Here at the York Daily Record/Sunday News, we’re looking to hire a couple of positions, including on our breaking news desk. I recently took over as Breaking News Editor, and hiring is one my first and most important tasks. I’ve been part of the hiring process for multiple positions in three other departments in the newsroom, and it always brings some important questions to the forefront, such as:
- What are the goals of this department and position?
- How does the position fit into the structure of the newsroom?
- What does a person in the position do on a daily basis, and should that change? How?
- Who is your ideal candidate? What skills do they have? Not just technical skills, but also higher-level skills such as news judgment, leadership, problem-solving and critical thinking.
Hiring becomes an opportunity to rewrite job descriptions, consider schedules and adjust goals if needed.
In looking at hiring for the breaking news desk, I saw an interesting job ad shared on social media. The Washington Post, looking for a social media editor, got a lot of attention for its ad. Some of the attention was for a line, since removed, that many considered ageist. But people also grasped that the ad was clear and well-written, going as far as to say things like:
— Elana Zak (@elanazak) June 23, 2014
Here at the YDR, it struck some of us that the type of candidate the Post is looking for is similar to what we’re looking for in a web producer for the breaking news desk. The ad articulates key points about, among other things:
- The position working in cooperation with every part of the operation (“Social Media touches every point along the chain of our operations — from news gathering to community building to discovery — and the editor works at the tip of the spear for those efforts.”
- The need for news judgment and good decision-making under the pressure of breaking news (“Strong news judgement and a quick metabolism for processing information are vital.”
- Understanding the different social platforms and how to use them. (“You should know when and how to amplify something and when to let a story play out by itself. You should have a deep knowledge of how to optimize both content and technology for each individual social platform.”
- Being a student of the latest thinking. (“…we want you to be comfortable sorting through emerging best practices, passing fads, and calcifying conventional wisdom.”
- Understanding metrics and measuring audience. (“We require experience using analytics to track audience growth and engagement across social platforms”)
We pride ourselves in keeping in tune with the latest technology and best practices, and figuring out how to integrate them into our journalism. And it’s satisfying in a way that the description of the Washington Post’s ideal candidate for a social media candidate is similar to what we’re looking for in a candidate for a similar type of position. It doesn’t mean we think everything the Post does will be right and should be copied, but it’s one of the many barometers that can tell us we’re doing something right.
It comes down to culture — having a culture that includes a willingness to change, a culture where people try new things without a fear of failure, a culture where leadership qualities are sought at all levels, and (of course) a culture where the core values of journalism and serving the community come first. Not all new tools will work out. That’s OK. That’s how experimentation works, and right now, journalism is in an ever-evolving state of experimentation.
Below is a job ad for the breaking news desk at the York Daily Record. If you think you’re the right candidate and interested in joining our team, contact me at email@example.com, or through Twitter or LinkedIn. Or, if you think you know someone who would be a great fit, pass this along to them.
Breaking news web producer
The York Daily Record’s breaking news desk is smack in the middle of the newsroom — a physical reminder of the vital role this team plays. The web producers in this department take a leading role in the presentation, dissemination and promotion of our journalism. They become assigning editors at times, deploying reporters and photographers, and in some cases do the reporting themselves. They are multitasking geniuses, keeping web, mobile and social media platforms up-to-date and remaining engaged with the community we serve across those platforms. They juggle multiple news websites, mobile platforms and social media accounts across a five-county region in south central Pennsylvania. They stay calm, working quickly and intelligently amid chaos. They strive to turn every news story into a robust digital experience. They experiment, adding new tools to their toolbox without fear of failure.
To be a top contender for the breaking news desk, you should have a track record of strong news judgment and making snap decisions. You should be a problem-solver who can think critically and confidently find solutions on your own. You need to be comfortable directing reporters and photographers, and in some cases editors from other departments. You should know how to craft a headline that’s appropriate for the platform and understand how to use social media for promotion and conversation. You should always be a student of new ideas in digital journalism, evangelizing the latest best practices in the newsroom. We encourage experimentation and learn from failure — moving on when a tool is not worth using or a practice does not show results. With that in mind, you should understand how to use metrics to track what’s working and what’s not.
This position requires early morning or late night and weekend work. Applicants should send a cover letter, resume, references and any appropriate links to Breaking News Editor Matt Eyer at firstname.lastname@example.org. EOE.