Ask us (almost) anything about how we do our jobs, the journalism industry, how we use reddit, or what The Post will be doing with our user profile. Or just chat with us about reddit and the internet -- we love both things as much as you do.

Here’s who's answering questions today, and what they cover:

We’ll be replying as this account, but we’ll clearly mark who’s saying what. Now let’s talk. Ask us anything!

Proof: Group selfie of six of us

And here's Chris who works out of the office.

UPDATE: It's 3 p.m.! But we're having so much fun we'll keep answering a few more questions, and even check back later today too.

Thanks to everyone for the great questions and conversations. We all had a ton of fun and we definitely want to do this again. And swing by the /u/washingtonpost profile and let us know what you'd like to see! /u/GenePark will now post an AMA request thread. Let us know who you'd like to talk to.

And don't forget: Next week Friday, May 26 at noon, David Fahrenthold will host an AMA on r/politics! Chat with y'all later. - /u/GenePark

EDIT: How rude of me. Forgot to thank r/IamA for being such gracious hosts.

Comments: 405 • Responses: 109  • Date: 

washingtonpost220 karma

Also just to be transparent and I hope this doesn't seem like a cop-out: None of us cover politics so our politics-related answers will be limited.

We know all of the news is around politics. So we'll be having David Fahrenthold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from this year, do an AMA on r/politics next week Friday, May 26 at noon. - /u/genepark

aclickbaittitle113 karma

What's your opinion on using clickbait titles?

washingtonpost113 karma

That's a really good question! Headlines are a tricky thing, because you're competing for someone's attention. It has to be interesting enough that they want to click on it, but also accurately communicate what they're going to get when they do. We really try to stick to the premise that a headline is a promise and the story has to deliver on that promise. So if the headline says "and you won't believe what happened next!" what happened next better be unbelievable. Clickbait is when a headline is tricking you into clicking something that turns out to be not what the headline led you to believe. If the headline is getting you excited to read a story that's genuinely exciting or interesting, that headline is doing its job.

-- Jess

DragonflyRider39 karma

I'm a DINFOS grad (1991) and headlines today look nothing like what we were taught to write back in the day. We learned brevity and clarity. Today, thanks to all the space the internet gives for free, they look like books!

washingtonpost68 karma

Yep. Writing headlines for digital is a completely different school of thought then making them fit for column inches.

As someone who did learn in the old school for a while, those were fun to write. They were like mini-haikus. - /u/genepark

rytis29 karma

haiku - the plural of haiku is haiku.

washingtonpost98 karma

Correction: /u/washingtonpost regrets the error. See? Everyone needs an editor. - /u/genepark

johnnielittleshoes107 karma

You Won't Believe What They Answer Next!

washingtonpost123 karma

No. 9 will make you rethink everything in your life!

-- Jess

washingtonpost50 karma

Hey this is a great question! We do a lot of work with our headlines.

Clickbait by definition is if a headline lies to you. So it's like those old headlines that went "Such and such will blow your mind" and yeah, nobody's mind is literally being blown away.

So journalists should always strive to a standard that the headline makes a promise the story can deliver. If there are headlines that don't deliver on that promise, then yeah, it's a bad headline.

The whole point of a headline is to get the reader to click and read. Been that way for newspapers too. If a headline drew you in and and the reader walks away satisfied with the story, then it wasn't "clickbait." It was a good headline that did its job. But definitely no to clickbait. - /u/genepark

washingtonpost27 karma

lol I feel like it sounds like we all coordinated these answers, but I swear we didn't!

-- Jess

washingtonpost40 karma

Hi there! Certainly there are bad headline practices on the Internet, and when I think of “clickbait,” to me it means “a headline that makes a big promise to draw readers in, and doesn’t deliver” or one that tricks readers. In my time at the Post, I will say a lot of thought goes into how to craft headlines that will accurately reflect the story and also do justice to the story. Sometime, a reporter will spend a lot of time on a story, but if the headline is bad, then how many people will actually click through to read it? This is a similar principle newspapers have operated upon for decades, in writing headlines and including photographs that are accurate representations of stories and also attract readers to read the fine work. -Elahe

poopsicle888 karma

I guess a better or more puissant question would be, do you sacrifice journalistic integrity or purity to use the catchier or more attractive headline?

