By Tim Webber
Everybody on this trip is, at the least, a political junkie. Some go so far as to pursue multiple majors that include the word “politics.”
I fall on the low end of that spectrum. My majors are journalism and computer science. I certainly have an interest in politics, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the first week of this seminar, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been keeping one eye directed towards the middle of this week.
Over the course of today and tomorrow, our group will visit several fine purveyors of journalism. For today, those visits included the Washington Post and The Atlantic. While there, we met with two Drake alums: Matt Nelson and Matt Vasilogambros, respectively.
Unfortunately, the Post was unable to accommodate our full class, so only the four news/internet majors were able to visit the publication. I wish that more of us had been able; the Post’s newsroom, constructed just two years ago, is a sight to behold. We learned that under Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the Post has rebounded to become a profitable publication. A lot of that is due to its content management system (CMS), which it sells to other publications around the world. (Nelson works in this area.)
Having an efficient CMS is a vital part of functioning as a productive publication in 2017. Poorly-designed systems can absolutely kill the momentum and flow of the newsroom at the worst possible moments, so it makes sense that a well-designed system, as is, I presume, the Post’s, would be a hot commodity among journalists.
Even better news? It wasn’t just the Post making gains this year. At The Atlantic, we learned that several major publications made leaps and bounds in subscription rates, mostly bolstered by the presidential election.
The full class was able to visit The Atlantic, which I thought was a good experience to have after our discussion the night before focused heavily on journalism and the media. Vasilogambros gave us a brief tour of the newsroom (and later showed us a copy of the edition that was about to go to print).
I think, as a class, we realized in last night’s discussions that the general public didn’t have a great grasp on how newsrooms and journalism in general functioned. When some of the brightest folks from Drake still have some confusion, it’s a safe bet that many people share that same confusion. The visit to The Atlantic, I can hope, went a long way towards helping break down some of their questions into manageable answers.
It helped that Vasilogambros and his coworkers gave detailed, insightful answers on not just journalism questions, but political questions as well. I heard several of my classmates say afterwards that they learned more from that site visit than some of the more politically-oriented ones — and certainly more than the morning sessions at the Washington Center.
Tomorrow, we visit NPR, and you’ll surely be able to read about that visit in this space as soon as I calm down from my excitement.