Jillian Cohan Martin – Arts and Entertainment Editor, The Oregonian
By Amanda Belo
Attracted to the idea of storytelling during a stint as a writer for a college alumni magazine, Jillian Cohan Martin found herself trading in a career path in book publishing for journalism. Some odd years later, she continues to enjoy the collective atmosphere of the newsroom and learning new things every day.
In February 2012, Cohan Martin became the arts and entertainment editor for The Oregonian. She made the trek West from the Houston Chronicle where she was a Web producer, specifically dealing with the energy industry. She has taken the entertainment beat as a reporter in the past, but never as an editor. In her new role, she oversees coverage and visuals for the related section of the paper. She also assigns and edits stories and oversees the visuals staff on the look of the section.
“I'm responsible for the weekly A&E tab for The Oregonian, a [small book-sized] section that covers film, theater and dance, popular and classical music, visual arts and other major entertainment events in the Portland metro area,” she said.
Admittedly, she is still becoming familiar with her new home in Portland, Ore. However, she feels this works in her favor for what she brings to the paper and approaches the section with new eyes.
Also helpful for Cohan Martin’s new role, is her background in various media positions. She has served as an entertainment reporter, education reporter, city desk assignment editor and a Web producer.
Cohan Martin feels that her past experiences have had a place in grooming her for each role she takes on. “My work as an entertainment reporter taught me how to write on tight deadlines and come up with unconventional story ideas. My days as a news reporter and editor added depth to my understanding of public records and source building. Working on the Web opened me up to even more ways to approach a story, and helped me embrace the technological tools that can bolster storytelling online “Throughout my career, I've also learned how to be a good collaborator and a firm, fair manager. I expect all of those stills will come to bear in my new role.”
Embracing technology tools will definitely transfer over into her current editor role, as the lines between traditional and digital media continue to intersect. She still subscribes to daily newspaper and magazine publications, but she utilizes mobile devices tools for most of her day-to-day reading. Professionally, she favors implementing multimedia channels which gives her a greater and more instant impact on news gathering and sharing.
Today, social media is used by anyone who wants to be a writer or journalist whether they are accurate or not. Cohan Martin recalls that over a decade ago, these platforms were used by “high-level news consumers with tech-savvy news producers” to churn out information efficiently.
“The challenge, given how fast information flows on social media, is to still set a high bar for accuracy,” she said.
Sifting through content can be difficult when the information is so abundant. But Cohan Martin continues to have a positive outlook on her current news focus.
“I'm happy to work in a digital world. It means more people have exposure to the journalism my news organization produces and that we're able to serve readers faster and on more platforms than ever before,” she said. “I'm excited to see where social media, smartphones and tablets take us, as they're opening up new realms of creativity.”
Martin only accepts pitches by e-mail and recommends tailoring story submissions accordingly to The Oregonian and its audience.
“I am more likely to take pitches with a local focus that show the PIO (public information officer) has done their homework about the A&E section and its audience,” she said. “I often get pitches for book reviews, which I don't handle. Those should go to our books editor.”
She often receives music from artists who release singles or YouTube videos, but as a reminder, she will only consider the pitch if the band or artist is performing locally.
Cohan Martin is also unlikely to respond to an influx of constant news blasts and unnecessary follow-ups. Less is more.
“Last week I got the same press release three times by e-mail, followed by two voicemails asking if I'd gotten the emails. The gentleman had done the same to several of my colleagues as well.” Cohan Martin said that the event did not even integrate with the section’s coverage plans. She encourages PIOs to take a step back and empathize.
“Consider how busy you are in your work life. We’re all up against deadlines and time is precious. I appreciate people who understand that and lower the volume accordingly.”
Cohan Martin can be found on Twitter at @jjc.