The Editor's Desk

Thoughts on editing for print and digital media

Category: Web editing

Q&A with Caroline McMillan Portillo of Bizwomen.com

Caroline McMillan Portillo is a reporter for the website Bizwomen.com. She previously worked at The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. In this interview, conducted by email, Portillo discusses how reporting and editing work at Bizwomen.com, and how majoring in journalism prepared her for her career.

Q. What is Bizwomen about? What are the site’s objectives?

A. Bizwomen is a national news website about and for women in business. We cover everything from the women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to leading entrepreneurs in the startup scene. Just this week, I had an exclusive interview with billionaire fashion designer Tory Burch, which was really cool.

The site was launched in April by American City Business Journals, a company that owns nearly 45 different business journals around the country (including the Triangle Business Journal). So we’re a young publication with a well-established brand behind us, which has been a nice extra boost.

Q. Describe your role there. What do you do on a typical workday?

A. Right now, the reporters on the Bizwomen team are each posting about three stories a day. The goal is to get to four.

I come into the office around 9 a.m. (ACBJ is headquartered in Charlotte), and usually leave around 7 p.m. When I come in, I immediately start combing other sites and Twitter for any big news in the world of women in business. This could be earnings for a Fortune 500 company with a female CEO, a tech giant’s diversity report or buzz around a high-profile controversy. These early-morning posts are quick hits, and it’s OK if they’re short. The goal is to make sure that we always have fresh content and are staying on top of the biggest stories.

Around 10:30 a.m., we have our morning editorial meeting, where we discuss what we’re working on, including what we expect to file that day and any longer pieces we’re working on. Right now, our official Bizwomen team is quite small — just me, another reporter and our editor — but we also have freelancers and can pull stories from all of the ACBJ publications around the country for our site. It’s similar to how newspapers can use wire copy from other papers in their chain.

That doesn’t mean we’ll never cover those stories ourselves. But if another market already has a story written on a topic we’re covering, we can post it and then figure out another way to extend the story in a different way, often getting multiple posts out of the same story line.

For example, when a bunch of girl-power ads came out around the same time, everyone was talking about how resonant they were. So I called Always and Pantene — the companies that produced the most popular videos — and did a piece on “The 7 things you didn’t know about those girl-power ads from Pantene and Always.” Then I spoke with two advertising and marketing experts (including one from UNC) to talk about the strategy behind the videos, which didn’t really have anything to do with the products the companies sell. With their insight, I did another post about whether these ads make good business sense.

Q. How does story editing work at the site?

A. The editing process works like this: I write the story, as well as a headline for the website, one for SEO (lots of keywords) and one for mobile devices. This is all done in our content management system.

I send it along to my editor, and she combs through the story and headlines. She’ll make changes and then will talk with me if she sees any holes in the story or wants to approach it from a different way. Depending on how much work it needs, we’ll either resolve it side by side, or I’ll work on it more and resubmit.

Q. What about headline writing?

A. Lately in our editorial meetings, we’ve been pitching stories by the headline. It was a little weird at first, but it makes for a more efficient meeting and helps us reporters focus a story before we sit down to write. Then we can massage the headline and story angle as a team.

I heard an editor at Quartz speak at the 2014 conference for the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, and he said they ask their reporters to think of their stories in terms of tweets. It took a little getting used to, but it’s actually a great strategy, particularly for a digital-only publication.

People won’t see our great content if we don’t have great headlines to draw them in. And on the Web, there’s a lot of competition.

Q. You graduated from the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill five years ago. What skills from your time there are most important in your work?

A. A few months after graduating, I was hired as a reporter with The Charlotte Observer — first as a community news reporter and then as the paper’s small business and entrepreneurship reporter. When you work for a daily newspaper, you’re expected to write a lot, to write fast and not to make mistakes while you’re doing it. The years I spent in the j-school were so critical in helping with all three.

