sarah laitnerEvery week we ask a leading figure in digital news about their work, their career and what it takes to be a journalist in the 21st century.

Our guest this week is Sarah Laitner, head of social media and development at The Financial Times, who gave an insight into the career path that lead her to this role, and the skills needed to succeed in the media industry today.

What is your job title and what does that mean?

I am head of social media and development at the FT. This means I run the team that uses social media to increase the reach of FT journalism and to find news.

I also collaborate with commercial colleagues to develop our presence on chat apps and other platforms.

How did you get started in the industry?

It was my childhood dream to be a journalist and I feel lucky that it came true.

I applied for every work experience programme I could while I was a student. I joined the FT as a graduate trainee and have had a range of jobs here since.

What do you most look forward to at the start of your day?

The opportunity to experiment.

What does a normal day look like for you? In emoji.

sarah laitner emoji

What three tools or apps do you use most for work?
  • Gmail/Google Drive, the backbone of my working day. Great for collaboration.
  • Chartbeat gives me detailed information on how people are interacting with the FT.
  • Crowdtangle – just started using this for social listening.
On top of these I look at the social networks.

What would you focus on if you were training as a journalist now?

Read, watch and listen to as much as you can, from as many sources as possible. Talk to as many people as you can. This is so you can report and edit broadly and be exposed to fresh thinking.

It surprises me how often people get caught in the “filter bubble”, where access to news and views narrows.

What skills do you think are important to your role?
  • curiosity;
  • a focus on results;
  • prioritisation;
  • collaboration; 
  • an ability to put yourself in the readers' or viewers' or listeners’ shoes. My team is part of a broader audience engagement unit that thinks about this. 
What has your current job taught you about the industry?

Generally, it’s best to embrace change. If you’re not sure about something new, don’t ponder: just try it. Small, iterative experiments can work best.

You can’t keep up with everything.

What would you say to someone applying to work at your organisation?

Read our journalism, show your enthusiasm, and have an attention to detail, clarity and balance.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Remember to ask why.

Check back in the first week of January for a new look into the media industry – in the meantime, you can read through our other weekly interviews with digital media experts.

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