Audrey Cooper pays a visit to USF to discuss how the paper is building a legacy
The San Francisco Chronicle is eager to attract new readers in the digital age. Their goal is to become a digital media site that happens to produce a newspaper, explained Audrey Cooper, 36, the first woman and the youngest person to fill the role of managing editor at the 150-year-old newspaper.
Cooper is known for spearheading the “incubator,” a training process that aimed to transform the Chronicle’s employees into digital storytellers by teaching them to use multimedia and digital tools. “Never before has it become more important to have reliable sources of news, but we have to work to reach readers on their preferred platform.”
The Chronicle’s office in the South of Market area is a stone’s throw away from Twitter, LinkedIn, and other tech companies, and there’s no reason to disregard that, Cooper pointed out. The incubator seems to be inspired by the kind of innovation that lead to economic success for these tech giants. “Nowhere are we better positioned to do that than in San Francisco, one of the most digitally advanced and sophisticated areas on the planet.”
In response to what skills are becoming more valuable in the industry today, Cooper said she’d hire a reporter on the spot if they knew how to code an interactive graphic or analyze databases from a journalistic perspective.
Journalism Professor J. Michael Robertson, who organized the talk, said that he appreciated Cooper’s approach. “If I was a student, the lesson I would take away is to get some basic software and play around with it and don’t be self conscious about not being the ultimate expert.”
Cooper, a Kansas City native, graduated from Boston University magna cum laude with a B.S. in journalism and a separate B.A. in political science, and she has a concentration in counterculture history and activism, which she said was very useful for her San Francisco Journalism career.
“Like many students, I was also pretty poor — I had four jobs and internships at one point my senior year,” Cooper said in an email exchange with the Foghorn. In college, she waited tables, interned at the State House, interned at a newspaper, and worked as a resident assistant. “Graduation and getting a real job was comparatively easy.”
Before taking the reins as managing editor, Cooper worked as the Chronicle’s City Editor. Her newsroom won awards for their coverage of the San Bruno pipeline explosion caused by safety failures at Pacific Gas & Electric Co.; the new Bay Bridge’s potentially disastrous construction flaws, and the years-long fight for gay marriage.
Shianne Motter, a sophomore media studies student said that Cooper’s talk was filled with useful information for modern day hopeful journalists. “I left the talk inspired to take a web design or coding class or maybe even pick something of the sort as a minor.”