“Don’t be scared of pitching. Don’t take it personally. I still struggle with this everyday but I try to remind myself to just shut off my brain and press send.”
We are proud to feature Sophie Massie as our June alumna of the month. Sophie graduated from the Journalism program in December 2014 and is now a freelance travel writer. Her work recently led her to write about Budapest and Cuba. Read more about Sophie’s most important memory from being in the program and how her work for National Geographic prepared her for Capstone.
MPS Journalism: Why did you choose to attend Georgetown’s Journalism program? How did you hear about us?
Sophie Massie: Location was very important in my decision to attend Georgetown. After living abroad I wanted to be near family in Virginia, and I wanted to situate myself within striking distance of the National Geographic Society- a travel writer’s dream! I also liked how the program catered to professionals with demanding schedules. The program seemed in tune with the real world, with working journalists moonlighting as academics, not the other way around.
MPS JO: How has your degree from the Journalism program helped you in your current job?
SM: As a freelancer who dabbles in all things editorial, I benefited from Georgetown’s wide curriculum of skills-based courses. Video journalism, web design, audio storytelling – all these employ different techniques to achieve the same goal: telling good stories. During my first semesters at Georgetown, I took advantage of academic internships unavailable to non-students.
Interning for National Geographic Traveler magazine was like getting a degree in research. I got to attend lectures on how to research people, places, plants, and animals, and how to scour libraries and databases for facts and juicy tidbits. Most importantly, I developed relationships with mentors and friends across the Society. I have been lucky enough to freelance as a writer, researcher, and fact-checker.
MPS JO: What is your best memory in the MPS Journalism program
SM: My best memory could easily have been my worst. When Professor Dina Cappiello called me with a midterm progress report for her News Writing and Reporting class (my grade was abysmal), I broke down and blubbered, “I’m not cut out for this! Interrogating strangers on the street is so creepy!” She let me in on a little secret: you don’t have to be a hard news reporter to be a journalist. That conversation gave me a new outlook on the program and steered me toward expressive classes like Crafting Narrative Nonfiction, Feature Writing, and Multimedia Storytelling.
MPS JO: What one piece of advice would you give current students? What do you think is the biggest challenge young journalists face, and how can they overcome that obstacle?
SM: Pitch liberally and don’t take rejection personally. One publisher’s trash is another one’s treasure. The biggest challenge for young journalists is getting the first few clips. Editors want to know you’re not a fluke. Maintain a website with your bio and portfolio. Even if your work is self-published, a well curated website shows initiative and passion.
MPS JO: What’s the most memorable piece you’ve published and why?
SM: As an author for National Geographic’s Abroad at Home travel book, a guide to the best foreign experiences around North America, I got to interview fascinating people of all stripes, from Acadian Maine to Cajun Louisiana. Learning to juggle all those sources, interviews, and deadlines was terrific preparation for my Capstone.
MPS JO: In recent months, have you worked on any projects you are particularly proud of or have you had any unique opportunities in your career?
SM: My Capstone on hard cider in Virginia was demanding – hours on the road and one fearsome bout of food poisoning – but it was so rewarding. I’m still working on getting it published, ideally in time for cider season.
MPS JO: Where do you see yourself in five years?
SM: If all goes well, I see myself traveling, writing, researching books on all sorts of topics, and planting an orchard for cider and a garden for cocktails.