Faces Of NPR: Sara Goo

Jun 12, 2017
Originally published on June 13, 2017 8:45 am

Faces Of NPR is a weekly feature that showcases the people behind NPR, from the voices you hear every day on the radio to the ones who work outside of the recording studio. You'll find out about what they do and what they're inspired by on the daily. This week's post features NPR's Interim Managing Editor, Sara Goo.

The Basics:

Name: Sara Kehaulani Goo

Twitter Handle: @sarakgoo

Job Title: Interim Managing Editor

Where You're From: Dana Point, California

An Inside Look:

What is a normal day like for you?

A normal day is arriving at work and listening to Up First and then the live NPR stream while I run on the treadmill at 6 AM. Then catching up on all the news elsewhere at the Hub by 8 AM. I have had to learn to be a morning person since NPR starts so early.

I check in with our engagement team and check Chartbeat to see which stories are getting people's attention on our site. It's a bit of an addiction-slash-habit I do several times a day. I am usually in many meetings throughout the day to coordinate our short term and longer term digital strategy on a range of topics — from social plans for podcasts to news video.

I also read big stories and packages before they are published and weigh in on headlines we've published and breaking news coverage, of course. There's a lot of daily troubleshooting where I'm looking at where we've put our effort into stories and seeing if they are resonating with our online audience and if not, trying to figure out why not and what we can do.

Then there's a bit of communication every day about what people are talking about online that maybe would be good to get on the air. And vice versa. We have another stand-up engagement team meeting in the afternoon to check in on stories coming for the afternoon. In other words, it's a bit like overseeing a day-long "show" to make sure our stories are hitting at the right times and we're giving people what they need. It's a busy, crazy gig but a real blast.

What advice do you have for someone who wants a job like yours?

The best advice I have is to get as much experience reporting and editing in many forms. How our audience consumes information is constantly changing and is driven by personalized needs. When I was in college, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter, but I also did internships at a local magazine, at Minnesota Public Radio, and I loved working closely with photojournalists to understand their craft. All those experiences have helped me grow as the nature of telling stories has changed. So I encourage everyone to gain new skills and try new things. I've seen many journalists from the newspaper business who failed to do that. And unfortunately, because of the economic pressure in the newspaper business, some aren't working in journalism anymore. This business has changed rapidly over the course of my career, and I think it will only continue to do so.

What's your favorite #nprlife moment?

There's so many! Maybe it was the thrill of ordering a whole Maine lobster for lunch. Or watching paint dry on our Election Night mural. When I first joined NPR, I tweeted that I always wanted to use the #nprlife hashtag. It's dorky and true.

What is a fun project you have been working on?

I've really enjoyed seeing what NPR has done with video over the past year. We took a small team and threw them at this project to create video every day, and it was just amazing to see how the newsroom responded and really connected to one of our biggest online audiences — on Facebook. You can see a great compilation of what NPR did last year in this video. And it's still evolving.

People are just consuming information — news and storytelling — very differently today because of mobile, of course, and video is an area where we really need to push. People "read" online videos now and we have to visually capture them and keep them with us in a way that's different from other platforms.

We're pivoting now to do more produced short videos, like "Elise Tries", and we're trying to expand the audience for video we already produce like Adam Cole's Skunk Bear more strategically. I'm really excited to see what we're able to do this year. But that's not all — there's a lot that we've been working on. We are also pushing on a lot of other platforms, like we're hugely growing our Instagram audience, and Apple News. I think there's still a lot we can do to grow our search audience. Not to mention a very big effort to work more closely with stations and growing the digital audience for their stories. A lot is still to come in 2017!

What's on your desk?

Trea Turner bobble head. Drawings from my kids. A (kinetic) sand box. Gold glitter Thinking Putty.

Favorite podcast?

Fresh Air. Death, Sex and Money. Code Switch. NPR Politics.

Favorite places in Washington D.C.?

Rock Creek Park. It's my sanctuary. I am jogging there most weekends listening to a pod.

First thing you do when you get to the office?

Work out at the office gym (if I'm motivated). If not, getting coffee again and again.

What are you inspired by right now?

I'm re-reading the Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and What the Public Should Expect, co-written by a former boss of mine, Tom Rosenstiel. It's a good reminder of what good journalism is and principles to live by and how we need to be accountable. Sometimes, it's just refreshing to go back to the basics.

What else are you working on?

I have been working on a book, a personal one that is also about the history of Hawaii. My great-grandmother was 100% Native Hawaiian and spoke the language, and she left behind some family land that goes back to the Hawaiian kingdom. So, I spent several years trying to research this, talking to family, trying to find records and reporting. It turned out to be an exploration of what it means to be a mixed race person who's descended from a people whose language was nearly forgotten, and from a race that had been almost wiped off the planet, from a culture that was suppressed but is now finding a revival. Maybe once we get off this crazy news cycle I can finish writing it!

What do you love about public radio?

I love that it makes me feel smarter, it fills in the holes and the questions I have about the news every day. I love how it introduces me to people I wouldn't otherwise meet and understand their worldview a little better. I love how everyone is dedicated to the mission and that the audience loves us back. That is truly special.

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