Embedding journalism everywhere: 5 reporters rewriting the career path

If the web makes everyone a publisher, doesn’t everyone need journalism? That’s the proposal that media pundit Jeff Jarvis made in April, toying with the idea of embedding journalists, and especially the processes and values of journalism, in organizations that traditionally have had little reason to associate with the rituals and codes of the newsroom. Jarvis’ point: journalists are the best at adding context, finding missing information and presenting accurate and compelling stories. As more companies, governments, police departments, NGOs and universities use the web to disseminate information directly to an audience, the idea doesn’t seem so crazy.

We set out to find some examples of this embedded journalism and came up with five reporters who have left the newsroom not for PR gigs or to write a book but to practice their craft in a very different way. Their profiles are below but here’s what we learned in the process:

  • Tech startups are big believers in embedded journalism.
  • Embedding favors journalists who can use their editorial savvy in conjunction with algorithms, datasets and business teams. That means curation, data journalism and building content relationships.
  • This is happening right now. All of our examples left the newsroom for their current employers in the last year or so.
  • Anyone thinking of making the leap should be prepared for a very different culture than that of the newsroom (duh!).

Dan Roth (@danroth), Executive Editor, LinkedIn

Roth joined LinkedIn last summer after stints as managing editor at Fortune.com and writing for Wired and Portfolio. He now runs LinkedIn Today, a news feed that delivers industry headlines tailored to users’ information and preferences. “It’s based on an algorithm, and I’m bringing some human editing to the entire experience,” Roth told Fast Company last year. “I used to be editor of Fortune Digital, and I realized we put up articles and just hoped the right people found them. At LinkedIn, we want to take the hope out of it.” Roth also collaborates with the company’s data scientists. 

Mark Luckie (@marksluckie), Creative Content Manager for Journalism and the Media, Twitter

Formerly social media editor at The Washington Post, Luckie joined Twitter in June and coordinates with journalists and news organizations on how they can best use the platform. He also collects insights on the tools reporters need for the future. “We are doing rolling analysis of how people are interacting with tweets, and we continue to post those sorts of things on the Twitter for Newsrooms page,” he says. In October Luckie will also present a series of free webinars on Twitter for Journalists in partnership with the National Press Foundation. Luckie says of the transition from WaPo to Twitter, “Being in a place where I get to step back and think and be innovative is quite a change for me. I’m still doing what I’ve been doing for news, which is monitoring what journalists are doing on social media.”

Liz Lufkin (@LLufkin), Chief Content Officer, Trapit

Lufkin was in charge of front page programming at Yahoo! before joining this content discovery site in April. The former USA Today editor now helps Trapit build partnerships with publishers and manages the company’s curation team. The team focuses on building topic-based traps that give users a broader view of how news stories develop than the traditional model, says Lufkin. “The story arc is a lot longer than I as a mainstream traditional journalist initially imagined it,” she says. “In a lot of cases, the conversation starts earlier and it goes on longer, and I find that really fascinating.” Her advice to journalists making the transition from newsroom to tech company is be prepared to justify practices you may have taken for granted. “At newspapers, the separation of church and state is sacred, but in tech companies, they’ll say ‘Why is that?’”

Liv Buli (@lbuli), Music Data Journalist, Next Big Sound

Buli was a reporter for The Local East Village and an editorial intern at Newsweek before taking her data journalism skills to Next Big Sound, which provides intelligence to the music industry. Buli has used the company’s vast trove of data to create stories on the fastest-growing artists at Bonaroo and the spike in interest about Taylor Swift after the singer’s live web chat. “With a wealth of data concerning artists at my fingertips, I am able to put together articles on trends within the industry, festivals, up-and-coming artists and more that can be of interest and value to anyone working with music,” she says, adding that her employer’s combination of data from social networks and sales figures gives her more insight than she would traditionally have had as a music journalist. Although Buli misses bouncing around ideas and pitching during weekly editorial meetings, she says, “My colleagues are a great source of feedback for me and often introduce to me to new great ideas through what they have seen in the data.”

Mark Armstrong (@markarms), Editorial Director, Pocket

Armstrong joined Pocket (then called Read It Later) last fall after discussions with CEO and founder Nate Weiner about how publishers might use the platform, which provides a handy way for people to save articles and other media for later consumption. Armstrong’s credentials: he founded Longreads, was news director at People.com and the New York bureau chief at E! Online. Armstrong has been using his editorial knowhow to suss out trends from Pocket’s data that show how different users consume content differently. “We’ve done a number of Pocket Trends reports highlighting how saving [media] for later can affect the types of content we consume,” he says. (Two examples highlight the most-read authors and the popularity of video on the platform.) Working at a tech startup has also given Armstrong the chance to contribute to business development, which doesn’t usually happen in traditional news organizations. “Everyone needs to be thinking about how to grow the business, so you are in a much better position to hear the challenges of what needs to happen.”

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About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer whose work appears in Bankrate.com, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, MediaBistro.com, Parade Magazine, and SELF, among other places. She is the author of The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets and blogs at The Urban Muse.