Joe Coscarelli said that he gets most of his story ideas through Twitter, and that it's a good place to "define your character." There was a lot of talk about your "personal brand," and how perception is important, even though every panelist said "personal brand" like it was dripping sarcasm. Joe stressed that being likeable is important to maintaining and building an audience, but Ben Smith disagreed, and said the most important part was breaking stories. If you break stories, no cares if you're a nice person or not.
The way traffic affects how writers choose stories was one of the most unanimous things they agreed upon: it's "a necessary evil," according to just about everyone on the panel. Coscarelli said he checked Chartbeat obsessively, and all the other panelists laughed knowingly, but at the end of the day he had no idea how to determine what would do well. "One of the stories you think is doing to do great can flop, and something you think is garbage is the top story of the day," said Coscarelli. "The reality is, there's no hard and fast rule," added Spiers. Writer never know what people are going to click on. They have to listen to the readers, and the information presented to them, while still relying on their judgement. It all plays a part. (Now excuse me while I go refresh my stats for the day.)
Internships were brought up, because some places use unpaid internships as excuses to take advantage of the work ethic of impressionable young kids, which is a problem. Internships are the primary way that young journalists are getting work, but they're almost never paid. Spiers said that she can't pay interns at the Observer because of the restraints of her budget. She said if she was given more room in her budget, but she had to pick between giving her writers a pay increase or paying he interns, she'd get rid of the internship program altogether.
Dana Goldstein and Amy O'Leary both advocated taking the old-school approach to journalism internships, which means getting out of the city and working for a romantic small town paper on the courthouse beat. "Leave New York City. Small regional papers need interns and they will pay you" said Goldstein. Technically, unpaid interns can't do work that paid staff would normally do. Whether that happens or not, ever, is a different debate. Taking an paid internship with a small paper would teach you how to actually report, because you're given the opportunity to do real work.
Jake Dobkin spoke about his experiences with burnout. He was writing ten posts a day, and realized that the quality of his work was deteriorating after about eight posts. He quickly discovered while running Gothamist that each writer has an ideal pace. "The trick to not burning out is to be interested in what you're doing," he said. If you're passionate about your work, then your quality won't drop. Elizabeth Spiers told stories about the early days at Gawker when she was writing 12 posts a day, seven days a week. She hated the pace, but started to feel a need to post. "I felt like if I wasn't blogging or writing, readers would get angry, which is kind of narcissistic," she said. She eventually hit a wall and had to stop (surprise!).