Jim Simon is managing editor of Honolulu Civil Beat. He will take the baton as president of the Associated Press Media Editors at the 2017 Leadership Conference in Washington in October.
Before relocating to Honolulu, Jim spent more than 30 years as a reporter and editor at The Seattle Times. He held several leadership positions there, including managing editor. He helped lead Seattle Times teams that won two Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news — the first in 2010 for coverage of the killing of the three suburban police officers; the second in 2015 for reporting on a deadly landslide in Northwest Washington.
In a recent interview, he was asked to talk about his career and the state of journalism and his plans for APME.
Q: What do you want to accomplish in your term as president of APME?
A: I think its essential that APME, working with other organizations like ASNE, serve as a strong and outspoken advocate on behalf of journalism – and the vital role of the press in a democracy. Given the current political climate and assaults on our credibility, those collective efforts are needed now more than ever. I’d also like to see APME serve as a resource for local news organizations on media literacy and community engagement initiatives. Another priority is reinvigorating APME’s work on diversity issues. Through our joint First Amendment work with ASNE, I also hope we can provide increased support and advice for members on public records and access issues.
Q: What is something that APME has done well in the past that you would like to build upon?
A: On a personal level, serving on the APME board has provided me with an invaluable network of colleagues around the country who I can turn to for advice, ideas and guidance. Providing that kind of support and mentoring remains essential as editors deal with the unprecedented pace of change in their newsrooms and growing pressures in their jobs. APME’s popular NewsTrain program can also serve as a model for affordable, local training around the country.
Q: You spent more than 30 years at the Seattle Times. What took you to Honolulu working with Civil Beat?
A: I was drawn by the new challenge of working in the nonprofit, online news world, where there is a lot of innovation and fresh energy. As someone who spent nearly all his career in local journalism, I was also attracted by Civil Beat’s commitment to high-impact reporting and a belief that can make Hawaii a better place. And it’s a newsroom eager to try new things, such as taking a deep dive into podcasting. That said, it has definitely been a steep learning curve for me. My wife is from Hawaii and has lots of family around the islands, so there also was a big personal lure for us.
Q: How is your work at Honolulu Civil Beat different from your previous work organizations?
A: Because it’s a relatively small news organization, where most of us wear a lot of hats, I’m involved in everything from hosting coffees for our readers to fundraising to planning community events.
Q: What’s the best way you’ve found for reporters to balance breaking news and investigative work?
A: Always have multiple threads going. Even as you’re working on breaking news or shorter enterprise pieces, you should have a least one big, ambitious story idea in your pocket and be stealing time to work on it. Also, keep an eye out for the watchdog possibilities that might emerge from routine stories or out of data.
Robby General is a senior at Ball State University. He graduates in May 2018. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.