Our guest this week is John Crowley, digital editor, EMEA, at The Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com). He tells us how he got started in journalism and what he learned about the industry in his current role.
What is your job title and what does that mean?
I am the digital editor for WSJ.com in Europe, Middle East and Africa. I am responsible for boosting the impact of our digital journalism across the region and reaching new audiences. This includes encouraging our journalists to use innovative digital (visual) storytelling techniques – from experimenting with virtual reality to data visualisations and new video formats.
How did you get started in the industry?
From my school days, I've always wanted to be a journalist. I got involved with my university magazine, writing album and live gig reviews. They would take anything so it was a low bar! I also contributed to several fanzines for QPR, the football club I support. Given QPR's travails over the years, it's been fertile ground.
I have an Irish background and the first newspaper I worked for was The Irish Post, a weekly paper for the Irish community in Britain. I started off as an editorial assistant – writing up local notices, covering sporting events, breaking news stories and interviewing personalities in the culture section. It was a fantastic way to get hands-on experience across a range of journalistic skill sets.
I'm showing my age here, but we only had one computer in our newsroom on which we could 'surf' the world wide web.
From there I went to try my luck on British national newspapers – I've worked across tabloids and the quality press, so I've seen many sides of Fleet Street in all its glory.
What do you most look forward to at the start of your day?
Every day is different. In terms of the news agenda, it's a clean slate. You can't say that with many jobs.
What does a normal day look like for you? In emoji.
What three tools or apps do you use the most for work?
- Nuzzel – it cuts through the detritus of my Twitter feed (particularly overnight) to tell me what stories people are getting excited about.
- Espresso – I love newsletters, but I am a big fan of the Espresso app from The Economist. It looks at stories through The Economist's lens – not necessarily giving you the so-called big news you're likely to have seen elsewhere. It also often flags up stories that are likely to emerge during your working day. You can read through it in a few minutes and feel smarter as a result.
- Tweetdeck – Not a big reveal, but still the tool that I use to keep a handle on breaking news.
Coding skills. Coding skills. Coding skills.
What skills do you think are important to your role and why?
I think my experience gives me an eye for a story.
What has your current job taught you about the industry?
It's changing beyond recognition before our eyes. We have to keep innovating. Those who don't adapt will die.
What would you say to someone applying to work at your organisation?
It's a privilege to work for one of the world's great news organisations. There are so many talented people here so you really have to be on your game. Having digital skills, such as video editing, knowing your way around a spreadsheet and having a few coding licks, is obviously a bonus, but a knowledge of news and current events is essential.
I want to see a demonstrable enthusiasm for journalism and knowledge of the latest innovation in the industry. What are your passions? We all have them – and we are all publishers now. What are you blogging about? I'd certainly take an interest in what you're saying on Twitter, Instagram and other public social platforms.
If you're trying to get a job, you've got to think about what you are putting on these sites. Everyone of course has the right to their own views, but if you're making yourself look like an idiot, then you need to have a think about what you're doing.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
My first news editor told me you can tell a story in three paragraphs. The rest is just padding. The same applies to other visual ways of storytelling. There's a tendency to add in lots of visual tricks that make a piece of work look like the front of a Las Vegas hotel. As more people consume content on those things we call mobiles, over-complication simply doesn't work.
Check back next week for a new look into the media industry – in the meantime, you can read through our other weekly interviews with digital media experts.