Like do you use the shittier clickbaity because you know it will draw the readers in and after all it's a business at the end of the day? Or are you like nah fuck that clickbait shit, we are going to be better, etc. how cognizant or how much weight do you assign it in considering possible titles, like I'd imagine you'd be aware of it and either compensate or not.

washingtonpost10 karma

Can I cuss here? Maybe not. Great question. It's definitely the latter. We always try to make sure the headline accurately represents the story you'll be clicking to.

Even if we're going to talk on a practical "business at the end of the day" sense, clickbait headlines would work against us. Facebook, for example, has been updating its newsfeed "algorithm" to keep "clickbait" headlines off your feed. In fact FB just announced an update yesterday. Doing clickbait headlines would actively work against us.

EDIT: adding my ID, /u/GenePark

poopsicle884 karma

I agree with the working against you, it definitely makes me never want to read another article again. Always made more sense to me to make a superior product and let the customers come (or guide them) to you

Edit 1: This is the internet curse wherever you'd like dammit

2: maybe not in your newspaper I guess tho that might be bad

washingtonpost7 karma

Yeah! If the headlines from a site are consistently lying to you, why would you click again? It's insulting to the reader's intelligence, and runs counter to our mission to inform. - /u/GenePark

washingtonpost19 karma

Nice username. As the others have said, I tend to think about "clickbait" as a title that promises something to the audience that is not actually contained in the article, or YouTube video, or whatever.

But I also think people tend to have their own definitions of this term, and it doesn't always match mine.

Honestly, I'd love to know if there are specific headlines you've (pl.) seen at WaPo that you feel were clickbaity, on my pieces or otherwise, based on your own definition of what that is. -- /u/aohlheiserWaPo

pbump104 karma

Why is Chris Ingraham so terrible at everything?

washingtonpost90 karma

Agreed, Chris is the worst. Have an upvote, Philip.


washingtonpost62 karma

Why aren't you joining us for this AMA, jerk?

-- /u/cingraham

Druid0065 karma

What's your best response to people who condemn your work as "fake news"?

washingtonpost136 karma

Honestly, the best response is typically just to keep our heads down and continue to do our jobs. And sometimes, waiting produces its own rewards. Like when the president goes on Twitter and winds up removing all doubt about our reporting.

— Brian

washingtonpost61 karma

We put our heads down and just keep working. Our executive editor Marty Baron wrote in Vanity Fair in November:

The ultimate defense of press freedom lies in our daily work. ... The answer, I believe, is pretty simple. Just do our job. Do it as it’s supposed to be done."


pajamalamaobama55 karma

What's your advice to young journalists? I've been at a local paper for two years now and am looking at what my next moves may be, but the market is discouraging from my perspective - it seems like the NYC/DC circles can be really insular, leaving those of us who aren't in/can't afford to move to big cities out of the loop, and there are always 50 applicants for every one open position. Please, I need help before I give up and go to PR.

washingtonpost48 karma

/u/genepark: Oh man I feel this question hard. I've only been at The Post for 2 years, otherwise I've only worked in a small-medium size market. Spent 8 years in Hawaii (if you ever stop by /r/hawaii tell'em I sent ya).

What's the market like in your area? How's your local paper in digital media? What I did: I worked to become a market leader in social media to distinguish myself not only from the competition but also from my peers.

I decided to take a risk and jump from the major metro local paper to a small online startup where I felt like I could make a real difference in their work, and my work too. It was constantly rewarding, and if I didn't move to DC to be at the Post, I'd probably still be there, having fun.

pajamalamaobama8 karma

Thanks for the quick response! I'm actually in a very unique position - we're a small daily in a northeastern region with a mix of small cities and very, very small towns (my beats have included three towns, at last count, with fewer than 10,000 residents, two of those below 5,000). And we're actually an afternoon paper with almost a complete lack of focus on digital in any way, shape or form from the top down, which makes it difficult to hone non-reporting skills in an increasingly online industry. Our main competitor, a much better funded paper, de facto controls the local digital market. So my situation's quite a bit different in a few ways with some major hurdles. I have some social media presence and built my own website, but it's rough going. I'm also a GA reporter, which is good for diversifying my coverage ability but bad for developing specific skills on any given beat.

