Help wanted

We asked hiring editors what they need

June 6, 2018

Edith Chapin

Executive Editor, NPR News

We look for people at all levels of experience, so it is hard to generalize beyond people who are tenaciously curious and quick studies. Needless to say we look for reporters who have sources, but who are good storytellers and good communicators with the ability to adapt to multiple platforms. We look for people who are diggers, who go the extra steps to get the context and delve beyond the surface and the obvious. Specifically, language skills and/or data reporting skills enhance narrative skills.



Shani O. Hilton

Vice President of News and Programming, BuzzFeed News

BuzzFeed News is interested in reporters who are eager to unearth stories that otherwise may never have come to light, whether that be a caravan of migrants heading through Mexico toward our southern border, or suspicious deaths in the US and UK linked to Russia. We look for tenacious and enthusiastic reporters with good news judgement who can own a beat and break news, whether that be through shoe-leather reporting, or understanding social and how conversations are developing and spreading on those platforms.

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Bill Keller

Editor in Chief, The Marshall Project

It seems to me the practical skills you want depend on the job. In the past year we’ve hired an immigration reporter, a writer focused on a California project, an investigative reporter, a data reporter, a Web developer, a features editor, and a news editor. We’re interviewing for a visual projects editor. (That’s just the newsroom. The business side, if you can apply that term to a nonprofit, has also been hiring.) Each of those jobs comes with its own set of practical requirements. Fluency in Spanish was a major asset for the immigration job; interactive graphics experience was a big plus for the Web development job; the ability to guide a reporter through a long-form narrative was essential for the features editor. Also, some skills are essential but are not hard to teach. I want reporters to be comfortable filing FOIAs, for example, but a good reporter can learn that, especially working alongside our numerous FOIA-adept colleagues. (We run in-house workshops on FOIA and other skills.) It’s much more important to me that a reporter be comfortable with complexity, good at seeing the story others are missing, rigorous about facts, and fair-minded.



Stephen J. Adler

President and Editor in Chief, Reuters

First and foremost, we’re looking for great reporters who have a passion for getting to the bottom of things and have the skills, creativity, and persistence to do so. Particular skills we seek include the ability to work in multiple media—video, photography, graphics, social media, data, and, of course, text. Strong writing is a big asset. For us, language skills are also important because of our global footprint and our need to report and deliver news in more than a dozen languages. (Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic, and German are especially prized right now.) Finally, and crucially, a successful candidate has to be committed to upholding the Reuters Trust Principles of “integrity, independence, and freedom from bias.” That means reporting with speed but not haste; striving for accuracy but always correcting mistakes; and putting one’s personal opinions aside in the interest of impartial journalism.



Ben Smith

Editor in Chief, BuzzFeed

I look primarily for timeless skills: curiosity, aggression, obsessiveness. I think this industry often overvalues technical skills, social media wit, and even just nice writing because they all make management’s job easier. But at the heart of the news business are great reporters doing great reporting, and if someone wants to get scoops and scrawl them on napkins in crayon, that’s okay with me.



Marty Baron

Executive Editor, The Washington Post

We look for people who will be both learners and teachers: learners in the sense that they’re always trying to get better and become more informed; teachers in the sense that they can teach us something important we don’t already know. We look for a collaborative spirit, given that today’s journalism requires drawing on many colleagues’ skills to tell stories in pioneering ways. Good ideas are essential. So, we want evidence that job candidates will bring them, and then take the initiative to develop them.



Katie Drummond

Executive Editor, The Outline

Two skills stand out to us in the hiring process right now. The first is audio. Podcasts and audio storytelling are everywhere, including at The Outline, so anyone with experience in radio or podcasts, or enthusiasm for the medium, is extra interesting right now. The second is reporting. It sounds obvious, but the ability and desire to pick up the phone or take the meeting are increasingly rare in online media. We don’t want writers who can churn out five posts a day, but we do want people who can make a few phone calls and turn around one reported piece.

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Samhita Mukhopadhyay 

Executive Editor, Teen Vogue 

The number-one quality I look for in an applicant is curiosity—do they have an inquisitive mind, and will they research and investigate the issues they are interested in? Will they always be motivated to pursue their interests, not because I am asking but because there is a spark lit that makes them want to know more? The second thing I look for is creativity: I want to know that they will ask the right questions when faced with the news and will have something unique to add to the conversation. I can teach you how to edit, write, or make sure to have the right Google alerts—what I can’t teach you is how to be creative. And the last thing I look for is hustle—will this person do what it takes to get the job done? This industry is not a 9-to-5 job, it is about being passionate about the issues you care about and pursuing them until you find what you need.



Jenna Weiss-Berman

Co-founder, Pineapple Street Media 

When looking for audio producers, I used to think that technical proficiency was the most important qualification. But over the years I’ve realized that while technical editing skills can be taught, the ability to build a great story can’t really be taught. You kind of either know how to tell a story or you don’t! So when we interview people, we’re looking for a good sense of humor, emotional intelligence, someone who can tell an engaging story. And we want diverse and interesting personalities so that we can make diverse and interesting content.



Deborah Clark

Senior Vice President and General Manager, Marketplace

Marketplace is going through a major transformation—which means a lot of hiring and a lot of change. The ideal candidates are excited about our vision—to raise the economic IQ of the country; they can both describe and execute the Marketplace approach to storytelling about the economy; and they are comfortable with a dynamic environment. And of course they must, must, must understand the importance of story first, platform second. If you still need to be sold on the importance of using the vast array of digital tools available to us as storytellers these days, Marketplace is not the right fit for you.



Megan Greenwell

Editor in Chief, Deadspin

The most important skill I’m looking for, in both writers and editors, is the ability to come up with unique stories and angles—whether it’s developing a new way of looking at the news everyone is talking about, or finding a story no one else has noticed. That can come with experience, of course, but it’s yet another reason to prioritize diversity in hiring: I need people who read publications I don’t read, who come from backgrounds I don’t come from, and who think in ways I don’t think. 

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The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.