills she learned in school were useful, she said, but that having internships was what helped her decide what she really wanted to do. This is a similar path I have taken, and my education so far has been very applicable to this internship.

Since public relations deals with reporters, it helps to know what reporters are looking for. Researching publications is key to making sure you pitch stories to the right people.

This real-world experience shows the relevancy of my course load. Similar to pitching stories for a client, in Magazine Writing I learned how to write successful query letters from my professor Mel Allen.  

In Newswriting and Reporting, a requirement for journalism majors, I learned how to write and edit in AP style, the style used at The Castle Group, from my professor George Forcier. I also learned reporting skills which has made me more comfortable asking questions, speaking on the phone and doing online research.

As discussed in my last blog post, social media is an increasingly important part of all businesses. In Multimedia Journalism taught by Steve Fox, I learned how to successfully build profiles on these sites. I also learned how to make effective news packages including video, audio, photography and writing. These are all skills reporters must know now in order to succeed in the news industry. These skills are also useful when helping clients promote their products or services.

The list goes on, and it is clear to me that the journalism classes I’ve taken have helped me reach my goals. Although I have never taken a class specific to public relations, I still have an understanding of the skills needed to work here. What I learn here is also something I could not get out of a classroom, and thankfully the journalism department at UMass is very aware of the importance of internships.

Sandy, who said she often felt like “a fish out of water” for being a journalism major who did not want to be a journalist thinks that perhaps the journalism department should change its name. Since the communications department at UMass focuses more on the theory of communication than the industry of communications itself, for people like Sandy and me, this major did not fit what we wanted.

“Maybe it’s a branding issue, maybe it shouldn’t be called journalism anymore,” said Sandy. However, despite its name, she said it is more about what you take from your work experiences than the name of your major that determines your success. Her advice is to take any opportunity available and make the most of your skills, and apply them to your ultimate goals. “Don’t lose sight of what you want. Everything leads to something else.”

When I picked journalism as a major, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew I liked to research, write and talk to people. The classes and internships I’ve had so far have helped me further shape my goals and ultimately made me realize the possibilities are vast. With Sandy as an inspiration, I now know that those who question the practicality of journalism are definitely mistaken.

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Monday Morning Intern

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 15, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please tune in Mondays to hear about Emily’s latest intern adventures.


Here it is: the intern blog, a once forbidden concept now encouraged by more employers as the social media world expands. When company blogs first emerged, the idea of posts by interns may have been seen as irrelevant due to a misunderstanding of how much their interns had to offer. The Castle Group has always been an exception in that regard and other companies should take their lead. They utilize their interns to the max and encourage us to utilize them, not just for “grunt work” but for ideas. For instance, this very idea of an intern blog came from a social media meeting I had with the senior vice president, Mark O’Toole. Interns at other businesses would be lucky to even meet the SVP, let alone exchange ideas. Yet, here I am, with a fantastic opportunity to write and in turn help The Castle Group expand on their already fabulous blog. I can’t help but point out this matches perfectly with The Castle Group’s mission of “two-way street” communications.

The internship program has been around since The Castle Group was founded in 1996 by University of Massachusetts Amherst alumni Sandy Lish and Wendy Spivak (Go UMass!). They appreciated students’ need for experience before entering the business world and have made a permanent place for students to come and learn. As their website says, many interns have stayed for multiple semesters and in some cases found employment upon graduation. This is a clear sign of a symbiotic relationship.

The orientation that Kristina McSharry, the events intern, and I went through together set the grounds for a successful relationship to build upon. While each internship that I’ve had has been a great experience in its own way, none of them started off with a day full of meetings with almost everyone in the company. We were introduced to everyone in small groups, learned which accounts they worked on, what kinds of projects we would assist them with and, most importantly, were encouraged to be as involved as possible. From there not only did it make it easier to remember everyone’s names, but also to not feel as intimidated to ask questions or reach out to others.

In blog posts to come, I plan to write about the abundance of things I am learning. In addition, I hope to reach out to other intern bloggers to get an idea of what their readers find important or interesting. Ultimately, I hope to further expand a positive image of The Castle Group through social media so that I can give back to the company that has given me a priceless opportunity.

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