So you’re telling me there’s a chance

The results of the 2016 presidential election have shocked many people. After all, the polls said that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump, right?

Not exactly. Many forecasts certainly said that Clinton had the better chance to win. For example, FiveThirtyEight reported on Election Day that she had a 71 percent chance of winning. That also meant that Trump has a 29 percent chance to win. And he did.

Meanwhile, in college football, three of the top four teams (Clemson, Washington and Michigan) lost on Saturday. ESPN reported that the chances of that happening were 0.3 percent. And it did.

All of this reminds me of something that Del Ossino, a copy editor in the sports department of The News & Observer, liked to say when someone expressed surprise at an upset: “That’s why they play the games.” Indeed, and that’s why people vote.

Q&A with Bob Bryan, reporter for Business Insider

Bob Bryan at the Chairman's Room at the New York Stock Exchange.
Bob Bryan at the Chairman’s Room at the New York Stock Exchange.

Bob Bryan is markets reporter for Business Insider. In this interview, conducted by email, he discusses his beat and headline writing and social media at BI.

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

A. As a markets reporter, my team usually gets an early jump on things. Four of us are in the office by 7 a.m., looking at overnight news in European and Asian markets or covering quarterly earnings that are announced before the opening of the market.

From there the day can really be anything. Since Business Insider has a relatively slim team, we have a lot of freedom to explore topics that interest us, For instance I could write about Obamacare, the Wells Fargo scandal and how inflation is impacting the Federal Reserve all in one day (and have before).

Posts usually come out of three places: breaking news (which can come from anywhere: Twitter, press releases, email tips); research from banks and economic analysts such as the International Monetary Fund or the Fed; and interviews done with market followers, economists, and major investors.

I’m usually on the go until 3 to 3:30 p.m. when I stop to start planning the Facebook Live broadcast I host every day at 430 p.m. That involves going through the headlines of the day selecting what I want to talk about, getting graphics and charts made up by our markets graphics guru, and planning chyrons with the video team. I typically write myself a rough outline, but ad lib most of the show.

The show usually wraps at 4:50 p.m., and afterwards, I check some emails and maybe finish a post I was working on. Typically, I leave the office anywhere from 5:15 to 6:00, though I may do some work at home if news breaks afterward.

Q. You are active on Twitter. How do you use social media as part of your job?

A. Social media is incredibly important for my job, Twitter being the most prominent.

Not only is Twitter a source of ideas, but for financial journalists, there is a robust conversation between finance media and those in the markets world. There is a great group of economists and traders that use Twitter and are active in conversing with others. Heck, even current Fed president Neel Kashkari takes question on Twitter from time to time.

Obviously, Facebook is also important not just as a source of traffic, but it’s also where I do my daily videos.

Q. How do story editing and headline writing work at Business Insider?

A. Everything starts with the writer. At BI, the reporters write their own headline, tweet, pick their picture, write the captions. Even the short browser title you see from search engines is done by the writer.

Stories are then sent via Slack to an editor, unpublished, to be looked over. It may go by a second editor occasionally depending on the subject matter. For longer features, the copy desk will look over the text before it goes live. If it is a normal, shorter post, the copy desk looks over the story after it goes live. We strive for speed, so the copy desk is incredibly quick at making edits to a story once it goes live.

Headlines are usually collaborative as well. If we try a headline that doesn’t get a lot of reader attention, we may change it or try a different construction to connect better with readers. This is usually discussed with the editor who read the story via Slack or, more likely, verbally. A lot of changes are discussed verbally since the office is open with shared tables and most of editorial is in one big space.

Q. You are a 2015 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. What advice do you have for the class of 2017?

A. Say yes. When you’re starting out, always be the first to jump on something when it’s offered. If there is a story idea thrown out, say yes even if you’re not sure about it. It’s a great way to learn, prove your capable, and add value to whatever newsroom (or any other job) you’re in.

For instance, I said yes to a story about UnitedHealthcare’s quarterly earnings in which it turned out they were leaving a majority of their Obamacare markets. Now six months later, I’m the primary Obamacare and health insurance reporter, which draws a lot of reader interest. If I had said “I don’t know too much about that,” then I would’ve missed one of the best opportunities of my career so far.

Read Bob Bryan’s posts on Business Insider and follow him on Twitter.

My election forecast

2016-electoralmap
My forecast for the presidential race, created with this interactive map at CNN’s site.

The campaign of 2016 is about to come to a close. It feels like everyone, including journalists, is ready for it to end.

Free pizza for the newsroom was one of the traditions of election night at newspapers where I worked. An “election pool” was another one. Those of us who chose to participate predicted the outcome of various races. The winner claimed bragging rights of being politically astute, although dumb luck may have been involved too.

I won’t join one of those pools this time, but I will offer my predictions here. To be clear, this is who I think will win, not who should win. My voting preferences are between me and my ballot.

