Pursuing Technology in Journalism

Six years ago, Hailey Persinger thought she would never work in technology. She studied legacy media in Texas, starting her career at the Killeen Daily Herald in 2009. But Persinger says that technology has changed vastly in journalism, and many companies are not doing a paper-centered focus anymore. Now as she looks back on her past two years managing Yahoo’s mobile experience, she can’t help but laugh about thinking that she would never work in technology.

Hailey, her husband, and their cats

One of Persinger’s current projects is working on the Yahoo News Digest. It sends international news headlines by email, text, iOS app, Android app to keep users updated on international information. It is designed to be read like the morning or evening newspaper, sending two updates per day. The mobile experience team also work closely with the Apple Watch team to stimulate a unique experience for watch users. She laughs again when she notes that her team has created these innovative experiences in the old New York Times building, where their office is located.

Persinger also works on a lot of verticals for yahoo mobile- putting together multiple beats like an online magazine. There is lots of experimentation with visualization and how it looks going onto a social media platform.

One of her favorite parts about working at Yahoo is the funding that the company dedicates to innovation and new projects. “They have the money to experiment, and that’s one of the things that helps make my job more exciting.” Yahoo likes to think out of the box. She adds that “Yahoo is a tech company, not legacy media.”

For example, Yahoo recently partnered with the NFL to live stream the Bills-jaguar game on Sunday, October 25th. This making this the first NFL game to ever reach smartphones in HD. There were 33.6 million total views, which is almost double the average viewing of the NFL games. The partnership created a new line of accessibility for international viewers, and people without cable.

The change of consumption is one of the most powerful technology changes in Persinger’s eyes. Smartphones have increased the number of lower income people reading the news. Now, phone bills are more affordable for poorer families so they have better access to news, events and entertainment. Hailey has focused many articles on local and international poverty. Here is an example of a piece she wrote for KPBS.

In another experiment with Snapchat Discover, Yahoo was not as successful. The brief news content was updated daily, and was placed side-by-side with 11 others in the Discover group, including CNN, National Geographic and Cosmopolitan. Katie Couric lead the news update, but unfortunately Fast Company reported in this article that Snapchat executives felt that it’s younger audience couldn’t relate to Couric’s traditional news layout.

Katie Couric on Snapchat Discover from Business Insider

I thought this was interesting, because Yahoo is not a typical legacy news source. They are a technology company, so I can see why Snapchat was an investment for the company. They have been replaced by BuzzFeed, who is notorious for listicles and quick, witty updates. Snapchat is hoping that BuzzFeed will capture the majority of their audience who are ages 13–34.

When asked to comment on how she thought technology has changed journalism throughout her career, Persinger replied, “It has changed the spirit of journalism, but not the way that journalists do their job.” Journalists still need sources, fact checking, and similar basics that they needed previously for stories.

Hailey Persinger
Colleague at KPBS said, “Hailey is passionate about high-quality journalism: accurate headlines, clean copy, proper attribution and strong photo captions. She has an editor’s perspective when producing online content.” www.linkedin.com

The ways that journalists tell stories, however, is changing. Persinger explains that, “Maybe we don’t need to write the story, maybe a particular idea is better in a listicle or an interactive virtual reality experience.” Technology has changed the way that journalist interact with each other and its audience, and it’s important that journalism keeps evolving with technology.

For the future of journalism, Persinger thinks that we should work together to claim the Apple Watch. She explained that so many devices have been robbed from journalism because we didn’t make moves fast enough. The smartphone and tablet have been claimed by other industries, like entertainment, and we are having to learn about user preferences from those industries. But, what if journalism lead the forefront for wearables?

After interviewing Persinger, I am more confident about training in traditional journalism. It is sometimes unsettling studying legacy media, when we are hearing about the decline of newspapers and magazines. But I agree with Persinger’s statement above, when she said that technology has just changed the spirit of journalism. Accurate reporting will always be important.

I am also impressed with Persinger’s adaptability to change. She never dreamed of working for a technology company but she took and unknown turn in her career and her flexibility has paid off.