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USA Today editor urges future journalists to master social media


Chris Cubbison
USA Today

By Chelsea Stromer
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Chris Cubbison directs the coverage of national trends for one of the largest newspapers in the United States.

As the national trends editor for USA Today, he directs news coverage with an emphasis on trend-spotting in such areas as demographics, highway safety, education, faith, the environment and state and local government. He supervises three editors and six reporters.

Cubbison, who has been at USA Today for a little more than 11  years,  graduated from the University of Missouri in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. There, he worked all four years at the campus newspaper, where he was the managing editor in 1970 and 1971.

He started his professional career in New York, working for the New York Daily News as a reporter. Before joining USA Today, he also worked at the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald.

In a phone interview, Cubbison talked about his career and the future of journalism.

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a journalist?

A: Around 12 or 14, before I got to high school. I was interested in politics, maps and current events.

Q: Where did you start off after you graduated college?

A: I started off at the New York Daily News, in New York, at a time when newspapers were extremely profitable.

Q: Do you think it’s important to have internships?

A: I think it’s extremely helpful to see how a professional new organization works.

Q:  What are some of your daily responsibilities as a trends editor?

A: I specialize in identifying upcoming trends. I’m very intent on travel because a lot of our audience is travelers. I cover issues that affect people in metropolitan areas.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

A: Working with reporters and photographers and actually producing; working one on one with a fellow journalist when you’re producing content.

Q: Is there anything you don’t like about your job?

A: Meetings. Meetings are necessary, but the most fun is producing content.

Q: What are your thoughts on the evolving industry and social media?

A: USA Today has gone from a newspaper to a more digital product. The priority now is digital content for the website, iPad and iPhone. (USA Today) is heavily involved in social media and getting more and more into it all the time. The changes that we’ve seen have been like a huge earthquake prompting news organizations to retrain their staff. The thing now is speed and getting the content out quickly. (We have to) take a step back from the news and look ahead.

Q: What do you think is the future of the print industry?

A: I think there will always be a market, but the nature of the print product will change.

Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring journalists?

A: 1. Have internships and any kind of experience you can get.

2. Be willing to work anywhere because the competition for jobs is intense.

3. Become an expert on social media. Become versatile and knowledgeable on those forums and you’ll have a huge step forward.

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