On The HotSeat: Interview With A Blogger
At some point in the not too distant past, as you may recall, the Huffington Post launched an education page.
The arrival of HuffED was arguably the biggest thing to happen to online education news and commentary in the past decade, easily eclipsing the Washington Post's vibrant but aging set of education blogs and EdWeek's numerous but little-read offerings. With HuffPost’s now-familiar mix of serious and silly items, and scads of unpaid commentary, the education page provided an enormous amount of material each day.
But who is behind all that HuffED content, and how does she do her job? She's Emmeline Zhao -- you may recall reading about her here first -- and she sits right next to Joy Resmovits at the Huffington Post offices, which, it turns out, are not deep in bunker or in a TriBeca penthouse. Read all about her below, though be warned there's no attempt to settle issues like whether HuffPost is good for the world. We already know the answer to that. Nor do we delve into the whole sponsored page thing, which the page shedded a few months ago. Everyone agrees that was a horrible idea. Plus it's Friday!
What’s your title and how many underlings do you have?
EZ: Associate Education Editor. Underling count: zero. Current intern count: one. I do sometimes wish I had a small army of typing dwarves, though.
What are the hours you post every day?
EZ: In theory 7:30/8-7:30/8, but that's rarely the case. Neither the news nor the Internet like to accomodate your sleep/life schedule. Teachers union-city squabbles don't, either. We're often posting until the wee hours of the morning.
How many posts do you write a day?
EZ: We aim for about 15 new stories a day.
Is it true that you and Joy work in a pitch black room using night vision goggles?
EZ: Nah, we've also got this great digital neon feed that pings us live Duncanisms like a stock ticker. The light from that keeps us from having to use the goggles.
What’s the first thing you look at in the morning?
EZ: My iPhone clock. Then my laptop.
When did the education page launch?
EZ: October 2010.
How many subpages are there, and can you name them all (or suggest more)?
EZ: We have 70 verticals with HuffPost Live and the international pages (two Canadian editions, U.K., France, Spain and Italy)
Where do you get most of your stuff?
EZ Actually everywhere.
RSS or Twitter (to gather items)?
Hootsuite or that other one (Tweetdeck)?
EZ: Tweetdeck all the way.
Facebook or Twitter (or Instagram or Pinterest)?
EZ: Twitter for work/info. Facebook for personal. I think I had Pinterest for a day. I don't do enough things with Kodak moments to merit Instagram use.
What’s your most popular / most viewed post of all time?
How did you find out about or get the job?
EZ: Now that's a long story. In truncated journo scribble, it involved a day trip from NC to spring NY downpour, lots of sporadic emails and calls with various editors taken probably while driving my packed life on the highway.
Tell the truth - blogging is more fun than reporting, right?
EZ: They're definitely very different. It does sometimes get frustrating when there are questions left unanswered.
Who decides what gets top billing on the page and how long it stays there?
I do. Well, and my stats tool.
Is it true that you’re paid / rated by pageviews displayed on an electronic board?
EZ: Traffic and stats are certainly priorities with respect to what we do, but it's by no means a measure for how editors are paid. Solid, intrepid reporting is always prized -- as you know from what Joy's accomplished in her time here.
Does Arianna know who you are?
EZ: She knows everyone!
Do reported pieces do better than aggregated ones, or vie versa?
EZ: Generally the latter, if traffic is your measure of success. Our reported pieces are more policy-oriented, more serious. Aggregated posts are more startling and emotional -- easier for people to spread with "OMG" or "LOL!"
What do you know about education now that you didn’t know when you started?
EZ: Everything. My journalistic expertise was in business and economics reporting, and higher ed by way of college work. My academic studies were in public policy. So aside from governmental functions, this was completely new territory.
What do you know about blogging that you didn’t know when you started?
EZ: Less what I didn't know so much as what I've been forced to embrace (and now, happily so): voice and character are not only welcome, but often key. Parts of my traditional newspaper writing training are shelved for now.
EZ: Favorite post of all time?
Probably this one on pink slime. It's a reported piece, though, so I guess that subtly answers your question about reporting v. blogging. I just love to break news, provide overlooked insight and... prove people wrong. I got to do all three with this one.
Read the comments or ignore them?
EZ: Scan when I can. We've gotten some good leads from them, and continue to get great tips and insights.
Disclosure: I am an occasional contributor to the page, though Zhao doesn't (to my knowledge) edit me.