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Movies, painting, Fighting Illini sports
Career Information & Advice
Please answer each of the following questions with as much detail as possible while keeping your answers succinct (aim for 2 - 4 sentences per question).
- What are your job responsibilities/duties?
I oversee our team of copy editors and am in charge of the newsroom at night. Our copy editors also manage our website and our social media accounts, and working with my boss, our digital editor, we decide when and where to play stories on the site and when to push stories out to Facebook and Twitter. I also help manage our audience data to see what stories people are reading, and for the last few months have been working with our full staff of reporters on how to improve SEO and search results and how to write strong headlines for social media.
- What does a typical day look like?
I start my day at 2 p.m. After catching up on the overnight audience data we get from our two analytics programs, Chartbeat and Omniture, I work with our daytime copy editor to ensure all stories have gotten second reads and have strong SEO and headlines. As the night progresses, I start working with our real-time breaking news reporter, deciding what she should cover or aggregate and serve as a liaison between our new regional news desk, which handles our page layout, and our newsroom should any part of the plan change. On heavy nights, when we have either a lot of news or a lot of late sports stories, I also handle first reads on everything before sending them along to our nighttime copy editor.
- What do you most enjoy about your job?
It is fun to be on the forefront of the digital revolution in the industry. We have been pushing forward digitally for almost my entire tenure in Belleville, and we continue to work to develop better digital habits and increase the amount of content we generate at night. When I first started in Belleville in May 2008, we would see website traffic completely fall off after 5 p.m. But as mobile becomes a larger part of our audience, we see consistent traffic through most of the day. And thanks to phone alerts and social media, we can sometimes generate more audience at night that we can during the afternoon so that breaking news stories -- which have almost no chance of getting into the paper -- get the eyes they deserve.
- What is the most difficult aspect of the job?
There are some nights when nothing happens. No fires, shootings, car accidents. There's nothing to aggregate. Because we know so many people are visiting our website and social media accounts at night, trying to find content to put out there becomes a real challenge. The flip side of this is also true. There are nights where we have seven, eight, or more stories all coming in at the same time and it can be a real challenge for a two-person team to get these stories edited, posted to the site, and pushed out to social media in a timely fashion so people can find and read the important work our reporters do.
- What on-campus activities were you involved with? Where did you gain relevant experience?
I spent three semesters and a summer working at the Daily Illini. The experience I gained there, not just in journalism but in leadership, has certainly helped me in my current role where I work with journalists who are just starting their careers.
- How did your experience at ILLINOIS and in the College of Media prepare you for your professional life? For this specific position?
There was an expectation that, because we were at Illinois, we would be able to handle a lot. All of my professors were pretty insistent that we cram a lot of work into a short period of time. And that attitude has been incredibly helpful as our industry gets closer and closer to being a true 24-hour industry. Being able to move quickly and reliably is a crucial skill for journalists, and having that expectation in college really gave me a leg up. And just having the opportunity to learn from experienced and talented journalists has certainly helped me in the 10-plus years I've been in the business. I think the greatest skill I learned for my current position is being able to recognize a story quickly and then move to get it reported and written. Knowing how to do that has certainly helped as I work with younger reporters on our breaking news team.
- What advice do you have for students interested in this field?
Jump in with both feet. It is crucial that we have good, strong, hungry journalists keeping a watchful eye on all levels of government, from the White House and Congress down to the local township office. Whether you're the reporter who sends the FOI request for information, the copy editor who makes sure the reader can understand the story, the photographer or videographer who visually captures the scene, we all have an important role to play in uncovering corruption and bringing sunshine to those places politicians would rather keep dark and hidden. The media as a whole has a pretty low favorability right now, but it's amazing what happens when we uncover local politicians stealing taxpayer money and expecting to get away with it.
- What is one thing that you know now that you wish you had known when you started in the field? When you graduated from the College?
I wish I had known how much the industry would change and how quickly that would happen. When I started on my first day at my first job in Terre Haute, Ind., I searched the wires and laid out a page filled with news from overseas. My first day in Belleville, I laid out a full page on the "Sex and the City" movie. The web was something we put all this content on later. Now, if we don't have a story up on the website quickly, we have completely missed an opportunity. I have seen more changes to the way my newspaper operates in the last six months than I can remember and nothing about the job looks the same as it did the first day I walked through the door. Our ultimate responsibility hasn't changed -- we must still report the news fairly and accurately -- but how we do that changes quickly. Being able to learn and use new technology and new forms of media is an important skill that we all must have in order to continue to do the important job of a journalist.