In News Writing and News Editing, I learned how important it is to read and re-read your story, looking for typos, grammatical errors and misspelled proper nouns. Editors always have suggestions for how to make a sentence better, and they enjoy working with you on that. But if you make them spend time correcting dumb little mistakes, you could have a fantastic story and still lose some of their confidence in your ability.

I still remember getting a 50 on a news writing story because I spelled “Hillary Clinton” with only one “l.” I thought it was really harsh at the time, but now I get it. And if a mistake somehow gets past your editor and makes it on the paper or online, rest assured, you’ll get some vitriolic emails from readers. Then you’ll have to write an embarrassing correction that will be read by even more people.

The j-school also taught me about storytelling — how to ask for details that reward the reader for choosing your story — and why it’s good to spend time reading stories by writers you admire. Tommy Tomlinson, a former beloved Observer columnist and Pulitzer finalist, has been a great mentor for me, and I used to search through the archives just to read old stories and columns he’d written.

And I still think about little tricks of the trade Paul O’Connor taught me in my first reporting class, such as “draw a line down the middle of your notepad and write in columns.” (It’s faster because your hand doesn’t have to travel all the way across the page.)

Q. What skills have you had to learn since then?

A. The biggest thing I’ve had to learn since is how to really build a beat. When you first start, editors will feed you stories, but once you’ve been on the job for a little while, they expect you to find the majority of your stories. And you better not miss big news on your beat.

When I covered south Charlotte as a community news reporter, I was responsible for breaking news on school controversies, road projects, rezoning proposals and politics. So I really had to build sources, which is much harder than it sounds. It’s not like it was when newspapers were the only source of news people had, and thus the only place people sent tips to.

These days, you have to work hard to earn those story tips. People have to like you, they have to trust your abilities, and you have to keep in touch with sources regularly so they know that you care about them and not just the information they give you. That’s the only way you’ll get information first.

I used to get breakfast with some big figures in the south Charlotte community, including the city council representative, every single Wednesday around 7:30 a.m. So early. But so necessary.

When I became a business reporter, I had to get used to asking people about finances, which can be incredibly personal. How much did you lose when your business went under? How much did this investor give you to get started? What mistakes did you make that led you into bankruptcy? How much do you have to spend on x, y and z? It’s touchy stuff, but those details make your reporting stronger.

Read Caroline McMillan Portillo’s stories on the Bizwomen site and follow her on Twitter.

Q&A with Tracy Moore, writer for Jezebel

Tracy Moore is a writer for the website Jezebel. She previously covered the music beat for the Nashville Scene in Tennessee. In this interview, conducted via email, Moore talks about writing and reporting in the world of snarky blogs.

Q. Describe your work with Jezebel. What is your typical workweek like?

A. Jezebel is a feminist-infused pop culture site, and most of what I write for them falls under that umbrella, from reaction pieces to current events coverage to explainers about trends.

I especially enjoy doing good old-fashioned rants about the little injustices in the world (and luckily, there are so many). In a week, I’ll usually pitch three “splash” pieces — these are longer essays featured more prominently on the site — and turn those around in a few hours, or spend more time if it’s a reported piece and I have to track down experts.

Q. How do you come up with ideas for posts? Do you have free rein, or do editors at the site influence your choice of topics?

A. I scour the Internet constantly in my downtime. I read what people are posting about on Twitter and Facebook. I read a lot of comments on stories to see what really sticks in the craws of readers.

And I am lucky in that I am easily irritated about the world, which means it’s very easy to find subjects to get worked up about. In my actual life in Los Angeles, I try to pay attention to whomever the most progressive- or New Age-seeming person in the room is, because that’s how you discover that everyone is going to energy healers these days or that Bulletproof coffee is a thing (both of which I’ve covered).

I have free rein to pitch anything that is broadly of interest, and while most of that is related to women or feminism, the editors also sometimes send along tips or make suggestions for breaking items they want covered. From there, we may shape the idea a little on the front end by hashing out the angle, and I go from there.

