Sherman Smith: Before moving into this role, I worked on the copy desk and an alternative storytelling section, then served as a lead print designer before moving over to online operations. There was some special projects reporting in there somewhere.
Kelly Sullivan: Yes, I freelanced at the Hartford Courant and then worked as a Web producer there. I also got my BA in journalism from the University of Connecticut.
Jen Westphal: Yes, I had been a copyeditor for 7.5 years and a Web producer for one year.
Do you consider yourself to be a journalist?
SS: First and foremost.
How would you describe what you do?
SS: Honestly, I mostly click buttons. We like to call it “driving the Web.” The idea is that we always have a Web editor tasked with monitoring the website for content and traffic, trying to make the most of both by expanding the most popular or important items and pushing them into prominent positions. It is a lot like being the slot editor for a digital medium. We try to instill a sense of urgency among reporters to feed the beast, so to speak, which results in stories being developed online and updates teased in tweets. We want readers to know if you are late getting to work in the morning because of an accident on the interstate—you should be able to log on to CJOnline by the time you get there and find out what it was that happened. I work with the reporters here to try to make that possible.
KS: I focus on building a community for the Hartford Courant and all of our reporters on social media. I also create interactive elements with our stories while thinking about how our readers are consuming our content. Often social media is used via mobile.
I do the same for FOX CT. We are an integrated newsroom, with both TV and print reporters sharing one newsroom, so while I oversee the Hartford Courant’s main handles on social media, I do the same for FOX CT.
JW: I manage a team of eight digital-only journalists and Web producers who are responsible for managing our website and social channels. I also help guide our digital strategy and training throughout the newsroom.
Has that changed over time?
SS: The main thing is the urgency. Before 2008, we were still mired in the outdated philosophy of pushing the newspaper’s content online around midnight, with few exceptions for major breaking news. There was a lot of concern about providing up-to-date information because of its potential effect on print subscriptions. Today, we are a digital-first publication, and the print edition serves as a sort of best-of compilation from the past 24 hours.
Obviously, we still recognize the print audience, working to advance stories with a next-day angle, for instance, but everything is dictated by the fact that information is immediate.
Also, we started charging for online subscriptions in December. We use the sort of metered system that has become all the rage these days, allowing a limited number of free views before a reader has to pay up.
KS: Yes. Some aspects of using social media (mainly Twitter) have been absorbed into each role in the newsroom. All Courant reporters have Twitter accounts and our town reporters post to town Facebook pages as well. As for the main accounts, I still run those but more of my time is now spent focusing on expanding our social media presence beyond the usual Twitter/Facebook. I also focus on how interactive content that we create will perform on tablets and phones for our mobile consumers.
JW: Yes. When I was solely the social media editor, not in charge of other digital news, I was the only person running all of our social accounts during normal business hours. Now, my whole team shares those duties. At that time, there were a lot of reporters just starting to use social media. So training, guidance, monitoring and troubleshooting were big parts of my job; they are now a very small part of my job.
What is a typical day like for you?