10 years ago, The Texas Tribune’s Ayan Mittra was ‘scared of not being able to work long term in a field that I love’

January 13, 2019
Category: Business & Work

This is one of 15 profiles in our series on journalism’s last decade. For the rest of the stories, visit “The Hardest Decade in Journalism?”

In 2008, Ayan Mittra was the assistant political editor at The Dallas Morning News.

“I worked with a talented and experienced team. There was so much to learn from them, plus I had an opportunity to grow as an editor.”

But even a decade ago, he knew he worked in an industry that hadn’t figured out a business model.

“I was scared of not being able to work long term in a field that I love.”

Now, Mittra is the editor of The Texas Tribune. Here’s what he told us about the past decade.

In the last 10 years, what were the biggest changes you’ve had to make in your job?

I’ve had to adjust to working in a news cycle that doesn’t primarily revolve around print deadlines. I’ve learned the importance of a news outlet implementing social media and audience engagement strategies. I have had to learn how to become a stronger editor for various platforms, not just text.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen journalism go through?

We’ve seen things go from a more predictable news cycle to a crazy, tiring, endless news cycle. We’ve seen the importance of social media as a tool for breaking news and for reporting. We’ve seen a greater focus on understanding our audience and how they interact with our content. We’ve seen a greater emphasis on using various platforms to showcase that content.

What are you doing now that you didn’t expect to be doing 10 years ago?

I didn’t expect to be working for a nonprofit journalism organization that is both an industry and technology leader. I certainly didn’t expect to have a leadership role at such an organization.

What aren’t you doing now that you did expect to be doing 10 years ago?

I’m no longer at a place with a daily print product. There will always be something special about seeing your work show up daily in a newspaper.

Looking back, what do you wish you’d done or changed faster?

I think I could have been more proactive in trying to learn new technical skills. I could have also been more open with my managers about what my short-term and long-term goals were and how they could help me work toward them.

What are you glad you didn’t give up in your career?

I’m glad that I still continue to keep line editing as a part of my job. Working with reporters to craft engaging stories is so important and rewarding.

How have newsroom layoffs impacted your work, your newsroom and the city where you live?

My current newsroom has been extremely fortunate in not having layoffs … At my previous employer, multiple rounds of layoffs had our newsroom constantly worried about when the next cuts would take place. It certainly affected productivity and morale. And layoffs always hurt our ability to cover the city the way we had before. We just didn’t have the resources to maintain the high standard we all sought to meet.

What advice would 2018 you give 2008 you?

Don’t be scared to seek the advice of people doing the work you want to do.

10 years ago, where did you think you’d be now?

I thought I would be an editor at the same paper or at another metro daily.

Where do you think you’ll be 10 years from now?

I believe/hope I will still be at The Texas Tribune.

What’s the best thing that’s happened in journalism in the past decade?

I think it’s the increase in specialized news outlets that have a clear mission and focus. Whether it’s doubling down on state government, criminal justice or deep investigations, these organizations have produced important journalism that might not have been created elsewhere.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in journalism in the past decade?

The lack of creativity in legacy media organizations to find solutions that don’t involve cutting journalism positions. Plus, the 24-hour news cycle we are all on often prevents many folks from being able to take a step back and think about the important and impactful stories they should be telling.

What are you the most afraid of now in your career?

I’m afraid that the desire to keep up with a relentless news cycle could fuel poor decisions and create burnout.

What are you the most excited about now in your career?

I work at a place that fosters innovation and carries a clear mission. I’m excited about helping the Tribune grow and producing more stories about Texans that aren’t getting told elsewhere.