Bachelor of Arts, English and Journalism, 2008
It’s not just about putting stories on the internet anymore. It’s about how people read them, where they read them.
It was a Sunday night in June 2013. Ruth Spencer was in her tiny New York apartment with a few colleagues from The Guardian US where she was Community Editor. Edward Snowden, the man who had leaked thousands of documents from the American National Security Agency that revealed global surveillance programs, was in hiding. But he had agreed to take live questions from Guardian readers and reply to them in a live blog. Ruth was managing the whole operation. The logistics were complicated. She remembers the scene with a laugh.
“My Dad was visiting me and he was falling asleep on the couch while we were organizing this thing with the most wanted man in the world.”
The next day, the Q&A went off without a hitch. “And it was totally amazing and it was live.”
It’s one example of how Ruth sees the news business changing to adapt to new technologies. This was a major international story delivered in a unique way through social media and the web.
“It’s not just about putting stories on the internet anymore. It’s about how people read them, where they read them.”
Ruth got her first taste of the digital world at King’s as editor of the student paper, The Watch.
“It was sort of like a canvas and you could shape or change from one year to the next, experimenting with different formats. Digital was just starting to happen. I looked at it like it was a puzzle that we needed to figure out.”
From King’s, Ruth went to the Netherlands where she ran an international digital journalism project through the European Journalism Centre. It’s a nonprofit organization that promotes “high quality journalism through professional training”.
But Ruth wanted to get back to the “nuts and bolts of journalism”. She left Europe and enrolled in the Masters of Journalism program at New York University where she studied “how the internet was changing everything for so many news organizations. It was also very puzzle-like. How do we translate the old model into this new world?”
And from there she says she “hounded” the people at The Guardian US for a job. The Guardian was at the vanguard of the digital shift in news. It was a great fit.
Ruth became Deputy Features Editor for The Guardian, continuing to do what she did at The Watch - figure out the puzzle. But it has become an increasingly complex puzzle with more pieces added as new technologies and new ways of learning how her readers consume news are developed.
But the old rules of journalism still apply. “We are still editors and we use our editorial judgment,” she says. After all “a good story is still a good story.”
Ruth moved on from The Guardian in early 2017. But she continues to work in the digital world. She is Senior Editor with New York Magazine’s branded destination site for fashion and beauty, The Cut.
Posted: Mar. 2017