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Opportunity Description
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Reporter, Courts / Public Safety
AL - Birmingham

Opportunity Snapshot

Alabama Media Group knows you can write a lede, but can you think differently? We're building a new model for digital reporting that lets you make your mark on the web, on mobile devices, and in print. Exercise your insight and judgment in real-time reporting. Show your voice in online conversations with the audience. Grow our following and yours in social media. Find new ways to tell stories. Shoot video. Take pictures. Be a presence in your community and on your beat. Find independence. We are building a strong infrastructure to leverage digital technology and adding a talented core of reporters to support the "now" appetite. If you're a professional journalist or a person who has already found success in the digital world, this is a prime opportunity to build your career. You'll enjoy thinking outside of the traditional print box in order to make a direct and immediate impact on your audience. If you like the idea of being empowered to identify topical news, push your ideas forward, and interact directly with the reader, consider using your talents and influence to build a cutting-edge journalism career with Alabama Media Group.

You will cover the civil and criminal court systems as well as public safety (crime, police activity, emergency management, etc.) in Birmingham. It will require a reporter with an instinct for which court cases warrant comprehensive vs. overview coverage and which public safety events are important. You'll need the energy to respond quickly to emerging events, as well as the ability to develop connections throughout both areas. If you are a talented journalist with expertise in another area, we are hiring for multiple positions, including a range of full-time and part-time beat reporters. We encourage you to apply for one of our other assignments. A writing sample will be required for all positions.

Alabama Media Group is a digitally-focused news and information company that combines quality journalism from The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times, Mobile's Press-Register and The Mississippi Press with up-to-the-minute access of AL.com. Alabama Media Group provides innovative ways to inform, connect and empower the people of Alabama in the communities we serve.

Alabama Media Group is a part of Advance Local, one of the largest media groups in the U.S. reaching more than 40 million consumers through its 12 local news and information websites that rank #1 among local media in their respective markets, and more than 30 newspapers. Our affiliated websites and newspapers are well known for their award-winning journalism. Advance Local is part of Advance Publications, along with Condé Nast and American City Business Journals.

The Requirements

Alabama Media Group is seeking a well-rounded reporter with a history of success in digital media and the skill and experience needed to cover both court and public safety stories. You'll need technical knowledge of the law, deep understanding of the court and emergency response systems, and the ability to cultivate strong professional relationships. On any given day, there are dozens of court filings, and the relationships you build can help you manage the volume and capture and report on the stories important to your audience. Whether you're an industry veteran enthused by the digital platform and excited about transforming your career for the future, or someone who is new in your career but enjoying attention from writing an engaging blog, this role could be the perfect fit.

To be a successful Courts / Public Safety Reporter Reporter, you will need:
  • A bachelor's degree in Journalism, Communications or related field (preferred), or a combination of education and/or experience including a strong track record of writing success.
  • A minimum of two years of journalism experience with a proven ability in reporting and writing. You should be able to use a broad set of tools to tell stories and engage the audience.
  • Specific experience covering the criminal / civil court system and / or public safety.
  • Proven experience building, maintaining and engaging an active audience.
  • The ability to work independently under deadline pressure and prioritize tasks appropriately.
  • Demonstrated reporting, writing and organizational skills.
  • Solid understanding of news writing, journalistic ethics and story structure.
  • Experience with search engine optimization (SEO) practices.
  • Comfort working in breaking-news situations including understanding the standards and philosophy of real-time news.
  • A demonstrated ability to capitalize on high-value topics by engaging audiences with frequency and urgency.
  • An understanding of the methods and tools used to deliver content across a variety of platforms such as Moveable Type CMS, SCC Budgeting and Archiving System, Smartphones, etc.
  • An understanding the imperatives of multiple platforms -- print, mobile, Internet, etc.
  • A mastery of social media and digital interaction; experience using social media to source and promote content is highly preferred.
  • The ability to leverage relationships with sources to deliver content that differentiates the organization from its competitors.
  • The drive and ability to work independently and remotely.
  • The ability to work a flexible schedule, as needed, to provide 24/7/365 media coverage.
  • The ability to travel on occasion and to come into the office for a meeting or training approximately once per month.
In addition to these requirements, you should have strong computer skills and the ability to take compelling photographs or video. You'll need to understand and use hardware, software, and cloud-based equipment and systems for direct-to-web production and engagement, including:
  • Posting photographs and/or short videos to the web and other internal production systems.
  • Remote web reporting using laptops and smart phones.
It's important to note that key stories will also appear in print.

