Online Editor: No longer a one-person job
As the school year winds down to an end, many news organizations are searching for the next online editor. If you already have your next online editor, then the summer is a perfect time for him or her to brush up on necessary skills that will make your news website flourish.
Finding the balance
Ideally, an online editor will have both the tech-smarts and the journalism abilities to present news content in web-friendly way. You can teach someone how to embed a video from YouTube or add a new article to a CMS, but teaching someone how to write a lead can’t be done through an hour-long training session.
Splitting the job
Increasingly, the responsiblity of maintaining the website is more than a one-man show.
As Andrew Spittle suggested in the CoPress forum, the best way to balance the job is to split the web position into a web developer and web editorial position. Editing articles in addition to training the staff for multimedia year-round leaves little time to focus on developing new features.
As Andrew said in the forum:
The web editor will be attending story meetings and will be functioning in a similar fashion to a section editor. This position is not requiring web skills. Knowledge is a bonus, but not a requirement.
Max Cutler has a similar take:
In my mind, the Online Editor should be someone with editorial and multimedia experience, who can direct editorial initiatives and help produce good multimedia content for the website. It’s my job as the developer to build out any infrastructure and code to support the Online Editor’s plans. Of course, that process is a give-and-take one, but it certainly helps to have that division of responsibilities.
By splitting the job into a distinct content-based position and a developer position, both aspects can flourish together. The editor can train reporters and editors in multimedia skills and help produce multimedia and web content. The developer can work on long-term features and site functionality. Together, the two can produce long-term, multimedia-based projects.
Requirements for the web editor position:
- Copy editing experience
- Reporting experince (especially on a deadline for breaking news situations)
- Multimedia: video, audio slideshows, basic Flash, podcasting
- Basic HTML
- Writing for the web (links, keywords)
- Familiarity with Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc.
Requirements for the web developer position:
- Experience with your respective CMS (and the related language)
- Video/audio editing
- A portfolio of Web sites to prove he/she has all these skills
Additional skills that would be preffered but certainly not required (since they’re easily learned) are: live streaming, blogging, Google maps, and live chats.
Going beyond basic skills
Both the Web Editor and Developer should have a vision for the future of the site and an understanding of a newspaper’s needs during a time of immense change in the journalism industry.
Staying on top of trends in the journalism world will mean reading blogs, following innovators online, going to conferences, actively browsing through news sites — and then using all that information to brainstorm new ideas.
A few questions to put on the application to gague the potential editor on the aforementioned topics would be:
- What would you improve on the current Web site?
- What are your thoughts on the use of social media in a news organization?
- Which new media blogs do you read regularly?
- What’s your vision for the Web site?
- How does your background prepare you for a job as online editor/developer?
- What are three projects you could start working on immediately? (via Daniel Bachhuber)
- What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the newspaper & how do you plan to address it? (via Andrew Spittle)
An online editor needs to be patient and open-minded above all else. Even at the college level, there is still a lot of resistance to the web. Your team of webbies needs to be able to combat the nay-sayers in the newsroom with optimimism.
Training reporters will also require a large dose of patience. Despite the supposed tech-savviness of Generation Y, I’ve learned that just because you’re born after 1982 doesn’t mean you’re programmed with Final Cut skills. Repetition, hands-on learning and positive encouragement will keep everyone else on their toes.
The ability to learn and teach is also important; most of what the online editor teaches other reporters and editors will be self-learned. Thus, teamwork is a must.
The next steps
If your news organization already has a functioning web editor/developer team, or a solid balance between well-trained reporters and a talented web producer, then this is all old news for you. It’s time to consider expanding your web team.
Web Advertising Manager - This person’s job would be solely dedicated to finding ways to generate revenue online. This position would be highly experimental and, again, based on keeping up with trends, reading a lot of blog posts and generating new ideas. This person would not merely post regurgitated print ads onto the site.
Community Manager - This person could promote content and connection with your readers over social media. Andrew Dunn from the Daily Tar Heel has already implemented this idea by hiring a community manager (see the application).
A concept I like from the Tar Heel’s job description is an aggregated news source:
He or she (the community manager) will maintain a site hosted on dailytarheel.com that aggregates and highlights local online content, from blogs, Twitter feeds and other news sites.
More responsibilities could include: responding to all at-replies on Twitter, keeping the Twitter conversation relevant and fresh, promoting content on Facebook by linking to articles with the newspaper’s Facebook Page, posting albums to Flickr and encouraging user-generated photo groups, and looking for new online outlets to reach out to the community.