For now I'm going to keep trying to put out good work (four clips in today's edition alone!) and keep the search going. Hopefully I can outpace the debt monster that looms in the distance.

washingtonpost19 karma

Hey there! I hope you're able to stay in journalism. I also worked at a local community paper for the first few years of my career, basically GAing (4 stories in one edition wasn't uncommon). I actually think being a GA can really help you, too, because you're getting experience that reporters who start their careers at big metro dailies or elsewhere can't get. I got to write about city councils, budgets, the police department, crime, schools, features -- and all of that will hone your reporting chops and make you a better reporter, regardless of what specialty you develop. Good luck! -Elahe

washingtonpost14 karma

It sounds like you're already finding ways to carve out a niche for yourself. Chris below gives awesome advice too. If you're in a small newsroom, I hope that you find ways where you can be a newsroom leader and help the place innovate.

I know it's hard. I've worked in papers where digital wasn't the focus. Guess what? I even left the newspaper to do PR. So I actually took that route (it just wasn't for me and I didn't last a year). - /u/genepark

washingtonpost27 karma

Carve out a niche for yourself that sets you apart from your colleagues. For folks in local/regional markets, one hugely underserved area right now is data reporting -- there's a massive trove of data on cities and counties (from sources like the Census) that's often overlooked by the papers covering those areas.

The Census alone can provide trend data on everything from demographics to economics to businesses in your area. Learn what these trends look like and work them into your existing stories.

Even better, get handy with some common charting tools so that rather writing 1,000 words to describe 30 years of demographic data, convey it in a single charts and save your words for the more meaty, analytical stuff.

If you really want to stand out, dig more deeply into the visualization side of things (mapping, etc), or learn how to do some basic statistical analyses with software like R to be able to draw more complex conclusions: what's the relationship between age and education in your area? What are the crime trends in the fastest-growing areas of your city? Where do the richest people live, and why?

This is just one path, of course, but these skills have been incredibly useful for me and it seems that they remain in high demand.

-- /u/cingraham

Tuxeedo40 karma

Do you ever feel pressure to present a specific view of your story, rather than an unbiased objective view? Further than that, do you believe that there is such a thing as unbiased and objective reporting? Should there be?

Not meant as a slight towards your news organisation, i'm genuinely interested in how the system works!

washingtonpost40 karma

This is an awesome question and I suspect you will get a wide variety of answers to it.

The journalism industry has done itself a huge disservice, imo, in holding up "unbiased objectivity" as the gold standard of reporting. There has never been a single "unbiased" article ever written. Reporters are human too.

Readers by and large understand this. They see our bias express itself in a million different ways, from the stories we decide to take on to the people we decide to talk to, to the questions we pose to them.

This disconnect, between the bias inherent in any human activity and the media's claims to "objectivity" is one reason, I think, why trust in the media is so low today.

Good reporters, in my view, aren't free of bias, but they fight their biases. They learn their blind spots and try to compensate for them. They strive for honesty, rather than an unattainable objectivity.

It's never a perfect process, of course. But I do wish news outlets were perhaps a little more forthcoming about this with their readers and themselves.

-- /u/cingraham

washingtonpost22 karma

There's an interesting spectrum on this question. Really forward-thinking media scholars and journalists will freely concede that true objectivity is a myth — which in some ways, puts them on the same side as their bias-alleging critics! — but that as long as you're transparent with your bias, that actually helps the reader decipher the story. Other reporters say they strive not for objectivity per se, but to describe the truth as best as it can be perceived. (I believe that's written into the Post's original principles.) Then you've got some folks who argue that balance is the ideal, though that idea has come under criticism in recent years as this notion of "false equivalence" has gained ground — the classic example being putting a climate denier next to a climate scientist in the same article.

I'm a lot closer to the first of these, but you'll get lots of different answers from different people.


washingtonpost21 karma

Echoing my colleagues: these are both great, and very different questions.

Do I ever feel pressure to present a story in a particular way, from a particular perspective? Sure, I think spokespeople from outside organizations do this regularly as part of their jobs. And it's part of my job to not let that dictate what I write.