Q. How does editing and headline writing work for the site?

A. I write both and save it in the system, and then an editor gives it a once-over and finesses if necessary for maximum appeal. After reading the site for so long, I’ve got a decent sense of headlines in the viral world, but that’s always up for tweaking.

Q. You previously worked for the alt-weekly the Nashville Scene. What are the similarities and differences between writing for that publication and Jezebel?

A. The alt-weekly sensibility — reported stories that are either interesting or important, told by voice-y writers — is not so different for Jezebel or the other Gawker sites. One big, obvious difference is the lead time on stories and the turnaround.

The only thing I did in an hour for an alt-weekly was a blog post linking to a reported story — often I spent three weeks interviewing dozens of people for a 7,000-word cover story. Now I might write 1,500 words in a few hours and only interview myself.

While Gawker sites also do long-form journalism that sometimes takes months and travel to report, the bulk of the content is blogging opinion pieces or covering breaking news with an opinion. And of course the snark is dialed much higher.

Another huge difference is the way stories are valued via the medium. At the alt-weekly (I left in 2011) it took some time to convince the powers that be that the blog or Web version of the paper even mattered (and especially that in some cases it actually mattered more), so stories you would blog were often considered an afterthought, a way of technically giving coverage to something without deeming it premium enough content to appear in the hallowed pages of the dead-tree edition.

At Jezebel, whatever gets a lot of attention is a “good” story, whether that’s a story about wage discrimination or Kate Upton’s boobs. Cute baby animals are as essential to the site as think pieces on sexism, and that’s a refreshing change to the old alt-weekly days of (sometimes) having to convince an editor that a softer, fluffier story also had merit because it was a fun read, or silly or controversial. This is not so much the case now, as many alt-weeklies’ web presence is similar to the tone and style of Gawker and BuzzFeed, sites that set the bar for newspapers in this regard.

And probably the other major difference is that alt-weeklies were/are hyper-local, whereas at Jezebel, the location of a story is U.S.-centric but largely irrelevant. Covering national news is also something I’ve noticed alt-weeklies do more now.

Q. What advice do you have for students and other people looking to break into writing for the Web — and getting paid for it?

A. I think it’s not so different than it has been for years. Writing online is still a slog. There are more places than ever to do it, which is great, but the majority of job listings out there are not compensated at all or very poorly.

If it is at all possible, be willing to do it for popcorn long enough to show you’ve got the chops. There is real leverage in that.

It’s also important to know what you’re after — to build a byline? To land a magazine job? A book deal? Different sites offer different networks/cachet. And just like pitching old-school newspapers or magazines to freelance, know the site you’re trying to write for, the tone, the content. And make sure your voice aligns.

And finally, blogging for a living means being able to cover a wide range of subjects very quickly and reliably. So being a fast, accurate writer with a wide knowledge base is a must. Bonus points for having an endless reservoir of feisty opinions.

Follow Moore on Twitter and read her posts on Jezebel.

Q&A with Jordan Rogers of Raleigh & Company

Jordan Rogers is co-creator and an editor of Raleigh & Company, a collaborative website that consists of the work of nearly 20 writers. In this interview, conducted by email, Rogers discusses the site’s mission and its position in the Triangle’s media landscape.

Q. What is the objective of Raleigh & Company? What do you hope to achieve?

A. There were a lot of us sportswriters or freelance writers in the Triangle area who were already running our own blogs or writing creatively on our own. At some point a few of us figured, why not do this together and get the spillover from each other’s readerships?

We want to tell great stories, talk about important topics and give creative and smart people a platform to reach those in the area who would like to hear from them.

Q. How are writers selected for the site? Are their posts edited by you or other editors?

A. It has started with a loose group of writers, and we’ll do a mixture of invitations and accepting requests. Anyone who wants to potentially contribute should absolutely contact us. Most of the currents are either a professional writer, in an interesting professional field, or simply were such good writers we couldn’t say no.

I’ve done a little over half of the editing so far. That’s usually a good idea early in the development of any site to keep things similar stylistically, but we’ll spread out more duties as we go along.

