We sat down with Melissa Lafsky Wall, Newsweek’s fantastic new(ish) iPad editor now that her awesome app is out of the nursery, to ask her what, exactly, an “ipad editor” does! Also: How did you wind up here, Melissa? And what’s your favorite part of this week’s iPad issue? Do tell the nwk tumblr of your mysterious ways.
nwk tumblr: So what, exactly, is an “iPad editor”?
melissa lafsky wall: [Laughs] It’s a totally new frontier in that you need to have at least a base of familiarity of all the crazy tech terms. I don’t pretend to have any kind of tech expertise when it comes to coding or the logistics of creating the app, but I have to know what is required in order to code — how many hours will it take to produce such and such and what actually needs to be done. There’s also a level of educating people on the edit side, showing them what can be done on an iPad, and demonstrating how it’s a brave new world where there are wonderful enhanced things they can do for a story that give a story deeper context and a whole new layer of meaning. Once you show people that in practice they get really excited about it.
nwk: What advice would you give to someone looking to get into your particular tech-heavy corner of the journalism industry?
mlw: Be in the right place at the right time. Don’t be too tied to any one set of skills. I’ve had no formal training in how to be an iPad editor but it’s really just an amalgam of skills learned as a website editor, as a writer, as a blogger, and as a person working in modern editorial — and tech. I had to update my vocabulary very quickly in order to be taken seriously by the tech side. I didn’t want to look like a total tech moron.
nwk: How’d you do that?
mlw: It helps that my husband is a computer scientist! I just ask him.
nwk: What was your role in the app’s development?
mlw: Well, my role has been everything from editorial overseer to task-master…I was brought in to do everything from make sure the production team has what they need to product the app every week to talking with David Frum about audio extras for his stories.
nwk: Now that it’s actually in the store, what are you most excited about?
mlw: I’m most happy that everyone now gets this amazing new digitally enhanced way to read Newsweek. It’s always been about showcasing the content. Without great content there would be no great app. And honestly this is a biased opinion but magazines are simply more fun and more beautiful to read on an ipad than they are in print.
nwk: What does our editor think of Newsweek on the iPad?
mlw: Tina’s been a huge supporter of the app! She’s had great ideas from the start, and she loves how the Oscars feature turned out. She’s had great comments throughout the whole process.
nwk: What’s your favorite part of this week’s edition?
mlw: The Oscar roundtable, hands down!
mlw: It’s the perfect example of how an iPad can be used to enhance the reading experience and overall enjoyment of a great piece of writing. We have video extras, we have interactive video with the stars, we’ve got George Clooney playing the ukulele in your iPad, and we have this great piece of writing that tells such a great story. When they all come together, it’s really an incredible experience.
[Get the app.]