Sarah Slobin

What is a Things editor?

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Sarah Slobin leads Quartz’s Things team, which she says is responsible for “making Things.” A Thing can be as simple as a text article or a more complex interactive story.

Things is a Quartzy term for the eccentric ways we tell stories,” says Slobin. “Sometimes Things are stories we make with the help of code, sometimes we use code to make pieces of stories or to make data visualizations. Sometimes Things are simply straight old-fashioned stories made out of words.”

The Things team has been in existence since Quartz started in 2012. Slobin has been part of the team for six months.

What are your job responsibilities as Things editor?

I’m a player and coach. Sometimes I edit stories from top to bottom, advise on design or interaction, or help with framing and ideas around data. Part of what I do is manage: I create structure and space for ideas and find ways to support the team. At the same time I’m chasing my own data projects and stories. And I’m always cheerleading for experimenting with story form.

Why does this position exist?

We want to push the boundaries of our journalism in terms of reporting methods, formats, et cetera, and so it helps to have reporters with technical backgrounds. That’s the Things team, and the job of Things editor is to lead and guide their work — just like any editor would, though the types of projects we make tend to be different.

Can you share some examples of Things?

A Thing can be a post like this one by Nikhil Sonnad, who wrote about a racist news segment at Fox News. Or it can be a visual story about the future of the internet by David Yanosky or this post by Chris Groskopf where he put a quiz into his story based on data from a report about digital ownership and then generated custom story text from the answers to the quiz. It can simply be a story we told about data on how countries control the internet with graphics in the story about data, like this one Nikhil and Keith Collins did.

You mentioned earlier that you’re “always cheerleading for experimenting.” What has been your team’s most creative experiment?

The story Chris did that I referred to earlier, with the quiz and the custom text, is an example. Last week David Yanosky did this simple but beautiful post off the news about the A380 losing its luster. One of my favorites is Keith Collin’s story on prolific wall punchers. You can tell he enjoyed putting this together.

As you’re experimenting, what are a couple of lessons or takeaways you’ve learned that could help others?

It’s an iterative process. Each idea builds on the last. You can try small experiments and that’s informative.

What, if anything, distinguishes a text-based story from a Things story that is primarily text?

Nothing. Stories are Things. The Things team are reporters so writing allows us to stay connected to the topics we follow and stay connected to our sources. The term “Thing” is broad for a reason. Not every moment calls for a different alternative approach.

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