The following interviews are from the May issue of The OpEd Project’s Chicago newsletter. If you’d like to receive the stories directly, email Chicago Regional Manager Yoonj Kim at email@example.com to be placed on the email list.
Amy Guth on Chicago Tribune Social Media Work and Her Story
As the social media and search engine optimization manager at The Chicago Tribune, Amy Guth works at the heart of modern communications and real-time news. She’s also a splendid mentor-editor for The OpEd Project–one of her mentees placed a piece in The Atlantic. Read more about her story and what brought her to OEP.
Tell us about your background. You’re now at The Chicago Tribune as the social media manager–what was your journey before this?
“I manage social media and search engine optimization for the Chicago Tribune newsroom. In a given month, I’m heavily involved minute-by-minute in breaking news, in long-term planning of how and why we use social media and SEO (called ‘strategy’ by buzzwords fans… yuck), and in training my colleagues how to make best use of these digital tools to extend the reach of our journalism, both as a promotional vehicle and as a reporting tool.
“Prior to this role at the Tribune, I worked in our books section. It was around the time we saw the Kindle, then the iPad and all this new stuff happening in digital publishing. To me, my current job was a logical leap from there.
“Prior to that, I founded Pilcrow Lit Fest, a small-press literary festival while freelancing and promoting my first novel, Three Fallen Women. During this time I was heavily experimenting with social media and digital media in different forms because I remember clearly thinking that, as writers, we would be well-served to learn from our colleagues in the music industry when they were hit with the disruptions caused by digital. Change really flips some people out, I realize. I feel lucky to be one of those people who gets excited by change and how creative it forces people to be. I decided to say ‘yes’ to new platforms and formats, learn everything I could about digital media and how it could be applied to literature and journalism and keep moving forward.
“So now, I joke that I learned it all the hard way so folks in our newsroom didn’t have to.”
What brought you to The OpEd Project initially? What made you come back for the Level II seminar?
“I originally attended an Op-Ed seminar at the insistence of a colleague, Maura Wall-Hernandez, who is an alum herself. Originally, I thought, ‘A writing class? I know how to write! What’s she talking about?” But, she persuaded me that Op-Ed was really about asserting expertise and helping/supporting other women to do the same, which was super interesting to me. And, sure enough, she was right: the Op-Ed workshop was wonderful… life-changing, even. I signed up for Level II right away after completing Level I.”
What inspired you to become a Mentor-Editor for us?
“I wanted to continue to support the program and women’s voices and knew that my skillset was a good fit there. I love to edit anyway, and have loved every minute of working with different people from different professions to help them bring their tremendous ideas into forms that demand to be widely read.”
Any words of wisdom on op-ed writing or journalism in general?
“Facts are powerful, so lob them out there to support your position. A strong, well, stated opinion piece is only strengthened and made more credible by citing facts over anecdotal information.
Also, when pitching, never forget that the editor isn’t against you, but instead is deeply rooting for greatness. The better your piece, the easier you’ve just made the editor’s workload that day. Trust me on that one.”
“I’m not sure I’m in any position to offer advice. If you were going to write a personal narrative, as I did, I’d say: Keep it true. Make sure you feel it. Make it real. And be a little pushy with editors. My editor later told me if I hadn’t written the follow-up email, my manuscript would have been tossed, unopened.”Read Linda’s piece in The New York Times Magazine here.