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.

How to get help with headline writing

Are you looking for help with writing headlines for digital media? I’m leading a NewsU webinar on that topic next month. Here are the details, in Q&A form:

Q. What’s a webinar?

A. It’s a live, online meeting. A moderator and I will make a slideshow presentation and post a few poll questions for you. We will answer your questions as we go along and at the end of the meeting. It will be fun and informal.

Q. What will this webinar cover?

A. “Writing Headlines for Digital and Mobile Media” will cover the basics of what makes an effective headline, trends in digital headline writing and the latest in search engine optimization. It’s intended for anyone who writes headlines for news websites, blogs and apps.

Q. When will it take place?

A. Thursday, Dec. 5, at 2 p.m. EST. It will last about an hour. The webinar will be archived if you want to watch it at another time.

Q. How much does it cost?

A. The cost is $29.95. If you are a member of the American Copy Editors Society, you get a discount at $9.95. Group rates are also available.

Q. How do I sign up?

A. Go this NewsU page and click on “enroll now.” If you want to get the ACES discount and are not a member, you can join that great organization via this page on its site.

Let me know if you have more questions. I hope to see you there.

UPDATE: The webinar was, I hope, a success, with about 175 people logged in. I had a lot of fun. Thanks all for attending virtually and asking great questions, and thanks to NewsU for sponsoring this webinar. If you missed it, check out this Storify page for a recap.

Q&A with Erin Monday, communications director at Research Triangle Park

Erin Monday is communications director at The Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. In this interview, conducted by email, she talks about her job and the future of RTP.

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

A. My job, really, is to uplift the people who live in North Carolina by helping to tell their stories — usually via social media.

My daily duties are something of a hodgepodge — sometimes I’m at events, live-Tweeting. Other times, I’m juggling reporters, developing assets, writing press releases or handling internal communications and general housekeeping.

At the end of the day, I get to help people – there’s nothing more fulfilling!

Q. Research Triangle Park is nearly 60 years old, created decades before the digital revolution, among other innovations. How is RTP changing to keep up with times, and how will your organization get that message to the public?

A. Well, they hired an intrapreneur, who doesn’t do things the “usual” way – that’s me.

When my position was open, the Research Triangle Park’s leadership looked at several other applicants, with very “traditional” communications backgrounds, and they wound up choosing a 29-year-old with a digital content background. There was probably no better way to “walk the walk!”

Q. You also organize the RTP 180 series. What is the objective of these monthly gatherings, and how do you determine their themes?

A. The Research Triangle Park actually has a 50-year-old mission — a sort of “pledge” to the entire state — to create jobs, to support education and to improve the quality of life.

We created the 180s as a way to bring North Carolinians together and to showcase the talents of our region (and others). When all of these community leaders, corporate employees and university researchers present at 180 they shine — and we can record them and share their stories on the net.

Q. So your job sounds pretty cool. What advice do you have for students setting off on a similar career path?

A. Evolve, evolve, evolve. In this field, you must never stay still. You must always try new things.

Social media is really only the current “medium phase” of the digital marketing revolution. Before, it used to be about SEM and SEO. It will change again, again and again.

UPDATE: In 2014, Monday left the RTP job and is now digital specialist at The Body Shop.

The need to edit opinion pieces

Opinion pieces such as columns, op-eds and movie reviews need editing just as news stories do. Two incidents in the past week serve as a reminder of that.

First, The Wall Street Journal posted an op-ed by Suzanne Somers in which she criticized President Obama’s health-care law as a Ponzi scheme. To support her view of the Affordable Care Act as a power grab, the “Three’s Company” actress included these quotes from history:

  • “Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state.” — Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
  • “Control your citizens’ health care and you control your citizens.” — Winston Churchill

Neither man, however, said those things, as numerous websites and bloggers pointed out. The Wall Street Journal updated the post to remove the erroneous quotes and appended a correction.

But why didn’t the Journal detect and delete the bad quotes before publication? The editor who oversees the series of posts that included Somers’ op-ed told The Poynter Institute that opinion writers get greater leeway. But that doesn’t excuse them from fact errors.

Second, Sen. Rand Paul has been confronted with charges of plagiarism in speeches, a book and an op-ed in The Washington Times. In the latter instance, BuzzFeed reported that Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, apparently lifted significant segments of an opinion piece about mandatory prison sentences for drug offenders.

Plagiarism can be more difficult to detect than a made-up quote, but it can be done. In this instance, Paul included an anecdote about a Florida man who was convicted of illegally selling painkillers. A careful editor could have asked the senator: What is your source for that story? Can we attribute that information or link to a primary source?