Q. You’re on Twitter. How does Raleigh & Company plan to use social media?

A. As our main source of traffic. We simply hope to give people great stuff to read. If they like it, they’ll share it. I don’t know what else to say.

Q. The Triangle region of North Carolina is a crowded media market online, with not only traditional media like The News & Observer and WRAL, but also blogs like the Raleigh Connoisseur. How does Raleigh & Company fit into that market, and how can it thrive here?

A. You’re right, there are fantastic media options in and around the Triangle. It’s almost overwhelming.

WRAL is a national leader in local news, and it’s hard to get away from their footprint. (And there’s a reason for that — they’re insanely good.) INDYWeek has been so successful in this area in a time when other print weeklies have failed nationally because the Triangle demands an alternative and smart source of great writing and they’ve delivered for decades. And although in Greensboro, Our State magazine has been making a strong online push on social media with some great content. WCHL is a staple in Orange County, the N&O does fantastic work, and I should just stop there because I would leave someone out and the band orchestra is starting to play.

But that is what a smart and educated populace is all about: options; different points of view and topics. We might do a long form look at recreational adult leagues in the Triangle, discuss whether a terrible comic book has value, or do some reporting on the homeless that no one else is willing to talk about.

We might send a sportswriter to cover a cooking contest (and he did a fantastic job, didn’t he?) or we might send a culinary writer to cover the dining options at a basketball game at PNC. The Internet allows us to do a lot of different things and we plan on taking full advantage of that.

But to your point, we’re interested in making interesting things, and if people like it, they’ll respond. I couldn’t be less worried about “competing” and I only hope RaleighCo can be a part of the great media in the area.

Making it easier to share the news

The Los Angeles Times launched a bold overhaul of its digital news offerings this week. In this interview, managing editor Jimmy Orr says that the primary objective of the redesign is to have readers spend more time with LAT content.

Orr also wants readers to share that content. To make that easier, story pages on the LAT now include “sharelines.” These are three pre-written headlines written for Twitter and Facebook. The reader can pick one and click it to share on social media. Here’s an example from the story about the redesign:

sharelines

News sites have offered a one-click sharing function before, of course. What’s different here is the sharelines are written with social media in mind.

Other sites I have seen in recent years grabbed the headline as the Tweet automatically. That can work sometimes, but the language of Twitter and Facebook can differ from SEO-oriented digital headlines. Tweets often have a more conversational tone as well as hashtags and other elements.

So who is writing the LAT sharelines? I asked Henry Fuhrmann, who oversees copy desks there, about that. (I worked with Henry in Los Angeles in the summer of 2008.) Sharelines are a shared responsibility, he says:

The task of writing sharelines is divided as follows: Reporters and assigning editors write them for blogs posts. Copy editors do the honors on articles that are prepared for print and then go online. Of course, as is typical here, the copy desk ends up filling in gaps, so when we encounter blog posts that lack sharelines, we’ll fill them in.

So add “shareline writing” to the repertoire of journalists, including editors. In my classes at UNC-Chapel Hill, I have my students write a Tweet for a news story as part of the final exam. Perhaps next semester, I will have them write three.

Writing well online: a Mashable example

On occasion, I hear someone ask: What makes for a good news story in digital media? As I read this Mashable article on my smartphone over the weekend, I thought that this example helped answer that question.

The story is about Airbnb, a service that allows people to rent out their homes and apartments to visitors. That business model is under scrutiny in New York and other states.

I was faintly aware of Airbnb, but after reading this story, I felt much more knowledgeable on the topic. That’s because the story is written and edited in a way that anticipates the reader’s questions. It does so head-on, like so:

airbnb

The story is written in an inviting, conversational tone. Sentences are short and to the point. The story is free of typos and other errors, giving it greater credibility. Links are used as footnotes to allow the reader to click and learn more.

There’s still room for improvement, however. The captions for the photos state the obvious, and the use of stock art at the top of the story doesn’t contribute much to the story.

