Alumni In The Spotlight: March 2014

Alumni in the SpotlightStefania Sainato: Alumni in the Spotlight Interview

Photo Credit: Josh Lynn Photography

Stefania Sainato is a May 2010 graduate and the Senior Web Producer at Bridal Guide Magazine.  She received her dual bachelors from Pace in English and Communication Studies, as well as an M.S. in Publishing. During her time at Pace, Stefania interned for Bene, CosmoGIRL!, Maxim and Good Housekeeping. She was awarded the prestigious NYWICI Ruth Whitney Glamour Magazine scholarship. Stefania tied the knot this past fall and she currently resides in Brooklyn with her husband.

Prof. Denning: Hi Stefania, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Can you tell us a bit about what you have been doing since you graduated from the MS in Publishing program at Pace?

stefania-headshotStefania: After graduating, I worked at GoodHousekeeping.com for a couple of years as an assistant producer. I was thrilled to land my first full-time job at such a venerable title – GH has been around for over 100 years! During this time, I really learned the ins and outs of digital publishing: converting print stories into a more web-friendly format, developing a strong social media presence, working with syndication partners and pitching fresh content ideas to different editors. After a couple of years there, I began to plan my wedding and I realized I wanted to combine my publishing skills with my newfound passion for the bridal industry. I requested an informational interview at Bridal Guide and they offered me the position of my dreams: Web Producer. From documenting my own personal wedding-planning experiences with millions of readers to scouting all of the most gorgeous new gowns at Bridal Fashion Week and reporting on breaking celebrity news, the past three years have been an incredible whirlwind and I feel blessed to do what I love every day. Recently, I was promoted to Senior Web Producer, which is an achievement I am very proud of.

Prof Denning: Were you always interested in magazines? What initially drew you to the magazine side of publishing?

Stefania: Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always been a magazine junkie (I still subscribe to more titles than I can name!). I was drawn to service-oriented publications because of the belief that even just one article could potentially help change someone’s life for the better, whether the reader took away one simple tip they’d want to use or viewed the world in a more profound way after reading about a given topic. But it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I realized I could actually get paid for my writing skills. At that point, many of my other high-achieving friends were focused on becoming doctors or lawyers, so being a magazine editor seemed like a risk given how competitive I’d heard the industry was. During my undergraduate studies at Pace, I decided to take the plunge because I knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t go after what I truly wanted. I had amazing journalism professors, including Dr. Silverman, who not only taught me what kinds of questions to ask during interviews and how to hone my writing “voice,” but also put a bug in my ear about marketing myself and making connections, advice that I still try to follow today.

Prof. Denning:  Can you tell us about being a web editor verses a print editor?  Is there any coordination between the two at your magazine?

Stefania: My fellow Senior Web Editor and I work hand-in-hand with the print editors to publish blog posts, web-exclusive features and coordinate big online promotions, such as our Bridal Fashion Week coverage. We’re currently laying the groundwork for a big redesign of BridalGuide.com, which is very exciting, so we’ve been getting input from the print eds on that as well. I’ve also contributed some print stories, including blogger round-ups and a travel piece on my Hawaiian honeymoon. In my experience, web stories have a much greater immediacy factor, so it’s critical to be able to put together breaking news as quickly and efficiently as possible. There’s also many different ways that you can package content online: a story can be a blog post, an article, a slideshow, a list, a landing page, include a video supplement and more. Pushing viral-oriented content on social media and working with syndication partnerships is another unique aspect of working on the digital side of magazine publishing. One of my favorite parts of working in web, as opposed to print, is that I get to cover all the different facets of planning a wedding – fashion, décor, relationships, travel, etc. – instead of specializing in just one area.

Prof. Denning: What do you think the biggest trends for magazine publishing are for today?

bridal-guideStefania: I can only speak to my own experience in online publishing, specifically the bridal industry. When I create and edit content, it all boils down to one question: Is this share-worthy? If my gut is telling me that it isn’t exciting, then odds are that other brides may react the same way. Weddings are photo-driven in nature, so selecting images can be just as important, if not more, than writing the actual story. One of the most popular features I ever wrote was about wedding guest complaints, which despite having written over two years ago, is still going strong because the images are still being shared by users online. Two websites that were major game-changers in this area are Buzzfeed and Pinterest. The former claims to have developed an algorithm that can actually predict which stories will go viral, while the latter tracks trends across the globe. Odds are that if you’re reading this interview, you’ve been on one or both of those sites and can attest to how addicting they can be! As online producers, we need to be a jack-of-all trades, offering timely, viral content like gifs and the hottest theme weddings of the moment, in addition to more evergreen content that will still be applicable a year from now.

Prof. Denning:  Prof. Denning: Do you ever see magazines being completely digitized?

