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This is a weekly newsletter for Gather, a project + platform to support community-minded journalists and other engagement professionals. We’d love your feedback. What's useful about this newsletter? What's missing? Let us know

In this week's newsletter:

  • WHAT'S IN A NAME: Engagement job descriptions can need interpreting.

  • CASE STUDY: Read how 100 Days in Appalachia created a live pitch event to fund local journalism.

  • JOB ALERT: Are you Reveal's next Collaborations Manager?

  • HOT READ: The Buzzfeed News Staff Council demands Buzzfeed pay out earned PTO to recently laid-off staff.

  • INTROS: Meet Nico Gendron, RJI Fellow at the University of Missouri.

Honesty and clarity in job descriptions


There are some job titles in journalism that bring to mind a basic set of skills. If you say you’re looking to hire a reporter or an editor, it’s not too difficult to at least guess at what the basic duties of the job likely are.

If you say you’re hiring for audience engagement, though, I think it’s fair to say that there’s not a single job duty we can assume will be included. (Feel free to disagree with me on Slack.) Kind of like another umbrella job title — “producer” — “engagement editor” can mean So. Many. Things.

I took a stroll through the job listings on Gather right now. A lot of them include a general, mission-focused statement like this one from the LA Times, in an ad for an Audience Engagement Editor: “You will be part of the digital transformation of our newsroom and a reorientation of The Times around our most important mission: serving our readers.” Get past the big-picture statement, and the actual duties are things like:

  • Work across platforms to help our audience discover and engage with our content.
  • Work with data analysts and designers to improve the digital experience.
  • Interact and engage with our readers.

The question I always have about an engagement jobs is this: How closely does the job description resemble what the person hired will actually be held responsible for doing?

Engagement jobs often feel like a catch-all, as if all the hopes and dreams of a better audience relationship for the entire brand are described in mission-driven poetry. Too often in reality, the performance of the chosen journalist will be assessed based on some KPIs that were a small part of the job description. Or they’ll be judged based on how effectively they changed the culture of the newsroom, when that wasn’t the job they applied for.

Here’s a quick look at a few others:

Vox // Engagement Manager: This person will “serve as an audience ambassador” for the section. That will involve writing newsletters and articles, crafting social posts, advising on social and SEO headlines and engaging with related communities.

Grist // Audience Growth Analyst: “Are you eager to grow a media organization’s audience? Do terms like “conversions,” “KPIs,” and “engagement metrics” give you immense amounts of joy?”

Red Clay Media // Social Media Specialist: “This role will require someone who proactively seeks new ways to engage our audiences across multiple platforms, continuously analyzes performance of social content and re-evaluates tactics based on metrics.” That will require the person to “share content across multiple accounts in a voice and style that is appropriate for each brand and “monitor conversations and respond to questions and comments from our followers.”

NPR // Supervising Community Editor: “... the new position of Supervising Community Manager will help NPR move our organization in the direction of deeper, more meaningful interactions with our audience.” It goes on to say: “The goal is to foster authentic connections and conversations that can help inform the work of NPR and enrich the lives of our community.”

For any of these, my hope is for truth in advertising. I’ve coached newsrooms through their hiring, and my advice is often to make sure the job description focuses on day-to-day duties. That helps move it from idealistic to practical. Knowing the big-picture goals is important, but getting a clear sense of the day-to-day is a must.

Whether you’re hiring or applying for a job, make sure you can give or receive answers to these questions: What will this person primarily do and produce? What will she have as her primary goal, and how will she be assessed?

If you ask those questions and the answers don’t match what’s in the job description, that’s a good sign to keep asking questions. There should be clarity of duties, metrics and expectations.

What do you want to see the Gather community address related to job hunting and hiring? Reply to this email, or post in the #jobsandfunding channel on Slack.

Check out the video and notes from our related lightning chats on hiring for engagement jobs and applying for engagement jobs.

