Stu Shinske
Stu Shinske, Executive Editor of the Poughkeepsie Journal. (Photo courtesy of WAMC's The Roundtable)

by Christine Urio

Poughkeepsie Journal Executive Editor Stu Shinske knows “transformation” is a word that will follow him through the rest of his career, no matter what he pursues.

During a recent lecture at Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC), Shinske discussed the revolution and impact of modern journalism.

Experiencing the transition from the typewriter to the computer, Shinske said, “One has to be open to change…printing was a revolution, now phones are a revolution. People carry those more than a newspaper.”

Every reporter at The Poughkeepsie Journal has an iPhone, which gives him or her the ability to shoot video, edit copy, post to The Journal’s website, update articles, check statistics, and write stories at a moment’s notice.

“Being able to make decisions like this helps us set priorities,” said Shinske. “It’s revolutionary.”

Although the ground-breaking ability to self publish has killed some newspapers, they are not going to go away anytime soon.

“Newspapers may change and evolve,” Shinske said, “but until advertisers decide it’s not an effective way to get information out, they’re not going anywhere.”

Since The Poughkeepsie Journal has undergone massive change in the last seven years, including the creation of a website, apps for tablets and phones, and a series of magazines, a common question Shinske asks potential employees at their interview is, “Would you have ice cream for breakfast?” His reasoning is to gauge if people can tolerate and adapt to change.

Shinske advised students to understand the importance of the ability to manage change and be a source of ideas.

“Be someone who suggests innovation…these skills make you more valuable,” he said.  “There is no more powerful thing you can bring to an employer than making them glad you’re on their team.”

Associate Director of the Career Center Kathleen O’Keefe agreed that having students’ “input and knowing what they want is priceless.”

The prominent skill Shinske said he looks for when hiring is critical thinking. Problem solving, analytical skills, and strategic thinking are important in distilling information, figuring out why that information is important, and how it fits into a larger situation.

“There’s a world outside your window,” Shinske said, quoting the popular Band Aid song. “Some people live in their own little world and don’t know what’s going on around them. You have to know types of diversity of life, key issues, what’s happening.”

News can be anything from a war to a dog doing tricks; if a story is timely, interesting, and the content is relevant, it is considered newsworthy.

The Poughkeepsie Journal used to print what they thought the people should know. Now, it’s about what the people want to read.

“The audience determines what the news is,” Shinske said, whether it is about Ukraine or the Oscars. People are mainly interested in investigative journalism dealing with tax money and what is not working in their town.

One of the biggest challenges of journalism is reaching different types of audiences. This task has been made easier with social media.

“Chartbeat is the biggest revolution in journalism in the last two years,” said Shinske. “It tells how many people are online, what they’re reading, and the average time spent on a story.”

Data like this helps businesses determine who reads what and when, figures that cannot be discerned from print distribution.

The studies have determined Wednesdays at 3 p.m. are the busiest time for Facebook. People are looking to make plans for the weekend and want to take a break from work, making it the best time to post stories.

The time period of 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. is known as the “lean back.”  During this time, many people are on their iPads, offering a great opportunity to reach people on these devices.

Because things are in constant flux, there is no consistent training for this field.

“My point is this,” Shinske said, “things are changing dramatically. Have your resume perfect, take ownership and be responsible for yourself. Don’t make excuses, complete tasks, and know how to interpret data.”