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March 31, 2010, 8:38 a.m.

What Voice of San Diego wants in an “engagement editor”

One thing you should know about Voice of San Diego’s new engagement editor gig: it’s not (just) about social media. Yes, being active on Facebook and Twitter will be part of the job, but that’s a means rather than an end. Really, the new position is about leveraging new tools to achieve goals that have always been challenges for journalism: publicity, conversation, context.

Per the job announcement:

The pioneering news organization voiceofsandiego.org wants someone to revolutionize how it presents its content and engages the San Diego community. You will find creative ways — from e-mail to blogs to twitter and more — to deliver our service to San Diegans. You will also be a new age opinion editor, sparking dynamic debates and discussions on the site. And you will be a guide to our service, helping our users find the needed context to keep up with the complex local issues that determine San Diego’s quality of life.

In other words, Voice of San Diego is looking for an editor who will use all the information and communication tools available to us — online and in person — to expand our often tweetcentric view of what “community engagement” actually means.

Take the “new age opinion editor” idea. “Imagine if there were an opinion editor who had never heard of what an opinion editor was in a newspaper,” says Scott Lewis, Voice of San Diego’s CEO. That person would aim to spark discussions. And expand discussions. And guide discussions. And frame discussions.

That person would also curate the web — no information overload, only filter failure — to add depth and breadth to those discussions. “I’m really sold on this idea of context as the future of news,” Lewis told me. “For so long we had this idea, from newspapers, that you put a story up for 24 hours, and it did what it needed to do, and then you moved on.” Now, though, we’re engaging differently with our news — and are more in need than ever of people to act as stewards of engagement. That’s where this new editor will step in.

The idea for the job sprang from a series VoSD recently posted, about San Diego County’s social services. The project was about a year in the making, and “the reporters just gave their heart and soul, and it was beautiful, and very impactful,” Lewis says. “It was everything we want to do.”

A few days after the series launched, though, the outlet’s staff realized that a particular reader — an advocate type, “somebody you’d consider an engaged reader,” Lewis says, “a woman who was part of the circle of people who would respond to this” — hadn’t, in fact, responded to it. Because she hadn’t seen it.

So part of the new job will be to help Voice of San Diego avoid tree-falling-in-forest syndrome — and the other part will be ensuring that its stories make as loud a sound as possible when they drop. The outlet, after all, has a double mission: to do investigative journalism, yes, but also to educate and engage the community. “We just realized that there’s a whole list of things you have to do,” Lewis says. “Not only to notify people that things are up on the site, but also to help them respond to it — to be engaged and loyal followers of a narrative.”

POSTED     March 31, 2010, 8:38 a.m.
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