As a teen in the early 90’s, with a flair for the English language, Lindsay William-Ross never imagined her future would end up like this: no, she’s not addicted and destitute, not broken or battered, she’s a writer. More specifically, she’s the Editor-in-Chief of LAist.com, one of Los Angeles’ most fashionable news and events websites, profiling everything Angeleno. “When I think of when I was the Entertainment Editor of my high school newspaper, there was no way I could say, ‘Someday, I’m going to run one of the biggest, hyper-local blogs in Los Angeles.’ I mean, we were barely getting used to having Prodigy and AOL accounts then,” she wrote in an email. But now, from her home in North Hollywood, she is the dynamic leader (along with her three Associate Editors) tasked with bringing readers the latest happenings on all things Los Angeles, from Occupy LA to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. “We’re all about Los Angeles,” she writes, “who lives here, what happens here, and what happens elsewhere that might affect us here.”
I had the pleasure of corresponding with Lindsay via email where she confided, “What’s really exciting about right now in journalism is that we are constantly moving into new territory, and we may have no idea what opportunities will be created, or opportunities we might create- that will shake the landscape.” It seems, however, that Lindsay is in the business of creating opportunities.
With a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing from California State University, Los Angeles, where she also taught English Composition until a few years ago, Lindsay came to LAist.com as a volunteer contributor in February of 2005. And with discipline and excellent time management skills, she managed to balance her career as a teacher with the duties of volunteer Food Editor until she became employed by LAist as their Co-Editor in 2007. But her biggest victory came in 2010 when she was appointed Editor-in-Chief of LAist, and yet, even with this prestigious title- she still doesn’t consider, or call herself a journalist. “That’s not to say what I do at LAist daily isn’t informed by traditional journalistic practices,” she insists, “however, we don’t have the same parameters, structure, or resources as most journalists working in an established media outlet have, which is a blessing and a curse.”
A blessing, perhaps, because- unlike traditional publications, Lindsay and her team can conceive, write and format whatever they choose, and post it to the site in a matter of minutes. They’re also able to give volunteer contributing writers a chance at getting published, much like the chance Lindsay herself took years ago. “Though not all of our volunteers produce material regularly, we have a roster of about 30 writers who currently contribute to LAist,” she confides. “Writers of any age who want to come to the professional workforce with chops should seek out opportunities to publish and be published, whether that means contributing to a paper, or site, or starting a blog of their own.”
But the disadvantages are not to be ignored either. For one, LAist isn’t always recognized as legitimate by some media outlets, so getting access to coveted media events can be difficult. “We are definitely the little guy with the internet at our disposal, and a desire to create a valuable end product that people want to read, ” she writes. “Ultimately, as we grow, and as the media landscape is more comfortable with us and sites like us- doing what we do, that will largely mellow out.” But even after the landscape mellows out, Lindsay and her three Associate Editors: Lauren Lloyd, Emma G. Gallegos and Jessica Pauline Ogilvie, can only do so much with the 24 hours they get each day. Despite the dedication of their cherished network of volunteer contributing writers, there isn’t always somebody available to cover an event at the drop of a dime. “We don’t have a ‘late night’ team, for example, so I’ve had to take nasty flack from people on Twitter because LAist wasn’t live-blogging some incident on the subway, or a traffic accident at 10 o’clock on a Thursday night,” she writes via email. “We have lives, we need rest.”
But rest may not be in the cards for Lindsay and her team just yet with constant changes and upgrades happening to the landscape of mass media from year to year. “If you think back five years ago,” Lindsay writes, “we were not a society, or media culture shaped by things like Twitter or Facebook- they just weren’t our networking currency.” But now, with entire businesses being launched via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, both of which Lindsay and her team use to promote LAist, the opportunities are truly endless if not overwhelming. But that’s not to say the world is leaving behind print media anytime soon, according to Lindsay who shares, “We live in a world-class city where most of us have access to web media, but that just isn’t the case for all parts of the country- and, to some extent, not the case for some segments of the population. I think there is still life and purpose in paper.”
A purpose Lindsay respects while remaining dedicated to her passion for online content. “What I love is when I get the opportunity to tell the story of an interesting person, or event that may have otherwise not had as much attention. I love creating content and playing with words and images, and connecting with readers- letting them into someone else’s life an experience.”
Yes, Lindsay William-Ross may not consider herself a journalist, but she has certainly claimed a relevant spot for herself in the world of journalism, and she’s not stopping there. With unofficial plans to write fictional stories as well as a historical book about Los Angeles, she’ll likely be calling herself an author very soon. She shares, “I’m already doing something really amazing, and what may come next may not be an opportunity that has even been created yet.” Something tells me once the opportunity does present itself, Lindsay will be ready.