Journalistic Experience: Ms. Georgia Wells graduated from Stanford with a focus on Middle Eastern Studies. After she came back to Stanford, she first worked as an assistant editor for a publication called The Beat Within, a creative writing magazine for incarcerated children and young adults. She also interned at the Palo Alto Weekly, and shared some thoughts about the direction of print journalism through her experiences.
A Journalists’ Modern Routine: Wells’ called her routine during her internship for the Weekly something that “is very dependent on the publication”; she made clear there is no singular routine for the journalist due to the wide variety of jobs that modern journalists take on. Nonetheless, Wells claims that technology has changed some parts of her day-to-day life as a journalist.
During her time at the Weekly, Wells began the day at 9:30, where she was handed on paper topics that were interesting. Why on paper? Wells thought the major reason was the age of the head editor “he was just an old school guy that was a fan of print paper.” Wells commented that the real effect on the digital age on the journalistic trenches seems have a to do a lot with age and with the prevailing attitudes of editors more than the actual technology that emerges.
Wells would spend the morning to call local government officials, and then immediately email individuals those officials recommend to set up meetings later in the day. She found emails useful in this regard: “I can contact my sources and have them get back to me in their own time” said Wells. “In the meantime, I can do some research on the topic at hand and know what to actually ask them come the interview.” Meanwhile, older reporters in the office are happy to cold call these referrals and do the interview or meeting setup on the phone, which means a lot of the research has to be done before any contacts can be made. “Practical use of technology allows me to be more efficient with my time,” said Wells.
In the afternoon, she would bike to those sources and do the actual interviewing to talk to locals as well as the meeting she had set up. If she had to talk by phone to do an interview, she would do this as well, but would try not to do email interviews until she really had to. Wells found this use of technology to interfere with a good interview: “very few people that I know of rely totally on email to conduct interviews or the sort,” said Wells. “There is a lot more loose dialogue, a lot more open communication on the phone and in person. If there is something you need to learn about a complicated issue, having a back-and-forth with someone is a much faster way to acquire knowledge than creating an email thread back and forth.”
Social networks, for all their online presence in digital journalistic content, have only marginal impact on the actual journalism required to produce that content. Wells uses such networks as a way of solidifying acquaintances and getting in touch with people who may otherwise be surrounded by a ring of assistants and secretaries.
It seems, then, that technology has a substantial but narrow effect on the routines of journalists. Beneath the tides of revolution in the publishing and the viewing of content, the technology required to produce the content is still done best by verbal jousting. Email has emerged as a powerful tool to increase journalistic efficiency, but can also be used in less than optimum ways, as Wells suggests. Other than the occasional ‘Track Changes’ in Word and LinkedIn invitation, Wells makes clear that a lot of fundamentals remain unchanged.