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25 November 2011

JMSC Alumnus Runs Social Media at Phnom Penh Post

Justin Heifetz (MJ 2011) has been appointed to work as a journalist and social media editor at the Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia’s main English language newspaper.

Justin Heifetz (MJ 2011)

“The role is unique in that I write stories and sub-edit only half the time; the other half of the time, I’m having to curate social media,” said Heifetz.

“This means I’m posting everything to Facebook and Twitter. It surprises me how much journalism is actually involved in that, because, for it to work, you have to write great headlines. It’s about distilling the story and making it catchy.”

Heifetz is also working on web editing, which involves turning print stories into online offerings.

“This is also a lot more involved than I ever thought,” he said. “Things don’t come out pretty or looking good from the newspaper design application to the web, so you really have to re-do it. That means sub-dividing it into headlines, learning to cut unnecessary content, doing whatever you can to find extra visuals, and generally just being able to make it eye-catching.”

Heifetz is enjoying working in Cambodia because it’s the first time he’s visited Southeast Asia.

“I haven’t been bored for a second, which is great,” said Heifetz. “The job is pretty multi-faceted, so there’s tonnes to keep me interested. I’ve also never worked for a newspaper before, so that’s incredibly exciting too.”

He said he thinks that Phnom Penh is a great place to cut his teeth as a rookie journalist.

“I was so keen to work here because, right now, Cambodia is one of the major epicentres of Asian news,” he said. “With the Khmer Rouge Tribunal developing right before our eyes, and of course the flooding disaster, there’s so much incredible material to cover. You couldn’t ask for a better place to be a journalist right now, especially starting out.”

Heifetz credited his Master of Journalism degree at the JMSC with making this new job possible.

“Everything I’m bringing to this position at the Phnom Penh Post I’ve learned from the JMSC,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have a clue how to do web stuff if it weren’t for [Senior Teaching Consultant] Diane Stormont‘s class, and [Teaching Assistants] Kevin Lau and AJ Libunau are always available to give me extra help. Sometimes, out of the blue, (the Post editors) might ask you to run and get video footage or get a radio package ready and recorded. Those are skills I could have only learned this well at the JMSC. Nowadays, as a young journalist, they really expect these things of you — especially, if it involves any sort of technology.”

As for the future, Heifetz is happy to take each day as it comes.

“It’s been an incredible two weeks, in terms of learning and the amount of responsibility I can take on,” he said. “I went from barely functioning on the first day to juggling stories, copy, and the web. So, for the short term, I’d say my goal is to just do great here and keep learning. For the long term, I’m just excited to see where everything leads.”