Senior Column | Digital journalism is the future, and I’m embracing it

My time at The Daily Iowan has taught me to take every opportunity that comes my way, especially when it comes to digital journalism.

Kelsey Harrell, Managing Digital Editor

I walked into The Daily Iowan newsroom before I even stepped foot in a classroom at the University of Iowa. Little did I know, I would spend more hours than I could count in that room over the next four years, writing thousands of words and meticulously rearranging our website homepage.

Saying goodbye to the DI almost doesn’t feel real. It probably just hasn’t sunk in yet.

Reflecting on everything that’s happened over four years seemed like an impossible task. I’ve watched people come and go, transitioned from printing daily to twice weekly, and made a push to get the entire staff to think digital-first.

I wouldn’t be ready for a career in journalism without the DI.

I spent my first two years reporting on higher education, attending meetings, and interviewing as many people as I could in a given week. (For the record, I have no relation to former UI President Bruce Harreld, though my dad, Bruce Harrell, likes to joke about it.) While I loved writing, working as a digital producer helped me think beyond the words on the page. It opened my eyes to all the possibilities the internet and social media have created.

Journalism is changing. It’s not just a physical thing typed in ink on paper, it’s pixels on a computer screen and characters and URLs in social media posts. The digital-focused job field is expanding and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Yet, some of the people holding these positions aren’t considered journalists. Maybe it’s time to reconsider what it means to be a journalist.

People have asked me if I plan to use my post-graduation job as an engagement producer — a position focused on posting stories on social media, curating newsletters, and making graphics — to “move up” as a reporter.

No. I intend to make a career out of working in engagement and digital journalism. Sometimes I miss writing, but I’ve found what I love in websites and social media work. Digital positions in professional newsrooms shouldn’t be used purely as a way to get your foot in the door, just to join a new section when you get the chance.

I’ve had the opportunity to explore my interest in digital journalism throughout my time at the DI. The digital producing team has grown, we’ve created more data visualizations/infographics/interactive content, our news podcast has expanded, and we’ve used our social media platforms to increase our audience size.

I’m so proud of the digital team and all it’s accomplished. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a team of people eager to learn new skills and think of what can be incorporated into a story. The growth I’ve seen from the team and staff as a whole makes me excited to see where the momentum takes the paper.

Walking away from something I’ve spent two years helping build is proving to be harder than I anticipated.

It’s even harder realizing this may be (in some cases) the last time I spend late nights in the newsroom bantering back and forth with friends old and new. The newsroom is a place I found myself even when I didn’t need to be there. I sometimes joked I should be paying rent to the DI since I spent more time there than at my apartment.

It’s on to the next chapter now. I’ll be moving to Florida and trying not to girlboss too close to the sun in the Sunshine State.

Although I failed to get the DI verified on Twitter (you’d think after four attempts it would happen), I’m walking out of the newsroom for the final time accomplishing more than I ever thought possible.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.