Melanie Sena of Fortune on What It's Like Being a Journalist in the Digital Age

Aug 17, 2015 admin

Melanie Sena is an associate editor for Fortune. She celebrated her one year anniversary with the publication a little over a month ago and has been working as the editor for Fortune Insider’s “Leadership” and “Most Powerful Women” networks where she writes and reviews pieces about today’s pressing gender and leadership issues. Melanie agreed to answer a few questions about what it’s like to be a journalist today, as well as which women and leadership trends she is watching. She even provides some great insight on the tricks to catching and keeping a journalist's attention.

What are the challenges of being a journalist today?

The single biggest challenge journalists face is finding opportunities to create original content. Today, more than ever, there is an infinite number of ways and outlets that people can get news. With so much competition, it’s often hard to create content without sounding repetitive. What can you offer that other news outlets can’t? Why should readers come back to your website, newsletter or magazine day after day? Retaining a loyal audience is our biggest priority. That being said, it’s also important that the news we do report is accurate and true. The Internet has made reporting easier, but it also presents more opportunities for inaccuracies. 

What’s one of your favorite stories from the past year?
I’m going to sound a little biased here, but Fortune’s “Insider the Hack of the Century” three-part series. It’s a true testament to the strength of investigative and long-form reporting, even in a world where attention spans are consistently on the decline.


How are headlines written?
Headlines are the most important aspect of any article. They have the potential to make or break a piece. Even if the content of an article is phenomenal, if it has a poorly written headline it will be completely overlooked. Personally, when I write a headline, I am looking to pull out a nugget of information that stands out in the piece; something that will set it apart from the numerous other articles written on the same topic. This may come as no surprise, but negative headlines grab people’s attention much more so than positive ones. We try to create headlines that are conversational yet blunt so it’s obvious what the article is about, but still leaves an element of mystery.

What makes a good PR person?
The best PR people are those who take the time to know your audience and your content. Blind pitches are completely pointless and a waste of time on both ends. Study our social channels and see what has worked for us. Also, brevity is best when pitching an idea. Clearly lay out the big picture and how it’s relative to Fortune (or whoever you’re pitching). Once you’ve sparked my interest, then we can discuss finer details. And if you can make the time to meet me in person, it definitely helps! Meeting face-to-face helps me get a better sense of your goals and how they do (or don’t) align with Fortune as a brand.

What makes a good contributor?
The best articles are written by contributors who aren’t afraid to (1) be transparent about their failures and (2) let their personality shine through in their writing. People are much more interested in reading about some of the mistakes you’ve made in your journey as opposed to only reading all the wonderful things you’ve accomplished. While accomplishments are certainly something to celebrate, it’s important to create a balance. Also, be open to feedback. As the media industry changes, so does our audience. We are constantly adjusting our practices to stay relevant and better serve our readers, which ultimately benefits you as a contributor.

What are some of the biggest “women-related” issues you are seeing as trends?
Honestly, a lot of the same issues that women have been facing for decades: pay disparity, lack of representation in the c-suite and on boards, and better paid maternity/paternal leave programs.

What are some of the biggest “leadership-related” issues you are seeing as trends?
One of biggest issues for men and women leaders is transparency in the workplace. Employees have a lot more access to information and resources than ever before, and aren’t afraid to make their voices heard. I think much of this can be attributed to multigenerational workplaces, open-office plans and an increasingly competitive market place. Additionally, companies struggling to remain innovative and relevant. Leaders need to pay close attention to what their clients and customers are asking for and be willing to change course as needed.

Topics: InkHouse, Leadership, Public Relations, InkHouse Journalist Corner, Thought Leadership

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