Erica Smith has worked in local news media for more than 20 years, and now oversees digital content strategy and products at the Times Union in Albany, New York, after working in print and digital media in Virginia, Missouri, Indiana and Washington.
She earned her master’s degree in entrepreneurial technology in 2018. That same year, she was honored as LMA’s Local Media Digital News Innovator of the Year. Erica is a HearstLab Scout, assisting in the evaluation process for potential HearstLab investments and advising teams.
Erica is the new chair of the Local Media Foundation board of directors, and the first journalist to hold that role. We asked Erica to share a few thoughts about where the industry is headed in 2023 and beyond.
Already this year, I’m very excited about the clever work journalists at fellowships, startups and established news media organizations are doing to solve problems. Bots that help with editing and clarity. Tools that build accountability into workflows. Products that help them understand and act on SEO best practices.
Journalists are taking on the industry’s big issues too. They’re more data-savvy than ever, both as a way to tell stories and to analyze their own work. They’re experimenting with business models. They’re working hard to re-earn trust that has eroded because of bad user experience, poor customer service and other past decisions that affect us today.
My own newsroom is preparing to join its second Table Stakes cohort, a program that has helped dozens of organizations — newspapers, TV and radio stations, and digital-only plays — try new things and take control of their destiny. We’ve made some significant changes to the stories we tell and how we tell them. We’ve also turned to grants to help us learn and tell stories. The most recent was a community listening program built around election coverage sponsored by the American Press Institute. What we heard and learned already is changing how and where we’re involved in the community.
We are making strides to reshape the industry while holding true to our journalistic missions. But too many organizations do not offer journalists a seat at the table. In 2023, it’s time to give them the table.