Stefania: Bridal Guide has an iPad app and our mobile readership is higher than ever, but I believe there will always be an audience for print, especially in terms of weddings content. There are thousands of search results related to wedding gowns, wedding cakes, wedding etiquette and more – it can be utterly exhausting for brides to comb through it all. The print magazine is a great way to introduce them to the planning process and help them get their feet wet. Bridal Guide has the highest pass-along readership of any magazine, not just bridal. Our readers are very passionate and they don’t want to be limited to just one platform – they want to have content available to them online, in print, on social media and more.

Prof. Denning: You were very involved with ED2010 as a undergraduate and graduate student. Can you tell us about them?  How they helped you?  Advise students on how to use ED2010 as a resource?

Stefania: I can’t speak highly enough about this organization, which is devoted to helping students land their dream magazine job. The founder, Chandra Turner, was an invaluable mentor to me and taught me the importance of paying it forward. During my time at Pace, I led a campus chapter of Ed2010 with my fellow students, where we had editors come and guest-lecture at the university and we hosted resume workshops. This served as a place where publishing students could come together and help one another climb up the career ladder. I met some of my best college friends through internships and working on Ed2010. Now that I’m on the other side of the desk, it’s also been an invaluable resource for finding interns and freelancers.

Prof Denning:  You had a number of internship as both an undergraduate and graduate student.  Can you tell us about those experiences?

Stefania: I have enough stories from my internships to pen a novel about them, which is why I wrote my thesis on this subject!

goodhousekeepingStefania:  I interned at a diverse mix of publications, including: Bene (a niche travel publication), Maxim, CosmoGIRL! and Good Housekeeping. I started out working solely in print and ended up gravitating towards the online side of publishing, which offers more opportunities in terms of job placement. Even though my name wasn’t on all of those mastheads, I took pride in every task, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, and all of my internships set a solid foundation for what led to be a successful publishing career. The internship landscape has changed significantly since I graduated and there are less opportunities being offered to students, but internships are an invaluable way of finding out if this is truly what you want to do with the rest of your life. The knowledge you will acquire is priceless, even if the pay being offered is nominal.

Prof. Denning:  You took advantage of the 4/1 program at Pace to complete both your Undergraduate and Master’s degrees at Pace.  Can you tell us about you educational experience at Pace, in particular how the publishing degree prepared you for and helped you launch your career?

Stefania: I decided to do the 4/1 program at Pace because I believed that obtaining a graduate degree would bolster my resume, especially since I hope to teach journalism college courses someday. Employers are always impressed to learn that I was able to earn my MS in Publishing in such a short amount of time. Although it might be tempting to put off graduate work, I can honestly say that I am relieved I didn’t go down that path, since time becomes more and more difficult to come by as I get older, especially now that I’m married and hoping to start a family in a few years. Also, there is this perception that working as an editor or producer only requires writing and reporting skills, so a bachelors degree is sufficient. However, as the member of a small publishing team, my role at Bridal Guide involves so much more than that — I’m involved in marketing strategy and design meetings on almost a weekly basis. Furthermore, I’ve learned how to creatively work around a limited online budget for photos and freelancers. My coursework at Pace taught me to be a well-rounded thinker, and I think that without that training, I wouldn’t have been nearly as equipped to “produce” the amount of work that I do. Eventually, my goal is to be the CEO of my own publishing company.

Prof. Denning: What advice do you have for students currently writing their papers? And by the way, you wrote an outstanding paper.

Stefania: My advice for students is to choose a topic that you feel strongly about, which will make the writing come much more naturally. Think about recurring themes that you’ve learned throughout your graduate education and what you want to take away from the overall experience. Seek the honest input of your professors on what your strengths are. If you’re prone to procrastinating like I am, start early and break the task up into a series of smaller goals (e.g. I will find TK number of sources by this date or write TK number of pages by then).

Prof. Denning: What advice do you have for publishing students looking to launch a magazine publishing career? And what skills do you think are important for students to have in order to be hired in the magazine business?

Stefania: There are so many skills that successful journalists and editors need to possess – passion for the craft, doggedness to follow a story through until the end, the ability to work in a fast-paced environment under pressure, a team attitude and a willingness to accept constructive criticism. But if I could impart just one piece of advice for students aiming to launch a magazine publishing career, it would be to take initiative in everything that you do. Establishing a stellar reputation as a hard worker during those first few years when I was fresh out of school is what allowed me to eventually take on bigger and better projects and earn a senior title by the age of 26. Don’t be afraid to pitch that gem of a story idea, marketing opportunity, or partnership you’d love to pursue. Then, here’s the key: Actually follow through and do whatever it takes to make it happen if it’s approved. Of course, this is much easier in theory than in practice, but the reward is high. Or if you don’t have a job yet, reach out to someone who you admire and ask how he or she got his or her job. I used to do this all the time as a student and now I’m happy to meet with people who ask how I became involved in bridal as well.

Thank you Stefania!!!!