Joy Mayer, Gather community manager

How 100 Days in Appalachia Used Crowdfunding to Fund Local Journalism


By Dani Rosales

In May 2018, 100 Days in Appalachia and the Center for Innovation at Point Park University held The Pittsburgh Pitch, an event that used crowdfunding to fund local journalism. Local journalists in Pittsburgh were asked to submit pitches under one theme - The Divide - and the top eight were selected to pitch their story proposal to a live audience. The top three pitches were funded and the authors would eventually publish in their local media outlet and in 100 Days of Appalachia.

Read the case study on Gather.

You can now publicly share the 97 case studies and featured projects on Gather with friends and colleagues. Take a look through, and then recommend projects you’d like to see us dig into.

Lightning Chats


Discuss a shared challenge, brainstorm ideas for a project, or learn more about a case study at Gather's lightning chats. You can also subscribe to a lightning chat calendar on Google calendar or on iCal. Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, Feb. 6 // Kickstarter for media projects: Let’s talk about the pros and cons, and the when and why, of using crowdfunding for your media project. We’ll hear first from these folks about their experiences:
  • Madeleine Poore of WAMU
  • Alex Hernandez of 90 Days, 90 Voices
  • Courtney Hurtt of WDET
Join us on Zoom at 2:30pm ET / 1:30pm CT / 11:30am PT for a 30-minute conversation. Click here to add this to your Google Calendar.
 

 
Jobs, Fellowships, and Funding


Check out our full list of jobs, fellowships, and funding opportunities on Gather, and let us know what we're missing.
  • Collaborations Manager, Reveal: "The Collaborations Manager will lead our growing Reveal Local Labs initiative and will oversee a few other key editorial collaborations that demonstrate our commitment to increasing the volume of and capacity for local investigative reporting. The first two Local Labs are underway in San Jose and New Orleans. The Collaborations Manager will lead management of these sites and the process to select the next two communities." Deadline: February 16, 2019. Learn more.

 
Community Updates


If you haven't joined the Gather Slack community, you're missing out on a lot of brainstorming, advice giving and collaboration. Join here.

Meet Nico Gendron, this week's Featured Member.


Name: Nico Gendron

What you do: RJI Fellow at the University of Missouri

Why you’re on Gather: Julia Haslanger and Kristin Walters. They pushed me to join Gather after I reached out for “what’s next” career advice. I’ve always valued engagement, whether it was WWE fans (my first job out of college!) or New York Times’ readers. But I became overly interested in engagement, through the lens of readers seeing themselves in the news they consume, after the 2016 election. I’ve come to realize that it’s a fundamental goal of the Gather tribe to make sure all audiences, across the US and the world, are best served by their news and media outlets.

One thing you want to learn on Gather: How other news outlets and organizations are reaching Gen Z readers and making them a priority. And most recently, how memes could be used as an engagement and/or media literacy tool.

One thing you have to share on Gather: My fellowship project (working with teens at rural high schools in Mid-MO without student newspapers and their community’s hyper local papers) or my time. I’m always happy to brainstorm, copy edit a proposal, etc.

One thing about your work that gets you especially pumped up: When the students I work with go into a rabbit hole researching a news topic that interests them and then tell me about what they found. Or when they realize how much work it is to be a journalist. One of my favorite direct quotes: “Being a journalist is really hard. It’s like way harder than writing fiction.”

Who or what inspired you to get into this work? Terry Parris @ The City/ProPublica, Hanna Ingber @ NYT’s Reader Center, Jessica Reed @ The Guardian, Matt Black @ #geographyofpoverty

Would you rather watch a movie, read a book, or listen to a podcast? Tough choice. Movies are a great way to learn more while unwinding, podcasts have gotten me through driving over 400 miles a week to high schools and books were my first love since I didn’t learn how to read until almost second grade.

Links for ways to connect with you.
Twitter: @nico_gendron
Email: nicolette.gendron@gmail.com
Instagram: @nachogendron
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