Here we go:

PRESIDENT

Clinton, with 323 electoral votes

CONGRESS

House: Republicans, 235-200

Senate: Tied, 50-50

N.C. RACES

Governor: Cooper

Lt. Governor: Coleman

U.S. Senate: Burr

Q&A with Emily Storrow, assistant editor at The Local Palate

Emily Storrow is assistant editor at The Local Palate, a culinary magazine in Charleston, South Carolina. In this interview, conducted by email, Storrow discusses her role there and her transition from newspapers to magazines.

Q. Describe your job at The Local Palate. What is your typical workday like?

A. I’m the assistant editor of The Local Palate, a magazine that covers the food culture of the South. I’m in charge of several departments in each issue. They include coverage of new restaurant openings, Southern food products and books, and seasonal cocktails. My favorite department is called “Eatymology,” in which I write about the history of a particular Southern dish (recent topics have included pickled watermelon rinds and country ham).

As for my workday – it depends! We publish 10 issues annually (one issue per month, with June/July and December/January being double issues), so my workday changes based on where we are in the life of an issue. Often it’s a combination of brainstorming content for future issues, communicating with chefs and bartenders about recipes we’re featuring, researching and requesting samples of products or review copies of upcoming book releases, meeting with other departments (often art or web) about upcoming magazine content, and of course, writing and editing copy.

Q. How do story editing and headline writing work at The Local Palate?

A. When a writer (either one of TLP’s three editors or a freelance writer) is done with a piece, we print a copy and circulate it within the editorial department. We edit it for style and grammar and often give input on headlines, word choice, etc.

Then, the editor who’s in charge of that department will review the edits and make them in the document. At that point, it’s emailed to our copy editor, who edits the document in Word with track changes on. It comes back to the editor, who reviews those changes and places the document in “final text,” which means it’s ready for the art team.

As we approach the closing of an issue, we spend between about a week editing proofs. In addition to ensuring the copy is clean, we’re finalizing things like captions and headlines, which often change based on a page’s design. (This is especially true for features; it’s difficult to settle on a headline before knowing what the final page design is.)

Q. You previously worked at the Wilkes Journal-Patriot in North Carolina. What was the transition from a newspaper to a magazine like?

A. It was a transition! I was one of four general assignment reporters in the newsroom at the J-P. We published three days a week so I was typically writing articles on an issue-by-issue basis, maybe working on a piece a week or so ahead in certain cases.

At the magazine, we work on issues that won’t hit the newsstands for months. We’re always planning content (especially features) and actively work on an issue one to two months before it comes out. For example, it’s late October, and we’re getting ready to send the December/January issue to the printer.

Another major adjustment has been getting used to the role the art department plays in the magazine’s production. In a magazine, photography and design go hand-in-hand with editorial content.

Our departments are in constant communication. When we brainstorm editorial content, we ask for the art department’s input early on so we know if the concept will work from a visual standpoint. That’s something I never had to worry about at the newspaper!

Plus, I had to start using Chicago style. (I’m still an AP loyalist at heart, though.)

Q. Working as an editor at a magazine with a focus on food sounds like a good gig. What advice do you have for journalism students aiming for a similar career path? 

A. I’d advise them to immerse themselves in whatever food scene/culture they’re interested in (for me, Southern). The food and beverage industry is a small world, and writing is a great way to establish connections. Food festivals are also great opportunities for meeting chefs and media folks.

A couple of the articles I wrote for a college feature-writing class were on people who have also appeared in Local Palate. One was the owner and namesake of Chapel Hill’s the Crunkelton, Gary Crunkleton. And he ultimately put me in touch with The Local Palate while I was job searching. Like I said, small world!

Why I am renewing my ACES membership

aces
Editors gathered in Portland, Oregon, in March 2016 for the national conference of the American Copy Editors Society. The 2017 conference will be in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I just renewed my membership to the American Copy Editors Society. Here’s why:

  • ACES is growing. It has about 1,800 members, and the 2016 national conference drew a record number of attendees.
  • ACES is evolving. It includes editors of all kinds, not just those in news organizations. All are welcome.
  • ACES is increasing the value of scholarships for students interested in careers in editing.
  • ACES is expanding training through regional workshops, including one with a focus on digital skills.

If you’re an editor, I encourage you to become an ACES member. It’s a great community of people who love words and language. Join us!

How to prepare for the Dow Jones editing test

dowjonesnewsfundIt’s Dow Jones season. That’s when students across the country apply for editing internships with the Dow Jones News Fund.

