College of Communication alumnus
Craig Kanalley has been making an exemplary career path for himself
since completing his degree in the graduate Journalism program
in 2009. While still a student here at DePaul, Kanalley started the
successful Breaking Tweets website (now inactive), an aggregate blog
that collects breaking news from Twitter feeds around the world.
ey went on to teach our Journalism program's first course in social media journalism focused on Twitter. His innovative spirit helped earn him positions with the Chicago Tribune (as a web intern), and then professionally,
jobs with The Huffington Post and now NBC News in New York City.
lley recently spoke with us
about his experience here in the college, the importance of being
passionate about one's work, and his exciting career trajectory since
DePaul. He also shares some sound advice for current and future students
hoping to carve out their own niche in news.
What led to your decision to study journalism at DePaul?
I knew I wanted to study online journalism, and I wanted to make a
big move, from my small-town Buffalo, New York roots to a city I could
meet lots of new people and gain a unique life experience. After some
searching around, I decided on Chicago, and after visiting campuses and
getting to know the DePaul program, I knew that was the one for me. I
liked the location, the flexibility of the program, the classes offered
and how it also allowed me enough time to do additional things outside
How did your studies — along with the independent initiatives you took here as a student — help pave the way
to the work you're doing now?
Graduate school at DePaul gave me the opportunity to grow as an
individual, experiment with new tools and meet new people. All three
factored into the work I'm doing today. I learned a lot about myself
through blogging, working with The DePaulia,
running social media accounts and networking, all of which took place
inside and outside the classroom. One thing I really liked about the
classes is many were very practical. It wasn't all theory, it was a lot
you could actually do and experiment with. That was invaluable; it
allowed me to be creative and start Breaking Tweets which helped land my
first full-time job.
Was there a direct progression from BreakingTweets to The Huffington Post and now NBC?
Absolutely. Each opportunity led to the next. In fact, to be fair,
there was a link in between Breaking Tweets and HuffPost that was really
important: the Chicago Tribune. A good reason why the Tribune was
willing to bring me on as an intern was Breaking Tweets. They liked how I
was trying something different and had this innovative mindset toward
news. And when I interviewed for HuffPost, while Breaking Tweets is what
initially got their attention and landed me that interview, the Tribune
added a lot of credibility to my resume. That traditional newsroom
experience impressed them, especially as the Tribune was doing really
interesting things while I was there like ChicagoNow and experimentation
with social media and SEO (search engine optimization). I learned from
all of that. Then, it was my work at HuffPost that directly caught NBC's
attention and led to that opportunity. It was time for a new challenge
and I'm grateful that came up.
Any general insight or advice to current students on how you've achieved what you have so far?
I would highly recommend creating a space for you on the Web that
gets people's attention. Whether you do that through blogging, building
up a social media presence, or creating a really strong website, I don't
think you can go wrong. What should that space look like? Be creative.
Focus on your passions. Produce content related to niche areas you know
the most about or want to learn more about. Also, get as much experience
as you can. I had multiple internships before my first job at The
Huffington Post, including ones that weren't paid or didn't pay much.
That's part of the process and it's important also to do as much as you
can to see what you like and what you don't like. You absolutely can
draw on every experience you have as your career progresses.
Finally, network every opportunity you can. Introduce yourself to
people you respect, write blind e-mails, send @ replies or direct
messages on Twitter, and so on. Find people you look up to, respect, or
want to work for, follow their work closely, and try to get their
attention. Try informational interviews, Facebook messages, video chats,
and even quick phone calls. As you build your network, and people get
to know you, many will give advice and let you know when opportunities
How important do you find specialization
in your learning experience as a Journalism student was? Do today's
journalists need to have specific, even niche skills beyond solid
reporting and writing?
As a journalism student, it's good to learn about everything you
can. You don't have to be an expert in HTML coding, but it's good to
know some. Video editing may not be your thing, but it's good to know
how to edit too. A well-rounded, generalist type candidate, who can do
it all, is an attractive candidate in this job market. And the more you
can do, the more opportunities that there will be for you. That said, a
specialization can only help. If you can, be sound in the basics, plus
have a niche area in which you really excel, that sets you apart from
The best way to develop niche skills is pick something you're
passionate about and practice, practice, practice. For me, I chose
social media, and specifically Twitter. I didn't learn Twitter overnight
— in fact, when I started using Twitter, I was very confused about its
applications. It took many months, in fact years, and I'm still learning
all the time. Nonetheless, I focused on it. I ran Breaking Tweets and
another blog project called Twitter Journalism. I wrote papers about
Twitter for DePaul. I live-tweeted events. I thought about unique ways
to use it. And so on. The more you do, the better you get. It's also
important to listen to others passionate about your niche and see how
they use it, as you learn this way.
As opportunities for those entering journalistic fields contract in
this new media age, what can a student do to ensure a future in the
industry for themselves, whether independently or with the mainstream
media? Both from an educational perspective, and from the work they do
during and after graduation?
First, be passionate. If you're going into journalism today, you
need to have a lot of enthusiasm, energy and, maybe most importantly,
ideas. Journalism is in need of fresh perspectives, especially as the
technology around news continues to evolve. If you bring these
qualities, and keep working hard, there are likely to be opportunities
out there -- either at traditional media companies, new media companies,
or self-started operations.
Also, as stated before, get as much experience as you can —
practice, practice, practice. Pick a niche if you can and get really
good at it, and network. If you do all of this, you're certain to at
least line up employment or opportunities of some kind, even if they're
not in the traditional journalism world. There are also emerging
opportunities for those with a journalism background in communications,
the Web and other areas that you might not think of at first.
Is there anything you have learned after graduation that you wish you had the foresight to focus on during your degree?
Honestly, I have no regrets. I wouldn't go back and do my education
any other way. That said, if I'm a student today, I'm thinking about
taking a few technical classes, or learning how to code/program in my
spare time. Not necessarily getting super advanced with these skills,
but knowing the basics can be a huge asset especially in a competitive