Haik: Washington Post web team a ‘disruption layer’ in the newsroom

At a London conference, Washington Post executive producer for digital news Cory Haik said the Post’s website will most likely be responsively designed by the end of 2013.

Haik delivered a keynote address at the news:rewired conference today at the headquarters of MSN UK. Her presentation, “Always in Beta (that’s good news),” highlighted several of the Post’s most notable digital initiatives  – including @MentionMachine and the White House Visitors Log.

Since at least one of the projects in her presentation was iPad-only, Haik was asked if the Post plans to get its apps and content onto other tablets.

“Responsive design is really the answer to most of that, and we’re moving in that direction,” she said. “By the end of 2013 we have a pretty good chance of being responsively designed on our site.”

A responsively design website, like the one deployed by The Boston Globe last year, automatically adapts its design to respond to the device being used to access it.

Haik also described social media, mobile media, data and engagement projects under way. The Washington Post’s social reader app is just about to hit 28 million downloads, she said.

“Raising awareness with users about social is a critical part of reporting, and in our newsroom as well,” she told the gathering.

Haik underscored this point when talking about why the Post decided to partner with the emerging Socialcam app as a way to create and map short videos about the London Olympics. One goal, she said, is to expose Post journalists to new tools.

“Sensitizing the newsroom to something that’s new and emerging is very important,” she said.

Haik also spoke about the process the Post is undertaking to focus its resources and efforts in the areas that get the most engagement from readers.

“We’re in the process of recalibrating what is the most important thing, not just to us, but to our users who are engaged,” she said.

What do those users want? Local news and politics.

“So that’s what we’re focused on,” she said. “You can’t do everything, and you can’t scale everything.”

During the question period, former Washington Post managing editor Raju Narisetti, who is now managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, asked Haik to talk about the kinds of people and skills she’s looking to get into the Post newsroom.

“The kind of team I’m trying to build at the Post [requires] a varied skillset,” she said. “They are journalists first — content comes first, of course. You also have to know how technology works, but you don’t necessarily have to be a coder or developer. Conceptual knowledge of how all that works is very important. We need people working in the newsroom who can work and engage with developers.”

Haik referred to her team as a “disruption layer” within the Post.

“I like to think I work with a team across the site that’s really a disruption layer,” she said. “We like to do rapid prototyping and experimenting with platforms and projects.”

On the organizational side, Haik said she’s worked to make it easier for people in the newsroom with ideas to bring them forward and see them tested out.

“The path is cleared for people with ideas who know how to get them done,” she said. “If you have a good idea, you can make it happen. It takes work, but people will listen to you.”

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