sarah marshall q&a
Every 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.     

This week we hear from Sarah Marshall, social media editor EMEA at The Wall Street Journal, who gives insight into how she got started in the industry, as well as her tips for those aspiring to work at the publication.

What is your job title and what does that mean?

My job title is social media editor for Europe, Middle East and Africa at The Wall Street Journal. My role involves using social to reach new readers, engage existing audiences, plus social newsgathering.

I'm currently on a three-month assignment in the New York newsroom focusing on mobile platforms, analytics and other mystery projects....

How did you get started in the industry?

I started in radio, as a newsreader, producer and reporter having taken a postgrad in broadcast journalism at City University, London. I've reported for radio, print, TV, video, digital and social.
What do you most look forward to at the start of your day?

Working out what happened overnight via a combination of the BBC World Service, The Economist Espresso, Twitter and checking my RSS feeds (see below) to get the Quartz daily briefing and Business Insider's 'The 10 most important things in the world right now'.

I always spend time with at least one longer read, usually a Wall Street Journal world story, such as Yaroslav Trofimov's Middle East Crossroads column.

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

sarah marshall emoji
What three tools or apps do you use the most for work?

RSS: I like a newsreading experience that I can complete, so I use the RSS reader Reeder phone app fed by Feedly to keep up to date. I have my feeds organised with the most important at the top.

Alfred: From finding files to site searching to switching to screen saver, this Mac productivity tool saves time. Here's how to set up a custom site search.

PublishCheck: My favorite of all the analytics tools.
What would you focus on if you were training as a journalist now?

I'd ensure I knew Pivot Tables in Excel / Google Sheets, Photoshop and video editing. I'd probably also spend some time with After Effects. I'd have an awareness of scraping (a good place to start is Paul Bradshaw's ebook).

I'd read everything I could find around the subject area I was most interested in, plus more general news. It always surprises me when trainees and established journalists don't make time to read.

What skills do you think are important to your role?

Staying curious. I try to have lunch with interns and new starters as fresh eyes come with new ideas. And the 23 year-olds are some of the smartest people in the organisation.

What has your current job taught you about the industry?

No news organisation has all the answers when it comes to digital.

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

Demonstrate enthusiasm by connecting with an editor. When it comes to interview, show how much you want the role. It's clear when a candidate wants a job and when he or she is indifferent. And work hard to join. WSJ is a friendly, fun place to be with lots of training opportunities, awards (I recently won a holiday to Japan) and a mentoring scheme.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? 

On my very first day of work experience at a local radio station, I was given a piece of advice that I frequently return to. The exact words were: "When you arrive to report on a story, turn off the car's engine and take 30 seconds to stop and think about what the final radio package will sound like."

I've interpreted that to mean taking a few moments to ask "what's the story?" before deciding how to tell it (is it a video, a map, a chart, text?). I've also remembered that advice before starting a project and asked "what's the aim, what are we trying to achieve?"

Sometimes the conclusion is deciding not to do something – and those 30 seconds save you from pursuing a project that you may be excited about, but one that would be best parked.

Next week, we'll be hearing from Mathew Ingram, senior writer at Fortune. In the meantime, check out our previous Q&As with industry experts.

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