I arrived at the Institute as a reporter, after working as an editor of Macalester College’s student newspaper in St. Paul, but since then I have picked up several additional roles: interactive cartographer, party bus dancer and now blogger.
The chance to try on these different hats has been one of the highlights of this last week. Shooting the Milky Way at 2 a.m. with the photo team, dictating sentences old school by phone to the copy desk, and developing an interactive map with the web team has increased my appreciation for the rest of the newsroom while introducing me to some of its most interesting personalities.
Reporters can have an egotistical tendency to put blinders on the rest of news operations: Let the top editors deal with office politics, the photographers handle beautiful pictures and the web developers bring the news to our phones and tablets, but those are all supplementary. Print writing is journalism in its purest form, and that’s the reporter’s job.
But that’s simply not the case. If there’s any standard for journalistic excellence, it should be the ability of these specialists to tango together, and it doesn’t just take two, either. When done well, such as in this story about an immigrant mother who lives in sanctuary or this piece on increased bike ridership in Tucson, it’s a beautiful thing.
After I wrote a story about how charter schools were most likely to benefit from Gov. Doug Ducey’s new education budget, I wanted to show the reader how this complicated plan would most likely be implemented. Tiff Fehr, a journalist at the Times and the Institute’s web editor, introduced me to tools like Google My Maps and Census Reporter that allowed someone with limited coding experience (me) to create an interactive map to pair with the written text. After the map’s first draft, it took several days of critiques from the copy desk before it was ready for publication.
It’s this collaboration — the photographers driving in the mountains at 2 a.m. to capture the perfect shot and the designers walking home at 5 a.m. after a long night of layout — that many readers don’t realize when they see a byline.
On the first day of the Institute, Ángel Franco, the Institute’s photo editor, captured the essence of this newsroom bond when he described how to address your co-worker. “It’s not ‘my photographer,’ ” he said. “They are no more your photographer than you are their reporter.”
We work in tandem, as a team.