brianne head shotEvery 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 Brianne O'Brien, mobile editor, BuzzFeed News, who gives us some insights into her daily work and shares some advice for young journalists.

1. What is your job title and what does that mean?

As a mobile editor, I’m responsible for curating the news app feed. This involves deciding what stories go in the app, the presentation of those stories (URL, tweet module, photo gallery, Vine, bulleted list), and when to send push alerts to notify our users of important breaking news, feature stories, or information they might find useful.

Mobile editors also work closely with various reporters and teams to figure out how to best tell their stoies within the app. Another component of my job is helping edit the BuzzFeed News newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

2. How did you get started in the industry?

My career began with freelancing photography gigs for non-profit organisations, followed by a position as an online content editor for a local television news station in my home state of Wisconsin.

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

Figuring out how to best inform our audience of what’s happening around the world, and presenting it in a way that is interesting, digestible, and enjoyable.

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

brianne emoji

5. What three tools or apps do you use the most for work and why?
  • The BuzzFeed News app for obvious reasons;
  • Slack, which is the main tool we use to communicate with BuzzFeed reporters, editors, etc. across the globe;
  • And the news app CMS – which is what makes everything tick and allows us to do our job (along with our fantastic developers).
6. What would you focus on if you were training as a journalist now?

Given the accessibility and shareability of news these days, I would largely think about how stories could be presented given the medium at hand. Mobile audiences are different than that of social, of audio listeners, of TV viewers, of those who opt for print.

So the focus would be on clear and concise storytelling while being mindful that every audience is different in the way they consume news.

7. What skills do you think are important to your role and why?

Mobile editors must be able to multitask. On any given day, there could be a major breaking news story which means we have to think on our feet. This involves fact-checking, updating the app stream, sending a push notification, all the while staying on top of a fast-moving situation.

We also need to have a keen eye for detail. Our app stream usually consists of anywhere from 15 to 25 stories, which means we continually proofread and ask ourselves: Can we tighten this sentence? Does this photo best depict the story? Does this headline give enough information? Is this link mobile-friendly? These are crucial details that allow for a more enjoyable mobile experience.

Then of course there’s creativity. As editors, we love figuring out how to best present a story. The goal is to break down stories so they are digestible on the go. Furthermore, we try to grab the attention of our users. This may involve experimenting with quotes, photo galleries, timelines, lists, tweets, or even Vines. All of which help diverse our app stream.

8. What has your current job taught you about the industry?

The way in which we consume news is ever-changing so we must always be mindful of our audience’s needs.

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

Be yourself. Stick to who you are and what you know. There will always be room to learn, to experiment, and to grow.

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

Just one? I find that too difficult so I’m going to go with advice recently given to me by my uncle, that is: "make gigantic wonderful mistakes".

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.

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