English major Holly Trowbridge hones her journalism skills with internship at Big Island Press Club

UH Hilo senior Holly Trowbridge is developing a social media campaign for the Big Island Press Club. She says it’s “really awesome to be able to put what I learned in class into action with this internship.”

By Emily Burkhart.

Holly Trowbridge with pond, trees, and ocean in background.
Holly Trowbridge

An English major at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is exploring the real world of journalism through a social media internship at the Big Island Press Club (BIPC). The experience is part of a directed studies course Holly Trowbridge is taking with Instructor of English Patsy Iwasaki, a board member of the press club.

Trowbridge is well-prepared for her senior internship. Learning fundamental journalistic skills in 2019 from Iwasaki’s class on advanced multimedia journalism (ENG 314), combined with five semesters of working for Ke Kalahea, the UH Hilo student-run news publication, Trowbridge had an excellent jump start. While at the paper and in the journalism class, she honed her writing, created infographics, and learned other journalistic skills now proved invaluable.

“I think it’s really awesome to be able to put what I learned in Patsy’s class into action with this internship,” she says. “And to explore the real world of journalism, to see what might be out there for me.”

The internship, which began in July and includes a $500 stipend, consists of implementing a three-part social media strategy in collaboration with Royelen Lee Boykie, the press club’s social media committee chair. Trowbridge is tasked with developing a flash briefing skill for virtual assistant Amazon Alexa, implementing a student Instagram takeover, and creating promotional videos for the BIPC’s YouTube channel.

Trowbridge says that overall things are going well and she is moving ahead with detailed campaign plans she first drafted and presented to advisor Boykie. The plan is to magnify the presence of the press club, connect with students, and generate awareness of the many opportunities BIPC offers, such as scholarships and internships.

“There’s a lot of support for students and their futures [at BIPC],” says Trowbridge. “The BIPC is really interested in seeing journalism grow and seeing young passion for a profession that they’ve dedicated their lives to. What does the future of their profession look like? What is changing the way they think about things, and how can the BIPC help these students grow into this career?”

Flash briefings

Trowbridge’s first project, developing the flash briefing skill, has been a bit “stop and go,” she says. Flash briefings are short information pieces of prerecorded audio similar to a podcast or radio show, and Trowbridge says she is making the most of the development challenges to round out her journalistic skill set.

The thrust of the project is to “get more of [BIPC’s] associated writers out there, people who work for the Tribune-Herald, or other news sources on-island,” she explains. “We’re trying to see if there’s a way to create a flash briefing skill where someone can say, ‘Hey Alexa, tell me what’s happening on the Big Island of Hawai‘i?’ And Alexa will rattle off all these articles written by members of the Big Island Press Club.”

The process involves quite a bit of tech research and know-how, skills in which today’s journalists are increasingly expected to maintain a level of proficiency. Users can utilize pre-programmed invocations, which Trowbridge is researching and developing, to verbally “invoke” skills like the flash briefing, which will direct Alexa to broadcast Hawai‘i Island news written by BIPC members. Many national publications like CNN and the New York Times offer this service to users that follow them through the Alexa app.

“It’s been a really fun, all around experience,” says Trowbridge. “I’m learning about what other people might do on a team, and how frustrating it can be to work with technology. It’s valuable because even if I’m just writing or doing radio news as a journalist, it’s still important to know what everyone else on the team is doing. To know the full process is really important.”

Though the project may extend beyond Trowbridge’s internship, she’s hopeful that her hard work and research can provide a solid foundation for her successor.

Instagram takeover and other social media campaigns

Trowbridge is also doing an “Instagram takeover” for the press club, designed to reach students and make connections. Overall, she is pleased with the way the takeover is shaping up. Each week the takeover features one UH Hilo communication or English major sharing their experiences, passions, and goals around journalism via daily pictures and videos on BIPC’s Instagram and Facebook. (The author of this story was the first to do the weekly takeover the week of Sept. 28.)

The promotional videos showcasing BIPC opportunities for students will be featured on the press club’s YouTube channel and are in the busy planning stages. Two winners of the 2020-2021 round of BIPC’s scholarships will be featured as teasers for the next round of scholarships and a third video will be by Trowbridge promoting the internship.

Prepared for a career in journalism

Overall, Trowbridge embraces the way methods are shifting in journalism, and she remains positive about the adaptive skills the internship is providing.

“People say that journalism is a dying profession, and I don’t think that’s true,” she says. “I think journalism is a changing profession with new technology, [and] the way that it’s run is changing. But the passion that was once there for newspaper and print media is just as much there for blogs and online articles. It’s just a matter of getting over that hump from paper to the screen.”

Trowbridge says it an honor to have the internship.

“It’s been a really valuable experience working with the BIPC,” she says, adding that she feels inspired to continue her pursuit of journalism post-graduation. “I’ve gotten so much out of it, I’ve learned so much about computer skills and patience, and a lot about the real world of journalism. I highly recommend students apply.”

Contemplating her upcoming graduation this semester and entering a world of unemployment during a pandemic, she says, “It’s nice to know that this type of work exists, and that I can do it.”

Story by Emily Burkhart, a senior double majoring in English, and Gender and Women’s Studies, at UH Hilo.

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