Q&A with Brooke Cain, N&O researcher and blogger

by andybechtel

Brooke Cain is a news researcher, reporter and blogger for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. Cain, who has undergraduate and master’s degrees from N.C. State University, has been at the N&O since 1992. In this interview, conducted by email, Cain talks about her job, social media and the future of the N&O.

Q. You have many roles at the News & Observer. Describe your typical workday.

A. I do some research for the newsroom, write for the print edition and for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and also do some archiving. How much blogging I do depends on what else is going on in the newsroom that day.

Oftentimes, I can be in the middle of writing my own story and have to stop to look up something for someone else in the newsroom, so it can definitely be a challenge to stay focused. If I have a story to file or interviews to do, I may have to do some blogging from home later. The only constant thing is that I feel like I start each day a little further behind than I was the day before, but I’m definitely not alone in that.

Q. How do you decide what to blog about, and what role do editors play in that?

A. For the most part, I blog about whatever I want, as long as it’s TV-related. I think the only time editors have ever asked for specific blog content was during Scotty McCreery’s rise on “American Idol” — and I would have blogged about Scotty anyway (and still do sometimes) because of the local angle. Thad Ogburn, who is the Metro Editor and also a Warm TV contributor, did a lot of the Scotty blogging.

Despite my personal TV tastes, if a TV show or story has a local angle, I give it top priority. If Evan Rachel Wood is nominated for a Golden Globe, it’s going in the blog. If someone in Fuquay-Varina is on “Wheel of Fortune” and I know about it, it’s going in the blog.

We also try to do reviews for major new TV series as much as we can. Pop Culture editor Adrienne Johnson and I usually try to divide those up for Warm TV. We don’t do as many recaps as we did in the beginning, just because of time constraints, but again, if there’s a local angle, we try to catch those.

And we have a couple of very nice unpaid correspondents who enjoy recapping some of the reality competition shows, and those are popular. I really wish I had more time during the day to devote to the TV stuff, because that’s my favorite.

Q. How do you use social media as part of your job?

A. It’s really incredible how much easier my job is with Twitter alone.

In the olden days, I’d waste so much time trolling around various sites looking for something interesting to write about or just trying to keep up with the latest media news. With Twitter, I check one place and it’s all there — instantly! It has been invaluable. And of course, it’s a great networking tool.

Maybe more than anything, I think it’s a wonderful way to interact with readers and a way to show ourselves as active members of the community, not just robots tweeting links to stories. I also like that with Twitter, I can let my personality come across a little more.

Q. You’ve seen many changes during your career at the N&O. How do you think the paper will change in the years ahead?

A. Oh, if I had that particular crystal ball, I’d be sitting in Sacramento calling the shots. Honestly, I wish I knew. I do think the N&O will always be around in some form.

I remember going over to the NandO offices in the early 1990s to see a demonstration of this crazy new thing called the World Wide Web and thinking it was incredible and exciting, but still never could have imagined then what it has become and what it has meant — both good and bad — for our industry. I’m no good at predictions, but if I may be allowed to hope, my hope for all newspapers is that someone figures out a sustainable financial model that allows there to be both print and online editions so that we can reach everyone who wants news in the way they want to receive it.

One of my short-term hopes specifically for the N&O is that we develop stronger mobile products and that we’re smart about evolving technologies so that we are ready to roll with changes as they come.

Is that asking too much?

UPDATE: In June 2013, Cain was named assistant features editor at the N&O.

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