Article by: Kaylee Robertson

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Are you interested in journalism? Have you ever considered it as a career? Well, on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, DCHS had a Lunch and Learn with Jelisa Castrodale who covered all the bases. 

Jelisa Castrodale, from Winston Salem, is a journalist for Vice and Food & Wine Magazine. She attended Wake Forest and graduated with a degree in communications. Before her current career in journalism, Jelisa had a popular blog, a multitude of corporate jobs (which she hated), a few standup comedy tours, military work, side jobs, etc. She got fired from almost every single one of those jobs, but it made her realize she is an excellent writer. This led her to become the writer she is today. 

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The Process

Before you can publish an article, writers have to go through the publication process as follows: 

  1. An editor checks the work for basic grammar and punctuation errors.
  2. It undergoes micro-checks; does the article have a working thesis? Does it follow the thesis throughout the work? 
  3. The article is handed to the social media team. They make a summary “deck” of the article and check the rights for all the images included in it.

The whole process can take less than an hour if legal reviews are not involved. Writing becomes quick for the experienced and the whole process flows more efficiently.

Publications also allow time for correction processes. This is when writers should try to be on top of their errors. Jelisa emphasized the importance to “be the one to bring mistakes to their editor” and be willing to admit those mistakes. The correction process requires two people to approve any change in your article. The requirement may vary depending on your publication. 

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What to Expect

Being a journalist takes a considerable amount of flexibility, according to Jelisa. For the most part, every day is completely different. It involves finding what kind of articles you want to write. For instance, Jelisa focuses primarily on viral trends while other writers who work with her may focus on music. These niches may be assigned to a writer by the publication, or the writer may just find what they’re interested in and write about it. It boils down to the publication you’re a part of and the rules coming with it. 

One of the biggest factors to consider when writing is the audience you’re trying to reach. Figuring out the audience’s expectations and what would sell the best is key to being a successful writer. An example Jelisa provided of this is how articles about books often do poorly. When articles do poorly, the editors of the publication will assess the situation and determine the direction of the next articles. When writing articles for your publication, you may have to go about them at certain angles in such situations. 

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In addition to focusing on the audience and editors, writers face many critiques and comments. Having “personal armor” is necessary for survival as a journalist. It is also essential to note the impact sexism has on the writing industry. In fact, Jelisa mentioned she’s no stranger to sexist emails. She discussed the common perception that women shouldn’t voice their opinions regarding certain subjects. This is particularly true for sports-related articles. “It’s important to ignore those voices as they’re not constructive in any way.” 

Jelisa Castrodale concludes her Lunch and Learn by providing advice to aspiring journalists. “If you’re interested in journalism, read as much as you can, read writers who you think are better than you, read from people who are more skilled and more knowledgeable than you. Who is writing about these things, and who is writing them well?” she says. Some other advice includes:

  • Don’t stop being curious and asking questions. If nobody else is asking the questions you are, that means you’re on the right track.
  • Even if you think it’s crap, keep writing.
  • A college is an important option. It gives you the ability to build your writing skills, even if not for recreational purposes.
  • Be careful how you climb past people on the way up because you might be climbing back past them on the way back down.

Thank you to Ms. Castrodale for providing insight on her career choice and inspiring others to keep writing!

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Check out Jelisa’s social media…

Also, check out when she won Jeopardy in 2010!