So much is made of the death of newspapers to the delight of know-it-all tech bloggers and cable TV that often the great work being done by journalists is overlooked. In the BDN newsroom I witness staggering amounts of content being produced and multiple projects juggled at a time. I listen as reporters dig deep for information, relentless in their pursuit for the complete and accurate story. In one ear they listen to sources on the phone and with the other, listen to the many scanners in the office. I watch as they file a story from their BlackBerry, tweet town meetings, shoot photos and video at the same time, and break stories faster than the competition.
In an industry where it would be so easy to say that “it’s all too much” and “I can only work so hard” journalists find ways to be creative with their time and resources to produce faster and more complete content than ever before.
For the past year I have been the Audience Development Manager for the Bangor Daily News. The position, which did not exist before me, has been the most fascinating, complex, exhausting, stressful, invigorating and satisfying work experience of my life. The job, which until recently there wasn’t even a job description for, changed like the tide as we moved from project to project. At the center was the need to better understand our online audience and work to meet their needs. Other major initiatives included building a blog network, digital promotion and to have a strong presence at events throughout the state.
The job has been hard. I knew it would be. I expected to be pushed to my limits both mentally and creatively. I was. What I did not expect was to learn so much from the editorial department surrounding me.
In my previous jobs I felt like one of the smartest and most tech savvy people in my field. Coming into the newsroom I instantly felt like I was far behind the curve. For one, (and you may have noticed this) the English language is not my thing. I have atrocious spelling and punctuation. Writing full sentences and organizing coherent thoughts might as well be advanced calculus to me. This is problematic when dealing with a room full editors. In order to get anyone here to even begin listening to me I had to really pay attention to what I was putting out there. Also, as up on technology as I thought I was, I was a behind in the newsroom. I have spent this entire last year learning what I could about design, social media, WordPress, blogging, cloud technology, mobile, industry trends, and on and on and on. Thirdly, and most important, I didn’t follow the news that closely. Until about a year ago I followed major national news and some business publications. Now I find I’m dialed in to local content, politics, health, tech, international news, and a few other major categories. I’m reading more than ever and it doesn’t even come close to how much content is consumed by writers.
Journalists and editors I have worked with in this building and others I have met around the country continue to amaze me. Their genuine passion for their job at times seems crazy. The newsroom in late afternoon is like no work environment I have ever seen. It’s loud. It’s bustling with people. And on days where there is a big news story, it’s exciting. Everyone is working as a team to get out a great product (mobile, web and print) for our audience.
When you stop to think about what they are doing it’s really quite mind-boggling. From the moment the day starts journalists are out putting together the pieces of the day’s news. They are writing, shooting photos, and tweeting updates all at the same time. Content is processed, written and disseminated for a platform based on the time of the day it is. Short hits for mobile during the morning and throughout the day. Full stories are edited and put out on the web during the day for people, photos, video and graphics are added as the story evolves and presented in a visually stunning way for web and tablets by afternoon and evening, then stories are curated and re-sliced to appeal to a print audience that will read about it all the following morning. The news cycle, like never in human history, is a 24 hour, seven-day a week job.
As important as the job is, often it’s thankless.The feedback often comes in the form of despicable commentors who plague the internet all day long. Good stories are poached by content aggregators and lesser media, taking the stories as their own in a desperate attempt to keep up with a larger and more advanced newsroom.
My year with the newsroom has helped my grow by leaps and bounds professionally and no doubt will have influence over how I perform in my next position and future career. I owe a thank you to many, and more to few, and will never forget what I have learned. I hope to find others as passionate about what they do, but I’m not sure I ever will.