Embedding Abroad: How to Expand Your Career With Colleagues
At HackPack, we help members share their experiences virtually, but isn’t it better to see with your own eyes?
HackPack member Anastasia Anisimova spent three weeks on a fellowship to observe radio journalists in the US. After applying for with the International Center for Journalists, she and 13 other Russian journalists traveled to the US, met with some of the biggest publications and spent two weeks at an internship.
Anastasia shared what she learned about radio broadcasting in the US and how to organize corporate culture.
Why did you go on the Fellowship?
My goal was to learn more about how to promote and distribute radio content beyond the radio. And it turned out that where I interned, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), is great at this. They have a very strong digital department that works on multimedia projects for the website. They also actively promote through social media and produce podcasts.
What really impressed you?
The people. In the majority of Russian radio stations, journalists think first about content that will be on the air. In Oregon, the entire team, from the producers to the correspondents and interns, are responsible for the entire production process. That includes the website, podcasts and social media. But you don’t get the feeling that everyone is doing everything, they simply are able to do it all.
How else do Russian and US radio stations differ?
Probably in how the work is organized. In Russia, publications independently fill the air by themselves. OPB signed contracts with BBC and NPR whose programs run two hours a day each. OPB also has two of its own radio stations; one specialized on jazz and the other on music. They share content with these two based upon separate contracts. So in actuality, it’s an entire network of stations. It seems that a manager in this type of radio station doesn’t really focus on creating content as much as finding and integrating it.
But then do they produce their own content?
They produce stories for the news and two hours for programming. For just one of these programs they have five producers, whereas we have only one or two producers working on a similar program. At first, when I saw five producers on the same show, I thought, “In Russia, one person can do this, what do you have so many people for?” But then I realized how high the quality was and the serious attention they gave each show.
What else surprised you?
The corporate culture. Maybe it isn’t this way everywhere, but at OPB, it seemed to me that the people are truly take pride in OPB. I was very impressed by how independent and the amount of initiative they had to make decisions about what they produce and how they produce it.
I was very surprised that the editors could pitch ideas at the level of an executive producer. This type of culture really encourages initiative.
I think the problem lies in trust. You must trust someone and give them the opportunity to make their own mistakes. Maybe you know that you’ll do it 10 times better, but you should give them the space to mess up and then say, “that’s fine, but just improve this.”
Take me for example. I was in a new place, spoke a different language and worked on stories that I had no clue about. But I didn’t feel awkward or unsure of myself because I understood that no one would tell me “you are such an idiot.” Everyone was very respectful to each other. They didn’t panic, nor say that we’ll all die now because of your ridiculous mistake.
What did you work on during the internship?
As an intern, I took photos and recorded sounds from briefings. The main story that I worked on was about heightened zinc levels in the water. First zinc was discovered in Oregon, then along the entire western coast. There was a major scandal when it was found in the schools. The parents became very considered for their children.
Almost the entire time, we worked on this story. I visited schools, the mayor’s office and saw the problem from all angles. I got to see exactly how the entire station worked on a specific story.
What else did you do on the Fellowship?
We visited the Washington Post and met with Al Jazeera Plus, Huffington Post. We also spoke with professors and lawyers, focusing on development and the future of the media. On one hand this was very interesting, but on the other what works in the US market won’t necessarily work in Russia. Like, it is unlikely that SnapChat will grow at the same wild rate in Russia as in the US.
But it was very interesting to learn about the trends and the people who are defining the future of the media like Stacy-Marie Ishmael, managing editor for mobile news at Buzzfeed.
What were the main lessons you got from the trip?
Probably that for each platform, you create your project from scratch. Each platform isn’t just a means to distribute or integrate the radio content. They should be a completely different projects. I saw how practically they did this and realized that a project for the radio can be completely without sound if it is for the site. It just uses text, photos and infographics.
Any key advice?
Work with analytics. It is important to choose a specific day, say Friday, and review the numbers. Then repeat this every Friday. In each publication that we visited, they hung screens showing how many people were on the site at that moment and on average per day, week and month. To really benefit from analytics, you have to review them regularly.
What are you going to do now that you’ve returned?
As a special projects producer, I understand that we will work on a project for about two months, but it will only be on the air for a week. I don’t know who listened to it, who clicked on it. Now, I’ll give more attention to putting the material on the website and making podcasts. I even agreed with the head of our digital department at OPB that I can send them my projects and they’ll advise me on how to improve it from a technical point of view.
Connect with Anastasia today through HackPack and expand your opportunities!
Anastasia Anisimova has worked at Kommersant FM for about four years as a producer, output editor and producer for the morning show. Currently she works in promotion and special projects.