Separately, I write a lot about memes and Internet phenomena, and sometimes I think that there's an inherent temptation to write about that stuff in the same way -- the way it's being shared already online. Sometimes, that's because the story is simply the phenomenon itself. But when there are opportunities to do it, I try to find new ways into those stories. For instance: I wrote this about a college roommate fight that went viral as "epic" or whatever, to try and just lay out the effect all this had on the real human beings involved in it.

My particular job does sometimes involve writing with perspective, so I feel like my answer might be influenced a lot by my beat and particular job here. But in general, again echoing my colleagues, I try to be aware of my own biases and blind spots, and to work as hard as I can to tell fair, accurate stories anyway. -- /u/aohlheiserWaPo

washingtonpost11 karma

Yes, great question! Naturally you will face pressure from outside forces (flacks/spokespeople) -- whether you're covering Congress or a celebrity -- to put a particular spin on a story. And it's integral to a reporter's job to be aware of this and not be swayed at all. What I try to keep in mind (as a way to orient myself) is trying to be as close as I can to a mirror that reflects the realities of things. Like Chris said, this involves being aware of your own blind spots and biases, which we all have as humans. A few principles that are key to objective reporting: let the facts be your grounding and your guide, and approaching stories with a measure of humility (you have to be open to being wrong in your assumptions and comfortable with asking questions that may seem dumb). -Elahe

janeetcetc36 karma

is it awkward if one of your reporters is ever the subject of something you have to cover -- like eyebrow meme reporter? who's gonna be the next staffer who becomes a meme?

washingtonpost42 karma

This is a really good question, and one that I think about all the time. I actually talked to Ashley Parker i.e. the "eyebrow meme reporter" about this right after it happened to her. Going viral seems to come with some universal awkwardness, but Ashley had a good answer about whether it would negatively impact her reporting or not in this case, which i think its the bigger question here:

"I always try to be fair in my coverage and respectful in my relationships with the White House (and anyone I cover, for that matter), and I think (I hope!) that matters more than a random raised eyebrow that happened to go viral."

I haven't become a meme, but I've interviewed a bunch of people who have. I think, whether you're a reporter or not, the extent of the awkwardness, joy, or misery of becoming a meme has a lot to do with the context of that meme, how its shared, how it's covered. That being said, I really hope I'm not next. Please meme /u/cingraham instead. Thank you. -- /u/aohlheiserWaPo

Otakusmurf28 karma

What has been the most interesting story you have covered for your area? Alternative: What story covered by one of your colleagues did you wish you could have covered?

washingtonpost95 karma

I've written quite a bit about civil asset forfeiture, and the circumstances make my jaw hit the floor every. single. time.

One of the more brazen was the case of a family in Michigan. The wife was a registered medical marijuana grower under the state's medical marijuana law. After setting up her operation, she reached out to the local drug task force to ensure that everything was compliant with the law.

Instead of responding, the task force kicked her door down, with guns drawn, detaining her four young children and her 56-year-old mother. They ransacked her house, taking everything from cash to tvs to bicycles to a lawnmower to the woman's vibrator (yes, really).

She was eventually cleared of all charges, nearly two years after the fact. But last I checked in with her, in 2016, they were still trying to get all their stuff back from the cops.

washingtonpost55 karma

This is the story I wish I could be a good enough writer to have done: "Telling JJ: She's 10. She has HIV. And she's about to learn the truth." It's a story about a young girl who was born with HIV and leads up to the moment when her parents and doctors have decided it's time for her to know. The whole thing is absolutely heartbreaking and has stuck with me since the first time I read it. Soon after this published the reporter, editor and photographer shared a bit about how the story came together, and the dedication and sensitivity it takes to report something like this and do it right is astonishing.

I also wish I could be Abby and write really really smart things about the internet.

-- Jess

washingtonpost21 karma

Fellow Style reporter Ben Terris (He’s great! Look him up!) got a dream assignment and naturally came back with a fantastic story. He spent time on the set of “Veep,” including with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and producers, to get a look at the challenge of making political satire in this current climate. (He opens with an anecdote of filming on set as cast and crew kept track of election returns)


BBBulldog27 karma

How do you feel about WaPo's extremely pro-Clinton role in Democratic primary which eventually led to Trump win? Do you feel bit guilty about WaPo busting on Sanders (which lad to WaPo facebook rating to go down to 1.0, lowest possible) more than Trump in primaries or did it actually work out since there's more to cover now?

washingtonpost7 karma

Hey, jumping in to add that I think you'd be able to get a better answer on this question from a politics reporter.

