Jamie Hancock is assistant politics editor at the Dallas Morning News. She also serves as the coordinator for the newspaper’s internship program. In this interview, Hancock discusses DMN’s approach to covering politics and what it looks for in interns.
Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?
A. Part of why I love working in journalism is that no day is typical. But I do start each morning with a meeting with other news editors to discuss what we’ll have for that day’s digital presentation and the next day’s print edition. I also check our political reporters’ digital metrics every day to see how readers responded to their stories.
Throughout the day, I’ll edit any daily or enterprise stories our reporters file. All of them except one work in Austin and Washington, so we mostly use Slack to communicate with them about their work. Two days a week, I write Political Points, a newsletter we started this year to engage with readers and help them reach our content.
My role as intern coordinator changes over the course of the year. With our summer interns in the building, I’m available to answer any questions they have and make sure they know when and where their weekly brown-bag sessions are held.
Last week, we toured our printing press in Plano. This month, I’ll start making plans to recruit our 2020 class and visit campuses for interviews, including UNC. Applications are due Nov. 1.
Q. Politics is a subject as big as Texas. How do you and your colleagues decide what news takes priority?
A. We view the news through a Texas lens. Reader metrics have shown that our Dallas audience wants us to provide political news with a local bent. They want to know what their elected officials are doing in Washington, so we don’t focus on every piece of news that comes out of the White House — only what directly affects Texans.
We adopt a similar approach with the Texas Legislature, writing stories about our North Texas senators and representatives and the legislation they’re introducing, as well as how the big bills working their way through the chambers will affect North Texans. This year, the legislative session was all about property taxes and school finance.
Q. You are a 2005 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. What skills and concepts that you learned there do you use today? What new ones have you learned during your years in Dallas?
A. The journalism school and its excellent professors gave me the foundation I needed to succeed the moment I left Carroll Hall.
I learned the finer points of editing from Frank Fee and Bill Cloud, and I loved my sports journalism classes with Mick Mixon that taught me how to conduct a great interview. The fundamental reporting and editing skills I learned in college are still critical, even as the industry has experienced momentous change.
But with that change comes new responsibilities and areas of focus, such as interpreting reader metrics and audience behavior. It’s one of the most fascinating parts of my job, and it’s vital to our business strategy.
I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors in Dallas who have helped me develop leadership and management skills. They’ve seen potential in me when I didn’t necessarily see it in myself, and I’ve tried to pass on the confidence I’ve gained and the lessons I’ve learned to younger journalists in the newsroom.
Q. What do you look for in interns for the Dallas Morning News? Any tips for students looking to apply?
A. We look for interns who are inquisitive, eager to learn and from a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds. We treat them like full-time staffers from their first day, so typically they’ve had strong experience interning for another professional publication. Our reporting interns have the skills to conduct interviews and write stories, sometimes under deadline pressure, and we also have interns in photo, audience, copy editing and digital design/data.
As a a digital-first news organization, we’re looking for interns who are armed with social media expertise and knowledge of story metrics and online performance. Students looking to apply should pay attention to detail in their application packets and make sure they submit error-free résumés and cover letters. We expect our interns to work hard, but they have a lot of fun, too.