Meet ONA Local is a new series introducing the volunteers who lead our ONA Local communities. ONA Local is at the heart of what we do, bringing networking and training to cities and college campuses around the world. Leaders have their fingers on the pulse of their journalism communities, convening important conversations and networking opportunities.
Ian Hill, Director of Digital Strategy at ABC10, co-leads ONA Sacramento. Join the Meetup group.
What do you love about your work?
I love that digital journalism presents me with different challenges every day, and I love that I have the freedom and the tools to come up with unique and creative responses to those challenges. When I started my career as a print reporter in the late 1990s, journalism was largely a matter of routine. You were assigned a beat, and you built relationships with the community you covered. After two or three years, you found yourself writing the same stories about the same people every year, particularly when you were working at a small- to medium- sized newspaper. Then you moved on to a new newspaper and a new community. Digital journalism has empowered me to reach a wide variety of audiences with an ever-evolving list of tools. There is little routine; every day I’m discovering new stories through social media and I’m working to use new and different tools to connect audiences to those stories. That work keeps me energized and excited.
Tell us about something you’ve worked on in the past year that you’re super proud of.
I recently used Facebook Live to send an Amber Alert notification. Amber Alerts obviously generate a significant engagement on social media; audiences want to know about them and want to share them so they can help law enforcement find a missing child. On June 23, we received information about an Amber Alert that had been issued for a 6-year-old missing from the Reno area. I built the missing girl’s photo and the description of the vehicle sought through the Amber Alert into a rotating GIF, then broadcast the GIF for 90 minutes on Facebook Live. Facebook sends a notification to many users when a page they follow goes live, which in this case resulted in our followers receiving a notification about an Amber Alert. The Facebook post with the live video reached more than 1.1 million users and generated more than 3,500 shares. It also resulted in more than 270 comments from users stating that they were sharing the video in their communities. Although I’m not sure how much this actually contributed to police search efforts, I’m happy to say the missing girl was later found.
What’s your passion project outside of journalism?
Spinning! I’ve been a certified spinning instructor for about two years, and I teach a 6 a.m. spinning class twice a week in my town. In addition to the obvious health benefits, leading spinning classes has given me an opportunity to learn different strategies for coaching and inspiring a team outside of journalism. It’s also a high-energy way to start my day.
Tell us what’s amazing about the digital journalism community in Sacramento.
The diversity among digital journalists in our area reflects the diverse population of the Sacramento area, which creates more opportunities for us to do great work that impacts our community. There are digital journalists from a variety of demographic and cultural backgrounds working in Sacramento. Their ideas and strategies are influenced by that diversity, and they produce work to target a variety of different audiences on a variety of different platforms. When you dig into that work and those platforms, you learn more about our audiences and how you can do a better job creating content for them in the future. The result is more impactful journalism for our community across all platforms.
When did you first know you wanted to go into journalism?
True story: When I was a junior in high school I told my mom that I wanted to pursue a career as an author. She told me there was no money in fiction, and suggested I go into journalism. So here I am.
I really decided to pursue journalism when I got my first internship working at a chain of weeklies in Western New York, where I grew up. My responsibilities included writing for a newspaper that I had read religiously when I was a kid. I always looked forward to its coverage — which we now call hyperlocal — of people I knew in my community and my high school’s sports teams. When I wrote for that newspaper, I felt for the first time a real connection between journalism and the community I covered.
If you weren’t in journalism, what would you be doing instead?
Probably running digital or social media for an art gallery or a sports team. My dream job is to run digital and social media for Major League Lacrosse; I played lacrosse in high school and college and still have a deep love for the sport.
What’s your favorite thing about being involved with ONA Sacramento?
The opportunity to collaborate with creative, forward-thinking digital journalists to build a successful organization. I love working with our board to organize events and our journalists to ensure we’re providing them with services that they find useful.
Tell us about an amazing place you’ve traveled.
I consider myself very lucky to live in Central California. It’s given me the opportunity to take day trips to places most might visit once in a lifetime. My favorite destination is Mendocino, California, on the state’s rocky north coast. It’s quiet, laid-back and a beautiful place to watch a sunset.