But I'm familiar with this line of criticism re: The Post's campaign coverage. I heard it from friends, and during interviews with multiple sources last spring. My response has always been that as a reporter here I've felt no pressure internally to write about x candidate or y candidate in a certain way when my work does intersect with politics, and also that I'm not the best person to speak for our campaign coverage overall, since I'm not really involved in it (I'm in the Style section, and I cover Internet culture).

If you do ask this question again in an AMA with someone who was involved in our campaign reporting, I'd suggest being a little more specific. Maybe include:

1) Which articles or departments (editorial board? our national/politics reporters?) specifically you feel were biased against Sanders and too sympathetic to Clinton.

2) What specific campaign subjects you believe we didn't cover -- or covered too much, or covered inaccurately -- before or during the primaries.

Also, it reads like you're saying that you believe our coverage at least partially caused the outcome of the primaries, and therefore the election. I don't want to assume that is what you're saying because I'm not totally sure from your original question. But if you do feel this is the case, it'd be helpful to know the evidence you see to support that conclusion. -- -- /u/aohlheiserWaPo

washingtonpost3 karma

Hey there, sorry I missed this question last night, it was late (around 1 a.m.) when I cruised back into this AMA.

When it comes to elections, we cover all candidates with intense scrutiny, including Hillary Clinton. Our role isn't to favor any candidate or tell people how to vote. Our role as a newsroom is to arm the public with enough facts they need to make their own decisions, and to hold our leaders to account. - /u/GenePark

DairyManNZ24 karma

Why had WaPo been complicit in the cover up of New Zealand's ban on gardening? I know you have a dedicated NZ correspondent in Abby yet she had completely ignored this breach of basic human rights.

washingtonpost28 karma

Kreg, I'm not falling for this again. -- /u/aohlheiserWaPo

pipinngreppin22 karma

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?

umbrae19 karma

Is there a non-technical reason that news outlets do not have edit history for their stories? Seems to me it would go a long way in displaying timely updates and corrections clearly.

washingtonpost18 karma

I don't have much of a way of making this happen, but I agree with you — it might be a public service.


justscottaustin19 karma

Does it bother you that journalism has moved from a "be accurate and honest" to a "be first and fuck the facts as long as we get the almighty clicks" mentality?

How much pressure do you see to get a story ready now as opposed to right?

washingtonpost17 karma

The principle is that we should ALWAYS focus on getting the story right. If it means not being first, so be it. - /u/genepark

IKingJeremy17 karma

What will the post be doing with their user profile?

washingtonpost29 karma

/u/genepark: Hey! I'm the mod for the user profile.

We'll be doing news wrapups (not just links but newsletter like roundups of certain issues), posting photos, hosting AMAs, doing regular question threads, AMA request threads, etc. We're still getting a handle of what kind of content works for the new feature (we're not a sub after all). Which is why after this I'll put up a post about what people would like to see, and a separate AMA request thread for any one of our journalists. If you have any ideas, man they're more than welcome.

cahaseler8 karma

One way to think of it is to split it between stuff targeted at WaPo fans (your user profile) versus general reddit users. If you're doing AMAs that are general interest, you want to share it with all of reddit. If you're doing links to content roundups, looking for feedback, looking to talk in detail with fans, then the user profile page fits better.

washingtonpost11 karma

You nail it. We're definitely taking that route for now. Here's hoping more folks find out about our user profile! If you know of any others that have a great user profile presence I'd love to see them. I'm sure we'll be seeing more in the coming weeks. - /u/genepark

trustmeep11 karma

Could you briefly explain how "anonymous sources" work for actual journalists?

Too many people have the incorrect assumption that somebody is basically contacting WaPo and other press, making a random claim, and the press just runs with it.

washingtonpost24 karma

Sure. "Anonymous sources" certainly aren't just people making random calls to us.