Despite those shortcomings, Mashable’s story communicates information and context quickly. It’s an example of effective writing and editing for digital and mobile media, and one I will likely use in class next semester.

Q&A with Monica Monzingo of Macys.com

Monica Monzingo is a copy editor for Macys.com, a position she has held since 2012. She previously worked in the magazine industry as a freelancer. In this interview, conducted by email, Monzingo discusses her job and how editing for a department stores is different from editing for a news organization.

Q. Describe your job. What do you do on a typical day?

A. I copy edit a wide variety of creative assets for macys.com, including homepages, emails, gift guides, social media and navigation copy (the links on the top and left-hand side of the site). Also, most of the brands we sell create their own content for their landing pages on macys.com, so I’m responsible for proofreading those too. While copyediting and watching for consistency in style and brand voice, I’m also making sure the copy complies with our legal guidelines.

On a typical day, I might review the desktop and mobile versions of the new prom sitelet, read through the exclusions copy for an upcoming Super Saturday sale, and copyedit a buying guide about cutlery.

Q. You previously worked as a freelance editor for magazines such as US Weekly. How is editing for Macys.com different from your magazine editing?

A. At a magazine, you’re selling the journalism — the content is the commodity. But in retail, you’re selling the clothes, furniture, etc., so your relationship with the reader is slightly different. We want the reader to engage with our content, just like a magazine, but we also want to motivate them to go a step further and BUY what’s featured in the content.

We have a lot of the same conversations about truth and clarity that editors at a magazine have, but the response we want from our reader is a bit different so our approach to writing and editing is a bit different too. Have we given them all the information they need so that they’ll buy that new bathing suit, knowing it’s perfect for their body type? Are our financing terms clear enough that they’ll feel comfortable buying a big-ticket item like an engagement ring or a new sofa?

Q. You recently attended the national conference of the American Copy Editors Society. What did you learn there, and what drew you to ACES?

A. I learned about Google’s new algorithm and how we can update our SEO strategy to align with its new priorities. I learned that editing is a left-brain activity while computer work is a right-brain activity, and that’s why it’s always good to review things on a printout instead of just on screen. And I went to a session about writing headlines and have tons of tips the writers here at macys.com can use when writing email subject lines.

ACES is a fantastic community of super-smart, super-friendly folks who share a passion for editing, and it was so inspiring to get to spend a few days nerding out about style guides and grammar. I was originally drawn to ACES as a learning resource, which it certainly is, but the most rewarding thing has been finding a community of like-minded editors.

Q. What advice do you have for students seeking jobs and internships in editing for a company like Macy’s?

A. I’d recommend learning about what’s going on in the industry. I’m a big fan of the National Retail Federation’s SmartBrief, a daily email digest of the industry’s top stories.

You can also learn a lot just by paying more attention to what’s going on when you’re shopping on your favorite website or in your favorite store. Develop an ear for brand voice and learn how to both describe and write in different voices. And as a copy editor, a huge thing to practice is how to give feedback in a clear but kind way.

Where to find copyright-free photos

The photo service Getty Images made big news this week when it said that it would unleash millions of images free of charge.

It put some qualifiers on that, saying that the use had to be for noncommercial purposes and that bloggers and journalists need to embed the photos in a way to give Getty credit. You can see examples of how this looks in this post at the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Getty isn’t the only place to find free images. I’ve used Creative Commons on occasion, and this semester, the Park Library at UNC-Chapel Hill posted a page of handy links to sites offering free stock photos, archive images and logos. Thanks to librarian Stephanie Willen Brown for putting that in one place.

Stock images can bring visual flair to a story in print and online. They can also be abused. Not every story or post needs an image, but many do. My advice: choose wisely and give credit where it’s due.

Q&A with John Conway, general manager of WRAL.com

John Conway is general manager of WRAL.com in Raleigh, N.C. Before making the move to online journalism in the 1990s, he worked as a reporter at newspapers in Greensboro, N.C., and Orlando, Fla. In this interview, conducted by email, Conway discusses the recent overhaul in WRAL’s digital operations.

