Allen Warren, a recent graduate of BA in English at Ball State University in 2022, is currently works at WTAE-TV as a Digital Editor. In this interview with Compass Creative, Allen Warren recounts him time at Ball State and how Compass Creative and Cardinal Directions influenced his career. In his time at Ball State, he learned how to be creative, adaptable, and investigative, which was exactly what his employer needed.
My job as a digital editor consists of getting new stories up on the station’s website, promoting those stories through social media, and finding new ways to increase WTAE’s digital audience. I’m also always looking online and elsewhere for new stories to pitch to the newsroom. I coordinate with reporters, TV producers, and the rest of the digital team to prioritize what goes up online, what visuals we use, and how the TV and digital ends promote each other. I do a lot of writing in my job, especially with breaking or developing news. I also use graphic design and photo-editing tools to edit TV content and create images for our social channels.
My work environment depends a lot on how well the rest of the world wants to behave. A slow day can be followed by one with wall-to-wall coverage. With that, the newsroom tends to be more on the busy/fast-paced side. My shift will be stacked with things to do, with news directors, producers, editors, photographers, reporters, and my other digital team members going around and suggesting stories or following up on existing leads. If there is a fire, a shooting, or a car crash, I will have plenty to do — and those events like to happen all at once!
Strictly within the digital arena, I work alone about 90% of the time. The newsroom overall is basically never empty, though. Even when I’ve worked from home, I’m always emailing back and forth with others to understand where we are in what we’re covering and about what our digital strategy could be.
Journalism requires a commitment to diversity and inclusion; if we are doing our jobs right, we are invested in all aspects of the community we cover, which takes an appreciation of multiple perspectives. I see that at WTAE, and I strive to meet that same standard every day. I am thankful the station’s parent company values diversity at every level, including with promoting its employee resource groups (I am a member of our LGBTQ+ group).
When I was hired, my manager told me the station had been looking for someone who could write. I was not a journalism major, but I was able to prove during the hiring process that I was adaptable, investigative, and creative when it came to the kind of writing the website needed. I am glad that I did English studies as my concentration, because that allowed me to express myself in many different writing styles. Having that background has helped me every day in this job. My copyediting experience has also come in handy, to make sure our content is concise, clear, correct, consistent, and conforming to AP style.
One thing that I believe has helped me gain a footing in this role has been my political science minor. I had a very good idea of the machinations of state and local politics as well as the law, and one of the first major things I helped cover was the 2022 midterms. To a humanities major transitioning into something like journalism, I would recommend harnessing some interest outside their humanities know-how — whether it’s politics, sports, entertainment, criminal justice — to supplement and support their already-excellent critical thinking and writing skills.
Participating in the Discovery course plus Cardinal Directions helped me see the world of possibilities for an English major. It’s amazing how many students I’ve met here in Pittsburgh who are taking nominally STEM courses, but with a humanities bent: one person recently told me he’s taking a course in “AI ethics.” The guest speakers at Cardinal Directions epitomized the role we humanities folks have in injecting meaning and morality into every field (I wouldn’t want to meet the biologist who doesn’t have the specter of Frankenstein hanging over them).
But meeting these folks, as well as my fellow humanities majors, also cemented for me what well-rounded people we are. We are innovative. We are leaders. We have a history of tackling the tough social questions that everyone else is scrambling to catch up on. We are my favorite kind of people. I never imagined myself as anything other than an English major because I’ve always sought that well-roundedness, and I see that in my fellow humanities majors.
Do everything! Go to Cardinal Directions, join the DLR or Broken Plate teams, take a class outside your major that interests you. Put yourself out there in ways you wouldn’t expect. You might be surprised by the outcome.