My internship is over and it’s time to reflect on what I’ve learned this summer. While I learned a lot between the copy and digital desks, I wanted to share some thoughts from my time on NewsOK.com. Here are five lessons I’ve learned from working on NewsOK.com that apply to both the website and life.
5. When it rains, it pours
Some days on the digital desk would be a breeze. I’d come in, moderate some comments, post some wire stories, change some widgets and it’d be nice and calm for the day.
And then other days would be a little tricky. Sometimes there’d be two breaking news items at the same time and you’d have to send two breaking news alerts and place the stories at the top of the website at the same time. Sometimes you’d get a bunch of wire content or comments that need to be moderated all at once, and you have to do it as quickly as you can. Sometimes AP would be extremely late at posting an important story like the Jerry Sandusky verdict and you have to improvise. Sometimes you’d have meetings to go to during all of this. Sometimes these things would all go wrong at the same time and you’d want to “rip your hair out and set it on fire,” as I often say (my high school yearbook advisor taught me that one).
Don’t rip your hair out and set it on fire, as I have never actually done. When it rains, it pours. Take a deep breath and power through it. As long as you are alive and the website works, it is OK.
4. Trial and error is the best learning process
They always say you’ll never know until you try. So when it comes to life and working on to the website, think of new ideas and just go for it. Just make sure you have a good, quick backup plan lined up in case something goes wrong (or if you’re working on the website, always keep the regions admin open).
3. Even intelligent people curse
Moderating comments on the website sounds like it’d be boring, but it was one of my favorite parts because it’s how I got to know our readers. Some people leave novels and others leave very short responses. Some people stay on topic and others will find any excuse to talk about whatever issue they really care about (spoiler alert: it’s usually health care, Oklahoma football or anything political). A few of the commenters are digital frenemies. They continue conversations across multiple articles and hold grudges like nobody’s business. They were my favorites.
But a good chunk of people curse, including the intelligent people with good arguments. Nothing breaks my heart more than having to delete a good, thoughtful comment just because someone ends it by calling someone else a name or curses. Even intelligent people curse, but sometimes we have to delete their comments, too.
2. Adding Bill Hader makes anything better
When I was running the site on my first Saturday, I was thinking of some creative ways to get people excited about the NBA Playoffs. We typically post one story an hour to Facebook and everything else automatically tweets. But I noticed that our Saturday social media traffic was pretty slow compared to the other days of the week, so I decided to switch it up.
I went through one of our reader-submitted photo galleries of how people Thunder Up. I found a picture of Bill Hader, who is a Tulsa native and is one of the best “Saturday Night Live” cast members of all time (in my opinion, of course.) So I posted the picture of Bill Hader to Facebook and Twitter and asked people how they were Thundering Up for the NBA Finals, and reminded them that they could still submit photos to our gallery. The photo got a bunch of likes on Facebook, and we got plenty of retweets and replies on Twitter. We also got more than 20 photo submissions before I left that morning, which is really good for a Saturday. People loved seeing a celebrity Thunder Up, and I loved having the extra photos to add to the gallery. When in doubt, add Bill Hader.
1. Trying to figure out what went wrong isn’t nearly as important as fixing it
In life and online, things will always go wrong. Code will break, stories will go missing, and widgets will magically double. Sometimes it takes you five seconds to know what went wrong, and sometimes it takes you an hour. Sometimes it’ll take even longer. While finding out what went wrong is important, it isn’t nearly as important as fixing it. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to find out what went wrong, because you definitely should. But you can’t exactly leave a broken widget on the homepage for an hour waiting for an answer from someone else. Sometimes you need to improvise and come up with a Plan B and deal with the detective work later. As Tim Gunn says, “Make it work.”