Media Interview with James Dean, online opinion editor at The Times

Today we enter the rough-and-tumble arena of theOpinion Tumblr, with our guide James Dean! The James Dean who was promoted to online opinion editor at The Times at the start of this year, not that other guy.

Changing traditional media from a one-way to a two-way conversation is all in a day's work for James – get his opinions on the sign of The Times, as 'old-school' journo skills merge with social media know-how in today's media marketplace.

About your work at The Times

In your opinion (as an online opinion editor full of opinions) what makes The Times the best daily newspaper out there?

Our columnists are a real treat – such wide variety of style and expertise. Some of them are even rather funny.

Working on the Tumblr for the newspaper, do other forms of social media help in your work?

Yes – mainly Twitter, because it helps me check the pulse of what’s going on and what people are thinking.

How do you think social media is changing traditional journalism?

It’s changing it from a one-way to a two-way conversation.

What makes a story stand out for you?

If it’s a great big scoop that exposes lying or hypocrisy by powerful people or a powerful person.

How important do you think ‘old-school’ journalism training, such as an NCTJ qualification, is these days when looking to break into the media industry?

As long as it’s backed up with lots of training in new media, the old-school courses are still really good. And even though it’s a pain to learn, old-school shorthand remains an incredibly important skill – never, ever assume that you’ll have time to record and transcribe every interview on your Dictaphone.

About PRs

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?

Contact me only when you have something you know I will truly want to read.

How should a PR approach you about their client?

Concisely, via email.

About you

Describe a typical day at work: What are your editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?

First thing, still in bed, I check Twitter for news that has broken in the morning. Then I read our columns and leading articles on The Times’s smartphone app on the train to work.

As soon as I get to my desk, I’ll check theOpinion Tumblr dashboard to see what’s been going on overnight – if I made any night-time posts, how well they were received. I’ll also prepare and send our Comment Central email bulletin to subscribers.

Structure pretty much goes out the window after that – I might be posting on the Tumblr, thinking about what to experiment with next, or talking with others about its direction (it’s only a month old, so we’re still figuring things out). And, occasionally, I’ll help with editing for the newspaper’s opinion pages.

What interests you most about your job?

I’m thoroughly enjoying experimenting with theOpinion Tumblr. Then there’s the fact that I get to work with the rather talented bunch that are The Times’s columnists, leader writers and opinion editors.

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?

The Times hired me as online law editor in May last year. I’d previously worked for three years as a reporter for a legal weekly. I moved to the opinion desk about six months ago.

Do you have any opinions you could share with us that others might find controversial?

I’m a big fan of The Guardian.

And finally, were you a rebel in your youth? Did you ever find yourself without a cause to rebel against? (sorry, I had to do it…)

I tried my best to rebel against all pop music. Then I heard 'Toxic' by Britney Spears and realised it was futile.

You don't have to travel 'East of Eden' to find James Dean; he's on twitter! Here!

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