Role: Digital News Editor, NPR
1. What’s the best professional decision you’ve ever made?
For me – it’s not what my J-school professors want to hear and it’s certainly not a path I recommend for anybody – it was the decision to leave college before getting my degree. I saw the writing on the wall in the news business and decided to take a chance on myself in proving I could be a strong, employable journalist. It’s also made me work harder to prove myself wherever I’ve been, and the results have helped me move into great situations.
2. What’s something you’ve learned from a professional setback or challenge?
As I eventually started managing people, I had to learn how to couch my attitude greatly. Many, many times, my passion for good journalism, the business of, and its future have caused me problems when it would overtake my ability to work with people. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how right you are (or think you are) if you alienate those people you need to come together for success.
3. What is one thing you wish you would’ve known “then”?
I wish I had known there was help out there for people who are coming up. And it’s not just the diversity organizations, but those which are geared toward your journalism interests (for me, it’s ONA). I wish I had been less scared of reaching out for help both inside and outside the newsroom. I wish I hadn’t tried to go it alone and sought help earlier.
4. How have you leveraged experiences you’ve had and connections you’ve made at NABJ/NAHJ conferences?
I LOVE telling this story, but for our readers’ sake, I won’t go into every detail. At UNITY in 2008, I sat in the back of a packed room to learn about Flash (YES, FLASH!) when a woman sat next to me and we quickly ignored the session and started talking about our work. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but she was Veronica Villafañe, the former president of NAHJ (Side note, I am so grateful to be introducing her at her induction into NAHJ’s Hall of Fame during this convention). This conversation set off a butterfly effect of sorts that had me meet and re-connect with so many people the following day, and eventually led to me talking to The Seattle Times. A bit more than one year later, I was asked to interview for a position on their digital news team, which eventually led to me being a part of the news team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting in 2010. So a boring session on Flash and chatting up my table partner led to one of the highlights of my career.
5. What’s one of your favorite public media stories, podcasts, shows or series? Why?
If I’m just talking longtime public media podcasts, it’s the staples like This American Life, Snap Judgment, Radiolab and Reveal. The Code Switch podcast has been my Sunday evening listen since it launched. And for my connection to home, I try to catch up with Texas Standard frequently.
Follow Joe: @JoeRuiz