I just got back from a tour of The Washington Post offices here in DC. With my blazer off, my sweatpants on, and a Chipotle burrito bowl next to me, I'm ready to type out my amazing hour and a half I spent at WaPo.
How did I even get this cool opportunity? My news writing professor, Richard Leiby, has been at the Post for over 20 years. He's worked overseas as the Pakistani Bureau Chief for a while, and is an all around cool guy. When he dished out this opportunity to my class, I knew I couldn't pass it up.
Once a small group of us got there, Professor Leiby took us to the fifth floor - the news division. Right out of the elevator, we were greeted with a huge monitor displaying the live metrics of the site (how many people were currently on the site, etc.) and an even bigger glass case full of journalism awards - Pulitzers, Peabodys, Emmys. You name it, they had more than a few.
We then heard chimes come from speakers outside of a glass-enclosed conference room called the "Story Conference Room." That was the signal for the 4:00 meeting - where the editors of every section of the paper would gather and discuss what was going on in each section and what was to be on the front page. We got to go inside and sit in at the meeting. They went around, one by one, and spoke about the stories that were currently in the works, and ones that were ready to go to print.
And as much as I would love to tell you what's going to be on the front page of The Washington Post tomorrow - I can't. That would be unethical, and I want to have a job in journalism someday. I think I better keep my mouth shut.
The Pow-Wow of Intimidating Editors (not the technical term, but fitting) took all but 30 minutes. After we exited the conference room and passed the Great Wall of Awards (I like naming things), we were greeted by the sight of the newsroom.
Have you seen All The President's Men? If you have, the newsroom looks just like it does in the movie, except with more modern technology. It's a huge, open room, with rows and rows of (pretty spacious) cubicles, all with journalists working on a computer.
Near the right corner is Post TV's space, outfitted with huge Apple monitors at every work station, a mini-broadcast studio, and control room so that journalists could appear on CNN (or some other news station) without ever having to leave the floor.
In the center of the room was The Hub: an elliptical desk setup where people worked while every major news station played on huge monitors suspended from the ceiling. The Hub is where all the news comes in, kinda like the nerve center of the newsroom. It's always manned 24/7, and it's where most of the Intimidating Editors sat. It was pretty beautiful.
While making our rounds throughout the room, from the Copy Editing Section to the Wonkblog section, we got to speak to some really cool journalists who showed us what they were working on. I kinda felt bad for distracting them from their work (they were probably on deadline), but they all seemed eager to talk about what they do and why they loved it.
Next, we went downstairs one floor to see the Arts and Style section. The vibe just one floor below was so much more relaxed relative to the one radiating from The Hub and the rest of the newsroom. Design editors showed us their award winning pages, and we got to see most of them working on building pages that'd be sent off to print in a couple of hours.
Pretty soon, our hour and a half was finished. I took a look around the newsroom one last time before going into the elevator and going back to where I came from. And now I sit here, typing out my experiences, sitting in a freshman dorm, and clad in sweatpants. The contrast from one hour to the next is unreal.
But going into an office like that everyday? Doing what you're unapologetically passionate about everyday as your career? I don't really know much of anything, but I think that sounds like the best thing in the world. Maybe I'll see the offices of the Washington Post again, maybe I won't. But I can cross my fingers, right?