Q. Why is WRAL redesigning its website?

A. It has been seven years since the last major redesign of WRAL.com, and a lot has changed in that time. Web technologies have changed, connection speeds have increased, and content consumption patterns have changed. There also has been a proliferation of new devices (tablets, “phablets” and phones) in a dizzying array of sizes.

We had been following some of the early adopters of responsive design, most notably The Boston Globe. We saw a lot of merit in a build-once strategy that works on all current devices, as well as ones that have yet to be sold. It is important that users of our site have the best possible experience of our content and advertising, regardless of how they are accessing it.

So in 2012, we committed to launching a responsive redesign of WRAL.com in late 2013/early 2014, and we did that. We launched an internal beta version in early December and a public beta in mid-December.

Q. What are some of the major changes, and what has been the reaction from readers?

A. We wanted to create a world-class user experience across platforms — desktop, tablet and mobile. That started with a close look at our analytics to see what content was most popular. We also did heat-map testing to see where users focus on key pages as they are browsing. That helped inform changes to our navigation, which we streamlined.

Another key goal was to declutter the site, especially the homepage. So one of the first things you notice is more white space.

We also wanted to get more content above the fold. We did that by adopting a three-column design for desktop users, along with introducing what we call the “mega menu.”  The large drop-down menu allows users to preview content throughout the site. Discoverability of content is a key challenge for content-rich sites like ours, and we think the mega menu will help visitors find our best stories, video, photos and special features.

Users will notice other trends, such as the use of larger photos on section fronts and story pages, in-line video at the top of stories and a persistent toolbar for sharing, commenting and controlling fonts.

We also worked a lot on making pages load faster. That was tricky because of all the Javascript needed for the responsive design, but our technology team did a nice job of compressing and optimizing the code.

We also added an Amazon-like recommendations engine that is based on the reading patterns of individual users. If you read, for example, a lot of UNC and business stories, you will see more of those stories in the Recommended feed in the right column of most pages.

I have been through five site launches and redesigns at WRAL.com, and the reaction to this redesign has been fairly consistent with others. Some people love it; others prefer the old design. We’ve heard from people who like our cleaner, more modern design. Many have said that the site is easy to navigate. We’ve also heard from those who say why fix what isn’t broken.

We understand that change can be difficult, especially for heavy, loyal users who have grown accustomed over seven years to accessing content in a very particular way. That’s why we developed a number of tools to help frequent visitors make the transition. Those tools include a new Help Center and a guided, interactive tour of the new features, plus a video tutorial and blog posts.

Q. News and information are increasingly going mobile. What is WRAL’s approach to attract readers who use tablets and smartphones?

A. The responsive design is a key element of our mobile strategy. We think users should have a choice when accessing our content on mobile devices.

They can have a great experience of the rich WRAL.com site on the device of their choice, or they can opt for a tailored experience from one of our mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. (We have a news app, iPad-only app, weather forecast app, severe weather app, high school sports app, local entertainment app and an arrest photos app.)

With a surge in mobile search, it is important to lead users seamlessly from mobile search results to the mobile-optimized content. And now virtually our entire archive since 1996 will look good on any device. No more squinting or pinch zooming required.

Q. The Triangle region of North Carolina is a competitive market for news, including The News & Observer and WTVD. How does WRAL’s digital efforts compare with other news organizations?

A. We have strong local competitors. And increasingly, strong national pure plays are trying to make inroads in local markets. So we have to be on top of our game at all times.

Our competitors are increasing their investments in digital, which is leveling the playing field. That’s why we have beefed up our editorial, marketing, technology and sales staffs. It’s why we have one of the few local TV sites in the country with an investigative reporter and database researcher/reporter focused on digital content. It’s why we hired former ECU coach Steve Logan and former newspaper sports columnist Caulton Tudor to contribute to our sports properties (TV radio and Web).

