Seattle Times editor and UW alumna Lynn Jacobson (’84) visits News Lab

By Alexis Krell –
UW News Lab

Lynn Jacobson’s first interest in life was dance. She did ballet growing up, danced professionally after college, and now works as the features editor of The Seattle Times.

Lynn JacobsonThat’s not as much of a stretch as it may seem, though. Jacobson visited UW journalism students this month in the News Lab class, and told them that finding a specialty – such as she did with dance – can help start a journalism career.

She oversees the arts and entertainment, travel and Sunday magazine content at The Times, and has seen the news industry change throughout the years.

“It’s been kind of a blessing and a curse to work in this period of kind of seismic change in journalism,” Jacobson said. “The hard part is watching people around you freak out because they’re worried that their … jobs might go away.”

The bright side, she said, is the chance to learn something new every day, with changing technology.

“Every story now has online dimensions,” she said.

That changing journalism landscape has also resulted in greater communication with readers.

“It (journalism) used to be this very ivory-tower kind of exercise,” she said. “Now you know. You know who’s reading it and who you’re pissing off and who you’re satisfying every day.”

In addition to dance, Jacobson studied physics, oceanography and communications at the UW, taking advantage of her liberal arts education.

“I took some of everything,” she said, adding that she settled on communication when she realized she could finish the requirements in two quarters and that she enjoyed writing. “I was like, ‘I need to graduate,’” she joked.

Majoring in journalism wasn’t necessary back then, but has become so today, she said.

“Traditionally journalism was a career that you didn’t really need to have a degree in,” she said. “It’s getting more and more professionalized, and the competition is very stiff. I think it probably helps you to have a journalism degree at this point.”

Approaching graduate school as a way to find a specialty was another piece of advice Jacobson shared with students.

News Lab student Ana Sofia Knauf said after the visit that she could see herself taking music-theory classes in the future to broaden her skill set. She aspires to report about food and music.

“It’s really interesting to see the journey that (Jacobson’s) gone through,” Knauf said. “Having that background in dance and transferring that to journalism, I think that’s really cool.”

For another student, it was Jacobson’s message about seeking to connect arts events to a larger story about the artists or institutions that resonated.

“I definitely (try) to connect … performances to a greater cause,” said News Lab student Raechel Dawson, who has written arts and entertainment stories for her internship with seattlepi.com.

For Knauf, the takeaway was positive regarding arts journalism.

“I think it does have a future and is always going to be a part of journalism,” she said. “It might take a while to get there, but … it’s definitely a possibility.”

ALEXIS KRELL is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.