Q&A with Carla Correa of The Baltimore Sun

Carla Correa is a community coordinator at The Baltimore Sun. In this Q&A, conducted by e-mail, she talks about her job and her transition from the copy desk to social media. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Q. Describe your job at the Baltimore Sun. What is your typical day like?

A. My title is community coordinator. Community coordinators at The Baltimore Sun are responsible for generating loyalty, frequency and advocacy among Web site users through blogging, social media and other outreach tools.

It’s a new position, so we have the opportunity to shape our roles in the newsroom. On a typical day, I get to the office between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. I track page views and local visits to various stories, blogs, etc.

Throughout the day, I update the @baltsunarts Twitter account, and occasionally @baltimoresun. I help to update and enliven our Facebook account, too, and keep tabs on social news sites. Our team also works on special Web-side projects; helps organize and run live chats on baltimoresun.com; and assists reporters with social media, if need be.

Q. You’re active on Twitter. What makes for a successful tweet?

A. It’s important for journalists to remember that Twitter is a conversation. So, news organizations, in my opinion, shouldn’t set up an automated feed of their stories. Sometimes, automated feeds feel a bit too much like spam and turns off followers and potential followers.

Successful tweets are engaging, personalized and a bit humorous. Successful journalists on Twitter respond to questions, retweet others’ tweets, seek sources, etc.

Now, for the actual wording. Unlike most newsy headlines, tweets can be a random interesting quote or catchy fact — couple that with a link, and you’ll have something people might click on. Like a headline, you ideally want to use keywords so people can easily find news and comments that interest them.

Using a hashtag is also a good way to classify your tweet and to help people find it. For example, the hashtag #dixontrial has helped Baltimoreans follow what people are saying about trial of our mayor, Sheila Dixon.

Q. You started at the Sun as a copy editor. What skills from that time do you use in your job now?

A. Aside from the obvious — fitting important words in a tight count (140 characters or less!) — I think that the good judgment that I developed while copy editing helps me in my new position. I need to pick the stories that I think will appeal to users.

Time management is always important, too, and I don’t think there is a better place to learn that than on a night news copy desk. And good grammar and correct spelling are always applicable!

Q. Journalism students would probably like to have a job like yours. What advice do you have to them in landing one?

It’s a tough environment out there for journalism students. But they have an advantage because they grew up with the Internet, and they can offer news organizations and other writing-and-editing focused fields skills that more experienced journalists may not have.

I would suggest that students stay on top of social media, social networking and all the new, fun ways to tell stories. For example, students should experiment with live tweeting a hot story, using Google Wave or working with some kind of format that established news organizations haven’t thought of.

As far as actually landing a job, be persistent, flexible and creative.

UPDATE: Carla Correa now works for FiveThirtyEight.