Talks with a Yahoo news guru

Steve Enders, Cal Poly alumnus and senior product manager at Yahoo! News, gave a keynote lecture Thursday at Cal Poly's journalism week and shared some interesting perspectives.

A few things Steve emphasized:

"I never thought I'd be where I'm at today. I graduated with an interest in newspapers. I wanted to be a reporter and editor."

If you're going to get into journalism, you need to be ready to change. It's a constant evolution, and if you're stuck in your ways, you're not going to last long. Have an open mind. Accept new challenges. Steve's career path is a perfect example of flexibility:

  • He graduated in 1997 with a journalism degree
  • After graudation, he worked at Metro, a newspaper
  • After Metro, he switched gears to Click, a magazine
  • Made a huge leap to television, working for Tech TV
  • Finally made the jump to the web with Yahoo
  • World's No. 1 news Web site in terms of unique users to the site each month
  • Only 10-15 employees on the editorial staff
  • Processes 13,000 pieces of content every day
  • About 10 percent is original content, the rest is aggregated

"Now we're starting to care about, 'Well, if you're interested in a story, I probably am too and I'm going to read it.'"

Promote yourself using social networks that most people are already using and familiar with. It will drive traffic to your site, (it's something I've previously blogged about; it's good to know a professional agrees)

While Steve as a speaker did very well overall, I was disappointed with the low student turnout. Instead, random guests of the older generation (people who aren't impacted by the changing industry) showed up and asked questions like "Can you track searches directly back to my name?" or, my favorite: "So, is it like deadline all the time?" Um, duh?

Students should have taken advantage of the opportunity to make an industry connection and get a glimpse into what the industry is like right now (what it's really like, not what we learn about in class).

On a happier note, I had somewhat of an epiphany during the lecture. Although I've recently been pessimistic about journalism as a whole, something Steve said stuck with me:

"What an exciting time to be getting into this industry."

That statement goes against a lot of sentiments I hear from professionals and peers. A fellow journalism major with a public relations concentration told me yesterday, "I'd be terrified to be in print journalism right now." It's the general attitude most students at Cal Poly -- and the industry as a whole -- have.  Sure, we're going through a tough time, but it'll come around, and aspiring journalists are going to be the people who fix it.

The industry isn't dying. It's changing. And the upcoming generation of journalists gets to redefine news and its delivery.