The Role

You will report and produce news stories on high-value court cases and topics as well as law enforcement, firefighting, investigations, and public policy regarding policing. With regard to court topics, you'll provide insightful writing on relevant subject matter including case filings, background, trial detail, etc. On the public safety side, you’ll listen to your scanner, be connected in the community as well as to police, sheriff, and fire departments, and always be ready to respond to what you hear. It’s crucial that you’re adept at writing breaking news stories, but you should also be able to identify and cover non-emergency stories. It will be your mission to develop ideas and interesting ways to cover all court and public safety topics, and then identify related stories to maintain interest.

The reality of news in the digital age is that it is instant. With a tech-savvy audience reading daily news on multiple platforms, you'll need to bring this beat into the era of modern journalism. In other words, you'll be accountable for meeting audience demand for immediacy, depth and engagement. You'll directly interact with your readership through social media and other digital outlets, and post compelling, accurate, and thought-provoking copy in real-time.

Specifically, you will:
  • Gather information and write journalistically sound news elements for use in all existing and future media platforms. Your stories should be balanced and factual, timely and topical, and well-sourced and contextually correct.
  • Learn and employ all techniques for effective digital reporting and posting across all platforms.
  • Frequently and incrementally post throughout the day.
  • Engage in story aggregation and topical link-posting.
  • Monitor and engage in reader-comment streams; elevate comments into new posts when appropriate.
  • Interact on social media platforms via story shares, objective commentary, topic promotion and the Alabama Media Group's content initiatives.
  • Effectively employ various means of monitoring audience interest and competitors' posting on your topic, including setting up Google alerts, Twitter and RSS feeds.
  • Maintain operational communication with the editor and production center, when appropriate.
  • Learn and understand audience-traffic-tracking systems and analytical reports.
  • Build and maintain relationships with other reporters, and work as a team when required.
As noted, journalism is on the forefront of a new frontier, meaning there's a level playing field for reporters. The middle ground is removed -- no longer does copy move through a third-party path of editors and copy editors prior to publication. The story is written and posted immediately. Editors will still review some of your work, but it will be after it's live. And, instead of receiving feedback from a subjective third party, in the digital age measures are quantitative and performance based -- you can leverage real time data to know how you're doing. In addition to knowing how many hits you are getting, you'll also want to understand how engaging your interaction with social media is and whether or not it is helping create and grow interest in your story. You'll gauge how well you are stoking interest via reader comment strings and if your stories are getting enough attention to be published in print. The measures are many and success requires that you understand your impact and use all the tools available to increase interest as appropriate.

Because this is a real-time world, you must be quick on your feet and strong with grammar and self-editing. You'll also need to be highly ethical because you don't want to put anything out there that isn't true. You will have a producer to talk to and collaborate with as necessary, but you will be field-based, without a desk or office, so being independent is key.

Note: this description is intended to give you a general overview of the position and is not an exhaustive listing of duties and responsibilities.

Keys to Success

To excel in this role, you will be a driven, dynamic reporter and writer with the ability to deliver a high volume of content every day. You should be able to proactively identify stories in your assigned area and respond quickly, keeping the quality of content consistent and engaging. Nothing of interest to the audience should be missed. Because we are an online, daily operation, you will also need to be comfortable working in a fast-paced environment. You should be someone who excels and thrives under pressure and can produce quality work regardless of the deadline you're under.

Additionally, to be an outstanding reporter, you will be autonomous and enjoy working independently. In this role, you'll be choosing your content topics and posting your own articles online, helping lead our audience, and ensuring our products contain the most relevant up-to-the-minute information. You'll need to be at ease in a self-directed environment and eager to hit the ground running.
Alabama Media Group offers a comprehensive benefits program that includes: medical, prescription drug, and dental benefits; a 401(k) Plan; life insurance and disability plans and commuter accounts.

Alabama Media Group is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, physical or mental impairment, sexual orientation or any other category protected under federal, state or local law.

Alabama Media Group endeavors to make AL.com accessible to any and all users. If you would like to contact us regarding the accessibility of our website or need assistance completing the application process, please contact thawkins@dtoolbox.com.
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Resume Supplement
Please take a few minutes to answer questions about your background and expertise specific to the Reporter, Courts / Public Safety position.

Question Yes No Comment
Do you have experience working from a home and/or mobile based setting?
Do you currently live within a reasonable commuting distance to Birmingham, AL or willing to relocate
Will you be able to provide at least 3 writing samples from recent projects?
Are you legally authorized to work permanently in the United States for any employer without requiring a VISA transfer or VISA sponsorship?
Do you have at least 2 years experience as a writer for news reporting or publications?
Are you proficient in using smartphone, tablets, laptop computers and cameras for your job?
Item Experience Comment
Within the last 5 years, what role did the following play in your job:
Covering the criminal and/or civil court system, or deep experience on a public safety beat
Utilizing Search Engine Optimization practices
Question / Choice Comment
What platforms do you have experience working with?
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