As for how we stack up, media measurement firms such as Scarborough and The Media Audit show us having 2x to 3x leads over our nearest competitors. The Media Audit’s latest survey of the Raleigh-Durham market showed that 54 percent of adults visit WRAL.com at least once a month. Only one other local media outlet in the country had a higher penetration rate.

Q. Journalism is in a era of transition and disruption. How can today’s journalism students best prepare themselves for what’s ahead?

A. It used to be that strong reporting, writing and editing skills were all that mattered for writing and editing positions on the Web. Today, we’re looking for applicants who are more than one dimensional.

We still want those strong writing skills, but we also benefit from applicants who can shoot and edit photos and video, create interactive graphics or manage multiple social media accounts. Some experience analyzing data is useful. And while you are juggling all of those tasks, we need you to be accurate and fast.

Q&A with Rylan Miller of Business Insider

Rylan Miller is Contributors Editor at Business Insider. In this interview, conducted by email, she talks about her job and how the site uses headlines and social media to attract readers.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like at Business Insider?

A. I manage all of BI’s syndication partnerships and guest writers, which is an editorial job with some elements of business development mixed in.

My team has three main responsibilities:

  • We help choose the stories we will publish from our 370-ish partner publications, wire services, and blogs;
  • We package these stories so that they fit perfectly with Business Insider’s style;
  • And we act as the gatekeepers — I like to envision Gandalf shouting “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” when I say this — of every article that is republished on the site.

We ensure that editorial is following all of the partnership rules and industry courtesies when syndicating.

This job has a lot of moving parts, but for me, that’s part of what keeps it interesting. Some days I spend a lot of time talking to our point people at companies like Slate, Condé Nast, Wenner Media, and more. Sometimes I focus on teaching our editorial team what syndication is and how to do it the right way.

Other days I like to dive into setting up posts, which means formatting them so that they look great on BI, writing catchy headlines, and picking photos that really pop on the main page. Sometimes I tinker with formatting in our CMS, and I frequently study our analytics.

I have learned more about the world of online publishing from this one job than I ever thought possible. It’s really a fascinating mix of journalism, psychology, business, and management, and perfect for a generalist like me. It’s fun to know what’s happening in just about every section of the site, and — important job perk — people want you on their team for bar trivia.

Q. Headline writing for digital media is seeing a shift from SEO to “shareability,” as demonstrated by sites like Upworthy. What is Business Insider’s approach to headline writing?

A. One of our editor’s mantras is that headlines should “get clicks without being annoying.” It’s very easy to tease someone into reading a story online—I’m sure we’ve all fallen for the “7 Things That Will Completely Change Your Life” headline at some point.

But when you actually read the article and see that the headline is hyperbole, skewed, or a flat-out lie, you start to resent that publication. I think BI does a great job of getting people interested while also delivering a great story.

As a site that does breaking news, features, photo-centric slideshows, videos, syndication, and now longform, there really isn’t a magic formula for how we write headlines. Above all, we consider the reader and what he or she should know immediately before we think about SEO and “shareability.”

If a headline isn’t working for us, we can change it. The priority is still focusing on writing (or in my case, choosing) excellent stories that are worth sharing in the first place, and then pulling out the most interesting nugget or angle for the headline.

Q. Business Insider is active on Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn. What is the organization’s social media strategy?

A. Every single person on editorial puts in effort when it comes to our social media policies and strategies. Each section is responsible for maintaining and expanding their own Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and relationship with LinkedIn if it’s relevant. They also have to make sure their best work gets pushed out to BI’s main Twitter and Facebook accounts. We have a small bit of oversight at the top of this chain, but for the most part we rely on common sense and good news judgment when deciding what gets shared.

We’re constantly assessing what’s working and what’s not when it comes to our social media strategies, and I think that’s served us well so far. Everyone gets a chance to put in their two cents.

Q. You graduated from the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012. What’s the most important thing you learned there, and what have you had to learn on the job after college?

A. As someone who’s not in a traditional journalism job at a 100 percent digital news outlet, I’m surprised every day by how much of what I learned at j-school is still relevant to what I’m doing now. I’ve realized how important it is to have that solid foundation in place before learning new skills on the job.

