Ken Ward Jr. wishes he’d learned programming

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?

Ken Ward Jr. is in a place that’s rare for a lot of journalists right now — the same newspaper where he worked a decade ago. In 2008, he was investigating how the Bush administration gutted coal mine safety for the (Charleston, West Virginia) Gazette-Mail.

In 2018, the newspaper declared bankruptcy, was sold and had layoffs. Ward was also named a MacArthur fellow that year. This year, he’ll continue working with ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network.

Here’s what he told us about the past 10 years:

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

People thinking the news is free, and social media.

In the last 10 years, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen journalism go through?

Social media.

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

Social media.

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

Using the Internet to access far-away government records.

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

I wish I had learned more programming.

Looking back, what are you glad you didn’t give up in your career?

Taking notes by hand.

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

We have a much smaller staff.

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

Hopefully working here, at an all-digital newsroom.

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

ProPublica.

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

Facebook.

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

Trying to remake our organization.

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

Being unable to remake our organization in a way that is financially sustainable.