For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with three things: Telling stories, design, and social media.
When I was a kid I'd wield my pencil and my scissors as if they were my most prized possessions. I had stacks of notebooks full of stories that I'd written. Mostly autobiographical. Diaries of things I'd observed around me. Things I'd seen and thought were interesting. Mixed among them were cutouts of images I loved from my favorite magazines. Eventually, my very favorites would be chosen and pieced together, glued into collages that lined the back of my bedroom door. Many others covered my notebooks. My very first designs.
When I hit middle school the internet was really taking shape. My friends and I would spend hours chatting on AIM and crafting the perfect profile and away message as high school approached. I started my first blog over on Livejournal, sharing my “deepest” thoughts with the world and connecting with my friends and finding new ones I only knew online. Soon there was MySpace, followed by a Xanga blog. Those were the college years. Social media was my thing. I had a Facebook back when your “wall” was just a giant text field your friends could leave notes on like a white board.
But these were also the years I leaned into journalism. I learned how to write a proper lede. I took classes on feature writing. But despite being in a magazine journalism track, I kept taking classes in the new “online journalism” track. In the early 2000s that meant learning about RSS feeds and writing for online journalism. We were trying to figure out what this whole Internet thing meant for journalism. And I was all in.
But when graduation came, I struggled. What does a person who is interested in making news look cool on the internet do before newspapers know how to put their stories on the internet? And being fresh out of school, I can’t even tell you that I really knew that this was what I wanted to do. What I DID know was that I belonged in a newsroom. Seven months after graduation, I started an internship. Eight months after that I started my first job as a copy editor and paginator at a small newspaper in Michigan. I learned so much at that job and I made so many mistakes. And after a year and a half I knew I had done everything I could possibly do there. I had ambitions. So I picked up my life and moved to Washington, D.C. to work for the Examiner. There I designed pages for the Washington, Baltimore and San Francisco free commuter papers. For six months I had a job I really loved. I pushed myself designing features pages, I had colleagues that pushed me to be a better designer and I grew as a designer. Then the Baltimore examiner shuttered. And I was unemployed.
And that’s how I fell into politics. I had five weeks of severance pay. It took me four weeks to land a job at National Journal. There I spent almost five years as a production editor learning the inner workings of Congress. The design work was almost non-existent as the pages were 8.5x11 almost newsletter like templated news pages. But boy did I learn about politics and especially Congress. And I learned a whole lot about production and preparing files for the printer. Which led me to my next move — Politico.
It feels like my 7.5 years at Politico has been a whole series of career moves in itself. I started off as a newspaper designer. Then I added on magazine production work, design and art direction. As if that didn’t keep me busy enough, about 5 years in, I volunteered to start posting to the company Instagram and Tumblr pages. And suddenly a spark was lit inside me. It was like OMG social media.
And then, during what was a routine lap around the tables at the ONE conference in 2017, my life changed forever. I stopped by a table with the familiar University of Michigan logo figuring I’d see what they had to say. It was the Knight-Wallace for Journalism Fellowship table and I met director Lynette Clemetson. She asked me if I had ever heard of the program and explained it to me. We chatted awhile, I moved on. But it stuck with me. To make a long story short, I ended up applying for that fellowship. In the fall of 2018 I became the very first designer to hold the title of Knight-Wallace Fellow when I joined the 2019 cohort. My study plan was visual storytelling on social media. I spent an entire school year with the resources of the University of Michigan. I had the privilege of spending time with the most talented journalists I have ever met. I came out a changed person.
I returned to Politico as the Editor for Off-Platform Visuals. In my role I create and implement strategy for all of our social visuals. But my favorite part of my job is Instagram. It’s the part I spent the most time studying during my fellowship. And it’s the thing I’m obsessed with. My ultimate pie-in-the-sky goal? To teach every newsroom in the country how to utilize this free platform to tell powerful journalistic stories. It’s how we reach Gen Z. But it’s also how we grow and push ourselves as journalists. Want to know more? I can chat about Instagram for hours (and I sometimes do). Right now I’m focusing on my job at Politico and teaching through educational sessions at conferences. Want me to speak? Reach out! But eventually I’d love to consult with newsrooms and teach everyone the power of Instagram.
#The100DayProject is a free art project that takes place online. Every spring, thousands of people all around the world commit to 100 days of exploring their creativity. Some of my past projects include: #mjbcreates2020, #100handmadecards and #100notebookpages.
Yup, if you follow @politico on Instagram you've probably seen my work. As the Editor for Off-Platform Visuals it's my job to create and implement the visual strategy for the publication on social. Plus I like to curate the feed!
I usually am posting my adventures over at @mjolanbloom or over on one of my dogs' accounts. It's nothing like the stories I post for work. But it's still fun!
For example, I've spoken at places like the Society for Environmental Journalists Conference, for classes at the University of Michigan, in front of the Ann Arbor chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, at the Politico Journalism Institute and at the Society for News Design Conference.