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Lookout Local seeks a curious, versatile reporter to cover a full range of issues and government actions in Santa Cruz County, California. The correspondent will cover county government, in the widest sense, focusing on both major county actions and connecting the dots on how these actions affect residents’ lives. We’ll explore and analyze issues that have not seen public light. We seek a reporter who is enthused about being part of a new model of community-centric, mobile-first, topically knowledgeable, intensely local journalism. This person will aim to meet readers’ needs in multiple ways, from quick, useful, information hits to in-depth accountability reporting, providing actionable service journalism for Lookout’s readers, smartly and creatively using multiple engagement channels to connect with audiences.

Lookout Local’s correspondents are the prominent public face of Lookout in all the diverse communities it serves. They bring the news, information, and community goings-on — the day-to-day authoritative and readable reporting — to readers. And they are recognizable, their faces on Lookout and in the community.

This, for those embracing the journalism of the 2020s, is a fresh, unparalleled opportunity. Lookout starts with a blank slate, and its correspondents will write a new model of engaging, smart, trustworthy and often personality-including local news journalism on it. Lookout’s correspondents grasp the credible heritage of the news trade and of the continuing need for fundamental, solid reporting, one local readers place great trust in. At the same time, they know that digital formats, including text, audio and video, offer many options for journalists and a still-in-formation new set of abilities for readers.

Readers can now learn much more about their communities, their neighbors, their problems and their full opportunities to take part in civic life, and Lookout intends to provide them that local opportunity. To that end, Lookout, and its correspondents, make a double promise to readers. Throughout its products, Lookout offers up “What to Know,” in shorter and longer form and “What to Do,” how people can take partake in the life of the community in a myriad of ways.

We seek our first group of correspondents who want to join us on this expedition to build a new, sustainable model for local journalism.

What You’ll Be Doing: Reporting, Writing and Reader Connection

You’ll give readers the widest and smartest view of county-wide issues, in this age of uncertainty. From affordability and homelessness to food insecurity and public health concerns, and now extending to the throughline of economic recovery, we’re looking for an experienced reporter who can engage readers quickly by . . .

  • Getting to the heart of stories with thorough, deep and wide sourcing, and reporting.
  • Connecting the dots for readers in your writing, so they feel fully and fairly informed.
  • Engaging with readers and their communities online and in real life.

Getting to the Heart of Stories with Thorough, Deep and Wide Sourcing and Reporting

  • Excels in grasping and explaining a wide range of topical areas, best built on proven expertise, across Lookout’s initial core areas — health, education, affordability, tech/business, food, environment, justice, arts.
  • Engages work in multiple content areas, passions as well as beats.
  • Relishes bringing data to reporting, with relevant experience a plus.
  • Collaborates well with colleagues to multiply reporting power.

Connecting the Dots for Readers in Your Writing, So They Feel Fully and Fairly Informed

  • Exceptional self-starting reporting and writing abilities, and an ability to do strong local storytelling, in all its evolving digital forms. Brings a sense of voice to their work.
  • Demonstrates an ability to create “smart brevity” article forms that calls out useful information to readers within Lookout’s formats.
  • Creates a voice-driven, reporting-based regular newsletter covering beat.
  • Over time, contributes beyond text, to audio and video extensions of Lookout.

Engaging Deeply with Readers and Their Communities Online and in Real Life

  • Engages with audiences and communities, both traditional news-reading audiences and those under-served, online and IRL, bringing them into wider conversations on community problem-solving.
  • Actively participates, on behalf of Lookout, across social media for engagement, awareness and two-way relationship building with readers on both story ideation and creation and response.
  • Interacts with community members in a variety of settings, including forums, Q&A sessions (online and in-person) and more. Participates in Lookout’s Access Democracy open meeting/open records/accountability journalism training and work, in association with our partner, the First Amendment Coalition, building proficiency.
  • Maintains personal profile page on the site, owning your name and beat as a vibrant destination on Lookout, to engage with your audiences, share information and promote events and community awareness around your beat.

We’re looking for the following qualities in all our correspondents:

• Ability to write about a variety of subjects within their beats — along with the versatility to substitute in on stories not on their beats.

• Collaborate with each other. This will be especially important for the county government correspondent, whose beat will intersect with virtually every other beat on staff.

• Understand that a government meeting agenda is a tip sheet, e.g. don’t wait to go to the meeting to start reporting on something that looks interesting. Make the call now.

• Understand that news, features and other content are cooked up on a five-burner stove: One burner has the story that needs to get done right now, the next has the one that needs to get done today, another has the story that needs to be written when the public records request comes back, another the long-term project, etc.

• Monitor partner news content within their assigned subject areas and suggest stories for posting.

• Flexibility in terms of schedule. Typical schedule will be Monday through Friday starting at 8:30 a.m., but correspondents’ schedules will fluctuate based on events — including weekend events — and breaking news. If correspondent needs to cover a weekend or night event, their hours will be adjusted accordingly during the week.

• Be “on call” on a rotating weekend schedule in the event of breaking news.

• Be public faces in the community, adept at public speaking and multimedia appearances, including potential podcasts down the road, and speaking at Lookout events. Be faces of the brand, as well as their own brands.

• Engage with the public with the utmost respect, even when facing questions about the work they produce.

• Curiosity.

• Empathy.

Your Experience and Skills

  • Rock-solid journalism judgment, intuition and taste.
  • Experience and comfort with the pace of digital-first journalism, and the digital technologies that power it.
  • Ability to engage diverse local communities in Lookout’s work.
  • Experience covering at least one of Lookout’s key topical areas: K-12 education and parenting, college institutional coverage, health and public health, environment, food and food policy, housing and affordability, justice and technology.
  • Ability to think through visuals that will aid storytelling and work with colleagues to activate them.
  • Demonstrated adaptability, especially with new topical coverage areas and communities.
  • Comfort learning new technology and experience working in content management systems, producing, editing and dressing stories with related media (photos, videos, etc).
  • Comfort with the format of Lookout’s correspondent-focused model, and the personality it brings to the work.
  • Desire to work in an entrepreneurial, fast-growth startup environment, embracing the agility and flexibility required to thrive within a new business.
  • A commitment to making Lookout Local’s first market launch and a successful one and potential interest in advancing with Lookout as its network expands.
  • Bilingual abilities are a plus.
  • Solutions journalism familiarity, and experience, are a plus.
  • Data reporting skills are a plus.
  • Audio/video experience is a plus.