They're almost always anonymous for reasons explained in the story: because they don't want to reveal themselves in relation to their position or job. The source must be credible.

The most famous "anonymous source," of course, was Deep Throat from Watergate, who was later revealed to be none other than the second highest ranking FBI official at the time, Mark Felt. - /u/GenePark

StevenSanders9021010 karma

Have any of you watched the final season of The Wire and how accurate is it to actually working at a major paper?

washingtonpost13 karma

Sadly, I only ever made it through Season Two, but I've always wanted to watch through to the end. Maybe I will as a result of this comment!


dc_sandshrew9 karma

Why is the op-ed page so bad?

washingtonpost28 karma

Hey /u/genepark here, I'm actually the social media editor embedded with the op-ed section so perfect question. Would love to hear your thoughts on why you dislike it! Can bring that feedback back to our team.

runninger8 karma

Hey y'all, question about business models at WaPo: You all have seen an increase in subscriptions since the election and have hired more reporters in a time when most newspapers are laying off journalists. What do you think will happen longterm with this? Is this just a momentary spike in the aftermath of the election, or do you think this is a revival of sorts for journalism profitability?

washingtonpost10 karma

For obviously self-interested reasons, I'm hoping that it isn't just a blip. I think there's evidence to suggest it won't be. For a while, I've talked on social media about the importance of institutions — and restoring public trust in them. Even if this uptick in subscriptions isn't immediately motivated by that desire, I believe greater engagement with traditional civic institutions such as the press will ultimately help strengthen people's faith in them. So I'm hopeful.

— Brian

karadanielle227 karma

Hello WaPo folks! Thank you for all of your hard work and even better tweets (special s/o to Gene Park for the ones on the marching Pikachu).

I've got a couple questions for you:

1) How did the WaPo team decide on the slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness?" Were there any other interesting slogans in the mix?

2) for Brian Fung specifically (don't ever say your Twitter followers aren't paying attention) -- do you see net neutrality as being a partisan issue or does this cut across party lines? Most of what I've read on it usually features strong Democrat backing the issue, but are there any Republicans who are also (strongly) in favor of it?

washingtonpost10 karma

Here's a brief history of the slogan's origins — worth a read.

Much as I might like to say net neutrality shouldn't have to be a partisan issue, I think it was always bound to be from the start — because the core issue calls into question your beliefs about the benevolence (or lack thereof) of large, entrenched industries.


Erigion7 karma

What's your favorite subreddit to waste time on while you're supposed to be working?

washingtonpost6 karma

r/personalfinance, because I'm a nerd.


washingtonpost6 karma

/r/nintendoswitch because there's not enough content for the console so I might as well keep talking about it. - /u/genepark

kyle64775 karma

We're glad to have you! We waste a lot of time there too :)

-/u/kyle6477, moderator for /r/nintendoswitch

washingtonpost6 karma

yooooo thanks for running a great community :) - /u/genepark

washingtonpost5 karma

/r/gallifrey and I'm not going to tell you who answered this cause I'm pretty sure you can guess ;)

(Also, what do you mean? We never waste time on reddit when we're supposed to be working)

DairyManNZ7 karma

Do you ever keep in touch with people you interview or do you forget about them as soon as the story is finished?

washingtonpost24 karma

There was a gentleman who was killed on a beach several years ago just because the killer (who was convicted of manslaughter, not murder) thought he was looking at him the wrong way. It was a run of the mill crime story. But I did speak to his mother, who lived out of state.

I kept in touch with the mom from time to time, and she actually gave me a beautiful closer to her son's story: Her son was an organ donor. His organs saved the life of a bank teller who was on the verge of death, but she received a new lease on life thanks to his organs. I interviewed her, and I interviewed the mom. I remember getting tons of reader email about how they cried, and it was one of the more fulfilling stories I've done. Obviously I remember it to this day.

So yes, we do keep in touch with folks from time to time. And staying connected can result in even better stories. - /u/genepark

washingtonpost11 karma

Gene's answer to this is really wonderful. But wanted to hop in and note that there was once this dairy farmer guy in New Zealand whom I interviewed for a story about Dog Twitter. I still talk to him from time to time. For instance, when he logs into Reddit to ask a bunch of questions during an AMA.

