Ask A Pro
Examples of Work
chron.com -- the Houston Chronicle's Web site
local news editor
inspired you to become a journalist?
When I was in the eighth grade, my parents got it into their heads I needed to be more well-rounded and made me sign up for a class I wasn't interested in: journalism.
you train for your current job?
I went in not knowing the difference between HTML and TWA, and I spent the first two weeks nodding blankly. Then one of the editors went on vacation, and I had to fill in. I learned almost everything I know in the 140 hours I worked during those second two weeks. I'm just faster at it now.
are the most popular things on the Chronicle's site?
Classified ads, then comics, then the home page, which is updated throughout the day and often looks very different than the front page of the print edition. One of my personal favorites, though, is the http://www.chron.com/bizarre page, a repository for all the weird stories we run across. Most never make it into print.
do you work with the reporters and editors of the Houston Chronicle's print
We are all newsroom employees, and they feed stories to the Web site all day long, much as they did a couple decades ago when the Houston Chronicle published five print editions a day. I have a go-to person I talk to throughout the day in each news department. Usually it's an assistant editor who prods reporters to write bare-bones versions of their stories to go online as early as possible, if it's possible, then flesh out for the next morning's print edition. I may pester for a specific story, but some editors and reporters anticipate very well. Occasionally when reporters are scarce in the newsroom I'll write a story myself, and sometimes when editors are scarce a reporter will file a story directly to me instead of to his or her editor.
on a Web site means a heavy cycle of deadlines. How do you handle the pressure?
I talk to myself. Fortunately, so does the co-worker who sits next to me.
think there will always be print newspapers or will people prefer to get news
For me, a cup of coffee at my computer desk in the morning just doesn't cut it. To start elbowing aside print newspapers, online sites will have to find ways to deliver their news to some sort of device that's as portable and readable as a newspaper. That could be some sort of mini-notebook or souped-up Personal Digital Assistant or a big electronic slate that you can roll up and stick under your arm as you head for the bus stop. The wireless technology is already there really – we can already send to a Palm Pilot – but it would have to become more mainstream and cheaper. Still, even if print newspapers stick around for a long, long time, they will change. As readers look online for news that's always up to date, print newspapers may try to keep readers by becoming more like magazines, concentrating on news with a longer shelf-life and providing more in-depth coverage, analysis and background.
work a lot of nights and weekends?
No. After being a slave to the news cycle of the midnight press run for nearly 15 years, I think round-the-clock news is great. It means somebody has to work civilized hours around here. Of course, somebody else has to work all night and all weekend. I am fortunate.
advice do you have for aspiring journalists who want to work online?
Read a lot of good journalism, every day, in newspapers, magazines and online. If that sounds boring, then journalism may not be for you. It's more important to learn how to write a solid story than to write computer code. But of course it doesn't hurt to learn how to edit photos, audio and video, and put together your own Web page...