Master’s Alumni Profile: Claribel Rivas G’20

Claribel Rivas G’20

Newhouse Master’s Program: Magazine, News and Digital Journalism 
Current Position: Social Media Manager, PBS Digital Studios in Arlington, VA.

How did you obtain your current position, and what positions did you hold before it?  

In November 2020, I was offered the Gwen Ifill fellowship at Washington Week where I managed the Instagram account which the team was really interested in growing. After my fellowship was over in June 2021, I was offered a position as a senior social media manager for the National Digital Content team at WETA. There, I worked with the digital content team and producers to come up with social media strategies for campaigns, identify best practices to build viewership across broadcast and online programs, as well as oversee the social accounts for WETA programs. In December 2021, I was offered a social media manager position at PBS Digital Studios, working my way up to the PBS headquarters in Arlington, VA.  

What’s an average day like for you on the job?

PBS Digital Studios is a network of educational digital shows distributed on YouTube. The show topics range from STEM to music and arts. I start my day looking through any messages from the producers we work with and see if there is anything I need to review for the day. Some of the things I would review would be rough cuts of social videos, final cuts of social videos, social scripts or social assets that our show producers send us to help promote their series. Once I go through the reviews and approve them, I head over to our social calendar and see what is scheduled to be published for the day. I try to block time on my calendar for up to two hours to focus solely on publishing. Once all the posts are scheduled for the day, I attend any meetings on my schedule. Usually, our meetings are to catch up with producers and check in on how the show is going. We talk through episode ideas, social video ideas, episode schedules or any other agenda items. Once meetings are done, I usually have a few more posts that need to be published so I’ll go back and see what I’ve missed and make sure they are good to go. I also take time in the afternoon to review/moderate our comment section and respond/flag to anything that needs our attention.  

How do you feel Newhouse prepared you for your current position?

Newhouse prepared me for my current position by providing a wide range of classes that helped build my skillset. From magazine writing classes to video production classes, I graduated with essential design and creative skills that would be useful for any job. Since graduating, I have used almost all of the skills I learned at Newhouse. I’ve had to manage websites, create graphics, edit social videos on Adobe, present in front of an audience and use my storytelling skills in all aspects of writing and design. Newhouse taught me so many great real-world professional skills, and I felt more than ready to enter my career after graduation.  

Did Newhouse open your eyes to new professions or aspects of your field you may have not considered when applying?  

After graduation, I was certain I was going to go straight into reporting for a digital magazine. However, the skills that I learned at Newhouse were transferable for a variety of different jobs. Social media was already an interest of mine, and I didn’t realize that there was more to being a social media manager than just posting on Instagram. Although publishing and managing our social calendar is a big part of my job, I also act as an editorial/social lead for some of our YouTube shows. I work with producers to craft entertaining and educational stories through social media video, while also ensuring each video meets our editorial standards and expectations. Creative storytelling is a big part of what I work on at Digital Studios and Newhouse was able to prepare me for a role that entailed the skills needed for this.  

What unique features of your graduate program drew you to it in the first place? 

What drew me to the magazine, news and digital journalism program was the Newhouse Diversity News Fellowship. This fellowship was granted to two students interested in the program who majored in something other than journalism in undergrad. The fellowship seemed like a great opportunity for someone like me who was interested in pivoting to reporting, especially since I had a growing interest in international reporting. Syracuse was the only school I applied to for my graduate degree, and I wanted to take a chance at being accepted into the fellowship program. I was selected as a semi-finalist and was able to receive a full-tuition scholarship to attend Newhouse! Since the program was only a little over a year long, I quickly applied to positions that would help make my resume stronger and enhance my skills, as well as trying new journalism avenues that I didn’t get to do during undergrad. I interned at NewsChannel 9 as a show intern, worked at Orange Television Network as the Promotions Manager, and even tried some broadcast roles as a bilingual reporter for Noticias on CitrusTV. There were so many great opportunities on and off campus.  

Did the Newhouse Career Development Center aid you?

The Newhouse Career Development Center was helpful in connecting me with alumni that were working in positions I was interested in, as well as in the city I was hoping to move to after graduating. There were many classes where alumni would come speak to students and have an hour to network, exchange contacts and allow us to ask questions. It was all really inspiring to me to hear from alumni that were in my shoes not too long ago, and now able to share their success with students. It made me hopeful for the future.  

What are some obstacles or misconceptions about your field that students ought to be aware of? 

Working in journalism can be incredibly fun and rewarding. There are many opportunities to be in rooms with amazing people, travel across the country and help give a voice and platform to people who are often underrepresented or overlooked. However, even after graduating with a master’s degree, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to start off with the most amazing salary, or even a senior-level role. Before attending Newhouse, I already had a full-time job and was on my way to moving up the ladder. Once I graduated from Newhouse, I had to pretty much start over as an intern again and work my way up. Although I worked my way up pretty quickly, I learned that sometimes you have to take a few steps back to get into the position and field that you want to be in. Only now, with a degree from Newhouse, you are much smarter, wiser, better connected and have a strong skillset to take on any role.  

What moments in your career have been most exciting or defining thus far? 

Every day I get to work with some of the smartest creators on YouTube. It is so cool to see how a video idea comes to life from start to finish and knowing that I was involved in part of the process makes me really proud. One of the most exciting moments was when I attended the YouTube conference Vidcon in Los Angeles and represented PBS Digital Studios. I had dreamed of attending Vidcon ever since I was 12 years old. It’s an opportunity to meet famous YouTube creators and hear their success stories. My parents couldn’t afford to send me, so I would just watch the recaps on YouTube. Being able to attend years later, as a representative for PBS and networking with other industry professionals felt like a full-circle moment. I felt like I was making my younger self so proud!  

Another moment is connecting with Syracuse students at Newhouse DC! I had connected with Cheryl Brody Franklin, and she offered me the chance to be on the alumni panel for Syracuse students spending a semester in DC. It was an exciting experience because I also remember being a student, eager to learn from alumni, and now I get to share some of my knowledge! Another full circle moment.  

What advice do you have for current or incoming students?

Really take advantage of your time at Syracuse and try new things! Even try things that you think you won’t enjoy and see if you can prove yourself wrong. It may surprise you! I would definitely recommend taking Corey Takahashi’s class in multimedia journalism. It really helped me think outside the box and learn how to be a creative storyteller through a bunch of different mediums. The skills I learned in that class come up in my professional life every day. From storyboarding, to identifying b-roll, to scripting, this class prepares you for any creative role you may have upon graduation.