Seriously, however: I ended up getting to know a bunch of people from New Zealand Twitter as a direct result of that interview, and it's been one of the most delightful things that has ever happened to me on the Internet. I wrote about it a bit here. -- /u/aohlheiserWaPo

(edited to add username, whoops)

iwas99x6 karma

How much editorial content control does Jeff Bezos have over what you can and/or cannot write about?

washingtonpost11 karma

Good question. None. Like any newspaper, there is a wall between the business and editorial side.

As our executive editor Marty Baron (the editor depicted in "Spotlight") says, "We never talk to him about our coverage." He does get involved on the tech side, making sure our site loads faster, helping to build tools to assist our storytelling, etc. - /u/GenePark

jw123216 karma

How's the new Franklin Square headquarters? It looks pretty fancy -- at least compared to the old one on L Street.

washingtonpost16 karma

Before I used to sit facing an ugly green wall and now I sit next to a window. It's been LIFE CHANGING. -Elahe

washingtonpost15 karma

Speaking on the digital products side of the Post, the new HQ has been a blessing. USB charging ports built into desk, brighter white lights above and a lot more natural lighting. Honestly, the USB charging ports are probably my favorite thing. Case in point: This is a normal occurrence at my desk


washingtonpost8 karma

It's like an Apple store in here. Tons of natural light, lots of wooden surfaces, glass everywhere.


washingtonpost8 karma

It's super bright and cheerful in here. It's like being in a Target every day. And I love being in a Target. I don't even need to buy anything. - /u/genepark

FasterKittenKILLKILL5 karma

What was your favorite event that you've covered?

washingtonpost14 karma

The presidential debate last year was really cool. I've never worked at an event at that scale before. It was such a trip to see thousands of journalists from all over the world crammed into a tiny little auditorium on a university campus (UNLV in my case) all speaking different languages and covering the same thing.

I also loved covering E3 (twice!) as a games journalists like a decade ago. Can't wait to see what's announced this year! - /u/genepark

AyyyinBruno5 karma

how do I become a journalist?

washingtonpost9 karma

A broad question and I'll try to answer as specifically as I can: Write or produce journalism is the best way to do it. Are you looking for training? Do you have training? You don't need to major in journalism to do it. You just need to learn things like ethics, language style, a good strong portfolio of work examples.

These days it's easier more than ever to engage in "acts of journalism." But it's always good to find yourself a mentor who can guide you.

Also, join a professional journalism organization. The Online News Association is a good place to start. - /u/genepark

IKingJeremy5 karma

What made you want to become a journalist?

washingtonpost10 karma

My mom dragged me to my hometown paper to apply for the internship she literally just heard about that day. Up til then I was a scraggly high school grunge teen with no ambition or direction in life.

It took about a year in that internship before I realized, "Hey I like this." Went to college with communications with emphasis on journalism as my major. I like being where the action is. I like knowing things. And journalism is a career where all you do is always learn. It's like getting paid to have fun. - /u/genepark

washingtonpost8 karma

Oh! Good question. For me, it started with an interest in writing and developed from there into a passion for trying to present a clear, accurate picture of the world to readers, based on solid reporting and in a way that serves to enlighten and elevate understanding. I've covered different beats in my time (police, Congress, arts, etc.), and one of the best parts of being a journalist is you get to learn about new, vastly different things every day. -Elahe

arnicas5 karma

This is a workload/deadline question: What is the burn-out rate among journalists these days? Considering both the volume of things to report on now and the deadlines under which you operate... how are you handling it??

washingtonpost10 karma

There are days when you feel like you're drowning in news (this week might be one of them!) and there are days you feel like a terrible person because you haven't written anything at all. It all averages out, I think.


washingtonpost7 karma

It depends on your beat and your job description. If there's a lot of news on your beat, it'll be a very busy time but hopefully there will be a lull down the line. Some of our writers in Style spend longer with pieces, and some of us are charged with writing news-of-the-day/multiple stories daily. Each has its own kind of potential for burnout. As for the pressure of deadlines -- honestly, I can't even function without that pressure. Good thing I got into journalism! -Elahe

hpihkala5 karma

How do you think new technology (AI, AR/VR, blockchain, reader analytics, etc.) will transform the media/news business?

washingtonpost9 karma

I'll tackle these one by one.