Copy-editing classes taught me how to be nitpicky (in a good way) while reading through articles. My business journalism classes taught me basically everything I know about the industry I’m in now. Media law gave me a good understanding of where we can get photos, who holds copyright on freelance stories, and how to not get my employer sued for dumb mistakes.

I also cannot overstate how much I’ve learned on the job. I’d say most of what I’ve learned is in the technical and strategic aspects of how a news website functions. I’ve learned how publishers can work with each other to expand and improve, and I’m continually discovering what people feel compelled to read. Despite what you’re hearing, people aren’t solely interested in “reading” GIFs. And finally, I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Serial Comma And All-Caps Headline.

Follow Rylan Miller on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn. If you want to become a contributing writer for Business Insider, check out the Contributors FAQ or email contributors@businessinsider.com for more information.

Q&A with Claire Campbell, director of digital strategy at WTVD

Claire Campbell is director of digital strategy and audience development at WTVD, the ABC station in the Triangle region of North Carolina. She has also worked as an editor at Yahoo, About.com and IMDB. In this interview, Campbell discusses her job at ABC 11, the station’s online presence and the skills needed to work in digital news.

Q. Describe your job. What do you do at WTVD?

A. My job is to help expand the station’s digital reach and engagement — via our website, our mobile apps, social media and other initiatives. I work closely with our News and Creative Services teams to make sure that our broadcast and digital processes are as integrated as possible.

Fortunately, we have a great team that really understands the importance of digital — reporters out at the scene of breaking news know that one of their first responsibilities is to tweet photos or videos that we can use online, for example.

I’m also constantly analyzing our metrics to see which of our efforts are most successful and brainstorming new ways to connect with users. That’s the most exciting part of my job: planning for the future, trying to imagine what form our work could take as the media landscape keeps evolving.

There’s also a lot of nuts-and-bolts work, of course, like implementing digital ad campaigns or building special pages to support our projects in the community. I should say too that I’m only two months into this role, so I’m sure I will continue discovering new aspects of it.

Q. You previously worked as a news editor at Yahoo and an editor at About.com. How is your current job different from those, and how do they inform what you do now?

A. The most obvious difference is scale — the other sites were national, and ABC11 has a strong local focus (which I appreciate; one of the reasons I wanted to make this move is that I’d lived in the Triangle for 6+ years but never felt fully part of what was happening here).

There are cultural differences, too; the broadcast world is a little more formal, and relies on face time and phone calls and email instead of Skype/IM (I haven’t used the word “ping” since I started here).

There’s also a strong sense of community and loyalty at the station. Some people have worked there for decades — longer than most of the companies I’ve worked for have existed.

What I call on most often from my time at About is an understanding of SEO and how to plan around what users are looking for online; from Yahoo, it’s the sense of how to pull readers in and create a dynamic conversation around a story.

Q. Another TV station, WRAL, has the dominant website in the Triangle area of North Carolina. How does WTVD stack up with it and the digital presence of the regional daily newspaper, The News & Observer?

The first thing I’d say is that WRAL may not be quite as dominant as many people think.

We’re lucky to have a very active and engaged audience base at ABC11 — on our website but even more so in our mobile apps. And we do a lot with a relatively small digital staff.

That said, we know there’s more we can do to serve our users in the digital space, and we’re hard at work on building an even bigger and better digital experience.

Q. You recently contacted the journalism school at UNC about some internship and job opportunities. How can students best prepare themselves to work at organizations like yours?

A. Become versatile storytellers. Learn to work in different media and different registers (both formal and conversational). Master the fundamentals but then challenge yourself to approach stories in a new way. And take advantage of any opportunity that will expose you to new platforms or skills.

I think one of the best exercises journalism students can do is to take a single story and make it work as an article, a blog, a video, a podcast, an infographic, etc. The more readily you can shift modes, the more prepared you’ll be for whatever journalism looks like when you’re out of school.

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