Intrepid Reporter Faces the Future

At 27, six-year reporting veteran Cindy Carcamo of the Orange County Register is already a graduate of “old school” journalism. She has interned and worked her way around a number of daily newspapers, and for most of the last three years, has manned the cops beat at the Register, a newspaper of record with close to a million readers in the suburban powerhouse of Orange County, California.

She recently got a new beat, the city of Huntington Beach, which may be best known to the world as a surfing hotspot. (The city houses a surfing museum.) But her change in assignment is only one of many transitions that Carcamo is negotiating at her newspaper.

“The push is to get things on the web that might not yet be stories, more like mini stories – more of a blog style,” Carcamo says. “It’s a different way of doing journalism. We write first for the online publication, and then we write for print. Sometimes I’ll see the story up on the web the day before it gets into the paper, which can be a good thing because I can get more information for the print version.”

Meanwhile, the goal is to use the web to put out increments of information, in some cases as stories are developing, in order to create an “ongoing dialogue with readers,” as Cindy puts it. “On the web, the story is constantly moving. It’s a living being, a constant back and forth.”

She hopes her paper will take advantage of the Internet’s lack of space limitations because like many reporters who work inside daily – and now hourly – news cycles, she would like more opportunities to write longer and more in depth and to provide more analysis.

“Right now,” however, “the web is an immediacy medium where we have to get things up there right away.”

Carcamo is heartened that the Register is trying to make good choices about leveraging the web’s multimedia, not shooting video at every chance just for the sake of shooting it but, instead, selecting the best way to tell a story from the many options made available.

“Not every story warrants a video. Maybe the best way to tell a story is a slideshow or a brief,” Cindy says. “I’m encouraged with the Register because I think they’re on the right path – they’re asking, ‘What does the story need?’ and not just adding links just to make it multimedia.”

One concern the Register faces in fostering a dialogue, Carcamo believes, is keeping it productive and not succumbing to rants or name-calling. In Orange County, where young immigrant communities are bumping up against a conservative, older demographic, this task might prove challenging:

“We’ll have to distinguish between thoughtful comments and just plain nonsense,” Cindy says.