With the end of the semester coming up, we had our last big Society of Professional Journalists event today.
It was another guest speaker: Sonya Quick from the nonprofit Voice of OC.
Plus donuts. But the donuts unfortunately did not get into this Tweet I did:
This talk was slightly less hands-on than our last guest’s discussion of useful apps, but the focus toward online content engagement was certainly just as noteworthy.
Voice of OC has a strong recent history with CSUF and the Daily Titan. My old mentor Spencer Custodio is one of five full-time reporters for their newsroom, and my old News Desk Assistant Brandon Pho is a reporting intern there.
I was the middle generation that missed out on that family tradition I suppose. Gladeo got to me first, or I just might have considered it.
Getting to hear Sonya share some things she’s picked up during her time at Voice of OC, as well as other papers like the OC Register, was great.
One of her first comments was about the importance of being straight-forward:
“I’m an emotion on your sleeves kind of gal. If I have a complaint about something, I won’t hold back.”
— Sonya Quick, Voice of OC
She reportedly has not held back in the past, being responsible for manifestos that encouraged organizations to focus more on digital, and later mobile, reporting as those came into vogue (especially pertinent now, as she says that reporters should think with their phones first).
Yet, she also fielded a question from our Chapter President Harrison Faigen about how to not take editorial criticism too personally.
She said that taking things personally is not a problem unless it impedes your work, because the emotions show you care.
However, even more of an important point — and one that strangely echos sentiments I’ve gotten from my parents — was that the time to get concerned is when an editor does not read or critique your work.
The more effort they put into tearing apart your story, the more they care and believe you can be even better than you are.
A number of other topics were on the docket for our hour-long meeting:
- She recommended hiring staff “by passion, not by skill,” as she herself did not know much about the digital world before jumping into it.
- Her two major rules for creating good search engine optimization in stories were:
- Don’t scam people. Ever.
- Write content people care about, especially “guide-like content” that can be built-up over time. Much more engaging than daily event stories.
- When making videos, she recommended editing them down to one minute each and focusing on pre-planning with storyboards to avoid overshooting.
- While for-profit organizations often only look at whether a reporter’s work garners clicks, she said Voice of OC looks at overall impact through shares, comments and other social engagements.
Then, as any good editor would, she plugged a great piece published that morning with a juicy DUI scandal going on.
There were a few other tidbits that made me laugh throughout her talk.
For instance, when I asked her about dealing with vitriol in those previously noted engagements she said she has had to wade through the “Seventh Circle of Hell” looking at the OC Register comment section.
But the really important takeaway would have to be what she said of being a reporter, in reference to many college students with Communications degrees leaving the industry early, or not going into the industry at all:
“You work long hours, you get little money and you get shit on almost constantly. But it’s awesome! And you have an impact!”
— Sonya Quick, Voice of OC
If that isn’t true love for one’s occupation, I don’t know what is.