In both situations, the publications were embarrassed by breakdowns in editing. These blunders were preventable. Here’s how:

  • Doublecheck quotes from books, movies and historical figures.
  • Ask columnists and op-ed writers for links to sources for facts, figures and anecdotes.
  • Be especially careful with guest submissions from politicians and celebrities who may not be familiar with the rigorous standards for fact-checking, verification and sourcing.

An effective opinion piece has a unique voice, solid research and original ideas. It’s up to writers and editors, working together, to make those viewpoints as persuasive as possible.

For more on editing opinion pieces, here are interviews with editors who have worked with that kind of writing:

Q&A with Kristin McKnight, copy editor and page designer at International NYT

Kristin McKnight is a copy editor and page designer at The International New York Times, a newspaper previously known as the International Herald Tribune. She has also worked at the Chicago Tribune and the Irish Independent. In this interview, conducted by email, McKnight talks about her job and her newspaper’s name change as well as what it’s like to be an American journalist living abroad.

Q. Describe your job. What is your typical workday like?

A. I work as a copy editor and designer based out of the Hong Kong office. I fill a variety of shifts, and so my start time can vary from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A typical day on the layout shift is either being assigned to design finance or news. If you’re assigned news, you’re also in charge of designing Page One (PDF) and making editorial decisions on skyboxes, photos and refers. You also keep track of page flow throughout the night. We have two designers to design the first edition, with another two designers on staggered shifts to tweak layout for later deadlines.

A typical day on the copy desk is usually being assigned stories from either news or finance and occasionally some features or sports copy. Any story that has already run in the New York or Paris editions receives a quick read, and new material is gone over with a fine-tooth comb by both the rim editor and slot. After a page is finished, it is printed by the designer and then proofed in its entirety by another copy editor.

Later shifts in the day involve doing a combination of copy editing, tweaking and copying pages and updating our news app.

Kristin McKnight and other staff members of The International New York Times bring in the paper's new name with some celebratory cake.

Kristin McKnight, center, and other staff members of The International New York Times bring in the paper’s new name with some celebratory cake. (Photo courtesy of Kristin McKnight)

Q. The International Herald Tribune is now The International New York Times. What is behind the change, and how has it affected what you do?

A. The name change was a move to strengthen and consolidate the brand of The New York Times and bring it to an international audience.

We were all sad, of course, for The International Herald Tribune’s name to change because it was a great paper and had been for a long time. But what we’ve come to find is that it is still the same great paper, just under a different name.

Not much content-wise has really changed besides our style guide being updated to match New York’s. The only real shift is that there is now a stronger focus on digital production.

We recently started copy editing posts for our new Sinosphere and India Ink blogs, and we all received iPad minis the week of the name change. We also gained a printing deal with The Japan Times, which caused the deadlines for our first edition to move up by an hour and a half. Our first edition’s deadline is now at 6:30 p.m., rather early for a newspaper, and our last is at 11:45 p.m.

Q. What is it like being an American journalist living in Hong Kong?

A. The great thing about being an expatriate and a journalist in Hong Kong is that the news media scene is small here. I’ve been able to make contacts in large publications like The Wall Street Journal, Time, CNN, etc., which would have been much harder to do in the U.S.

There’s a club where everyone gathers mainly for journalists called The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, and stepping inside makes you feel as if you’ve just been transported to a 1940s Hong Kong. The Asian American Journalists Association is also active, and it holds a conference here every year.

Overall, Hong Kong is a great place to live; the city is safe and is a perfect jumping off point to travel around Asia. I get a lot more vacation living abroad than I ever would working in the States, and I think that keeps journalists here and adds to a high quality of life.

Q. You graduated from the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008. What skills you learned there are you using, and what new ones have you picked up since then?

A. One of the most important skills I learned at the journalism school was to be trained in more than one area. My focus was visual communication, and I was able to take classes in copy editing, graphic design, multimedia and infographics.

One of the managing editors at the Chicago Tribune, where I used to work, once said to me that it was very rare to find a job candidate that was skilled in the three main areas of newspaper production: copy editing, page layout and graphics. He said that a candidate who was skilled in two of those areas would be beneficial for the company, but a candidate that was skilled in all three areas would stand above.

I have definitely found this advice to be true. Though getting any job is a combination of luck and hard work, my training at UNC gave me a solid foundation to be a competitive job candidate.

A skill that I have learned since leaving school is not to be afraid to take calculated risks and to be resilient when it comes to your career.

After I graduated from college in 2008, I backpacked in Europe for the summer and made the decision to move to Ireland. Everyone told me I would fail miserably and not be able to find a job, but it had always been my dream to live abroad. I knew I had to try.

After about two months of applying to jobs, I wound up landing a position at one of Ireland’s leading newspapers, The Irish Independent, as a graphic artist and copy editor. It was this international experience, in turn, that made me stand out when I was applying for a job at The Chicago Tribune and later at The International Herald Tribune.

Read Kristin McKnight’s blog and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.