The application includes a one-hour test that assesses skills in story editing, headline writing, word choice and current events. Here are some tips on how to get ready for this closed-book test:

  • Review news for the past year, including deaths of noteworthy people. Sports may be included along with national and international news.
  • Know the terminology of journalism such as search engine optimization.
  • Study word pairs listed in the AP Stylebook: who/whom, affect/effect, flounder/founder, etc.
  • Memorize the state locations on a U.S. map. You’ll need to link current events to the states they took place in.
  • Watch math carefully. You can expect math errors in the stories you edit.
  • Practice headline writing for print and digital media. Know how to tweet.
  • Take tests from past years on editteach.org.

Good luck to all of the students taking the test this year.

Q&A with Tara Jeffries, reporter at Morning Consult

Tara Jeffries is a reporter at Morning Consult, a technology and media organization in Washington, D.C. In this interview, conducted by email, Jeffries discusses her work there, its process for editing and headline writing, and her use of social media. 

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

A. I’m a finance reporter at Morning Consult, a nonpartisan media company that focuses on the issues driving Washington, Wall Street and Silicon Valley. I cover the intersection of Congress and the financial services industry, with a dash of tax policy, trade and occasional coverage of the presidential candidates’ economic proposals.

I write a mixture of longer, policy-oriented stories and shorter pieces about the news of the day. I’m also the co-author of Morning Consult’s daily Finance Brief, a newsletter that captures the top headlines of the financial services beat.

My routine differs based on whether I’m heading up the brief or my colleague on the finance beat is handling it. On a day that I’m writing it, I’ll gather stories throughout the day and file a draft toward the end of business hours. I file my final draft and go through the editing process with my editor in the morning.

My days also depend on whether Congress is in session. When it is, I’m on Capitol Hill basically every day. Many of my quotes come from committee hearings — I keep detailed tabs on committees pertinent to my beat, like the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee. I also stay in contact with press representatives on those committees to keep in touch about what’s going on and what’s coming up.

But a lot of news is made in hallway interviews — spontaneous interactions with lawmakers after hearings, at events and quite literally as they’re walking in the hallways. I got my first taste of hallway interviewing as a legislative reporting intern with WRAL’s state politics team. When Congress is out of session, I spend a lot of time interviewing and meeting with people in the financial industry, whether they’re lobbyists, advocacy group leaders or think tank policy experts.

In my position, I get to cover the nitty-gritty of policy details in my long-term stories, which is one of my favorite parts of the job. Morning Consult is kind of a policy wonk’s paradise. I also get to be out “in the field” reporting, which is something that many reporters don’t experience at other outlets.

Q. How do story editing and headline writing work at Morning Consult?

A. Stories go through a comprehensive process involving multiple editors.

My stories are handled most of the time by our finance and tech editor (my immediate supervisor), our chief policy editor and/or our managing editor. I write my own headlines, but they are sometimes tweaked by editors, or we float headline suggestions back and forth. The editing at Morning Consult has made me a much more precise, detail-oriented reporter.

Since I am on the Hill most of the time, some of my editing is conducted remotely. Generally, my editors and I communicate via email or Gchat in real time after I file a story. They ask questions and make suggestions. Before publishing a story, they provide me with a “readback” of what it looks like post-editing. This gives me the opportunity to review the piece before it’s published, and bring up any concerns if I have them.

Q. You recently live-tweeted the congressional testimony of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. What role does social media play in your job?

A. I’m fairly active on Twitter, and it’s a great way to connect with sources and/or other reporters on my beat. I have developed a following of congressional staffers, some lawmakers and policy advocates. I sometimes live-tweet events, particularly highly watched proceedings like the Wells Fargo CEO’s testimony or events featuring high-profile players like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s economic advisers, whom I covered last week.

Twitter offers the chance to get a little more conversational and interactive with my coverage. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about policy reporters is that wonky has to mean “stodgy” or boring — regulatory policy, banking policy and, yes, even tax policy can be fun to talk, write and tweet about. My Twitter activity also shows industry and policy sources that I am engaged and informed on my beat.

Q. You are a 2015 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. What skills that you learned there do you use in your work, and what new ones have you picked up?

A. In my UNC journalism studies, I learned the importance of a fully fleshed-out story that spells out all the players involved in an incident or topic.

In my particular field, I apply those lessons by making sure to show all the context around a given policy battle or legislative issue. For example, in my coverage of Wells Fargo’s consumer fraud scandal, I’ve detailed not only the immediate news — more than 2 million unauthorized accounts; CEO John Stumpf surrendering $41 million in pay — but how that news ripples out to many of the players in the financial services world, how it affects ongoing regulatory battles and how advocates on different sides of banking issues are using it to gain political capital.

Precision in writing is another aspect of my journalism education that I use in my position — something I learned in both your News Editing and Advanced Editing courses. When covering a numbers-heavy and policy-focused beat, I’m careful to be not only accurate, but precise in my details. An example: When I say that Wells Fargo’s CEO had $41 million in compensation “clawed back,” I need to specify what kind of compensation (in this case, unvested stock options).

Read Jeffries’ stories for Morning Consult and follow her on Twitter.