AI: I expect we'll see a big shift with this, but not one where millions get put out of a job. Bots can already write some basic stories, like sports articles and market reports, but the more important change will be in using machine learning to analyze datasets to produce data-driven journalism. And it'll also help reporters connect other dots. But interviews with sources (particularly the really sensitive kind) are built on human relationships, and those aren't going away anytime soon.

AR/VR: I've been trying to push this in the newsroom somewhat. Imagine if we covered a tech company's keynote event with VR, and in the days following readers could actually manipulate a new smartphone themselves in virtual reality instead of watching a video about it or reading about it. That'd be pretty cool. VR could also help make stories about people come alive — that's key for building empathy with people, particularly across cultural or racial divides.

Blockchain: Probably won't be as big a deal for media (unless you're talking about micropayments for articles, which would require a lot more Web infrastructure than exists today). But more broadly, I believe we'll all just wake up one day and blockchain tech will be everywhere, helping to power many of the day-to-day transactions we make. The average person probably won't know it's even there.

Analytics: It's already transformed media. We now know not just how many people are reading a story but also where they came in from, how long they're staying, how far down the page they're reading and where they go next. As we expand into different forms of media (see: VR) the industry will probably develop other ways of tracking that consumption, as well.


washingtonpost8 karma

It's really difficult to gauge how much AR/VR will transform news because it hasn't yet been fully adopted by the general public. We've toyed around with VR on a few projects to much success but I'm interested too to see how it will play it out in the next 5 years or so.

As for AI, The Post has already implemented some AI into our business.

We launched automated storytelling during the Olympics last year generate short sentences for readers


npersa15 karma

Three questions:

  • What are your favorite or most-used social media tools, and what tools do you see potential in? I'm interested in everything from content-creating tools and apps on your phones to sites you use online and desktop software.
  • I'm always impressed with the overall presentation of WaPo content, and it's clear to me as a consumer y'all must have great internal collaboration and work across teams. What challenges do y'all face in working in such a large organization when trying to have such a cohesive and polished result, and how do y'all overcome those roadblocks?
  • Social media is a constantly changing and evolving landscape. How do y'all stay on top of new tools, features and platforms? How do you decide when a platform is one on which WaPo should have an active presence?

Thanks for taking the time to do this! I appreciate all y'all're doing.

And, y'all should give /u/twpinoy a raise. He's crushing it.

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  • /u/genepark will probably give a better answer on social media tools.

  • As far design presentation, the post is generally split into 3 design teams: Digital media/product, print/web and graphics. We all work so closely together that on any given project there will be 1 or 2 from each team working on it for the different platforms.

  • My team specifically will usually jump on new platforms on a trial basis. We'll try something for a 30-90 days and if the engagement isn't there, then we'll move on. But since Bezos took ownership, he's been a huge proponent in us trying anything and everything.


washingtonpost5 karma

I'm personally a big fan of Crowdtangle. The tool is now free, and it's a great way to monitor what others are doing on Facebook. - /u/genepark

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I'll take the last question, cause that's a big part of my job. We read A LOT of social media/social journalism newsletters, stay on top of what friends and colleagues are talking about, and even then still sometimes get surprised when someone says, "Hey have you heard of X." But we think it's incredibly important to experiment with new tools and features and make sure we understand what they do and if/when they might become useful for us. Sometimes it's so we can say, "We've tried this and it's not for us right now," sometimes we experiment with something at a low level for a while and then make a strategic decision about whether to ramp it up or down, and sometimes we go all in. Either way, we love to play with the new tools and find ways to see where they might fit into our journalism. -- Jess

Footy_man5 karma

Why is John Podesta, linked with numerous questionable events and practices, now working for the Washington Post?

washingtonpost9 karma

Happy to answer this question. In fact we answered it in our user profile here, but also for your convenience:

John Podesta isn't working for us. He isn't part of our staff, he's only marked as a "contributor" for the opinions section (which in newspapers, is a separate operation from the news editorial department, which includes our reporters).

So for example, we receive contributions from a number of "contributors." They include Julian Assange (he recently wrote: "The CIA director is waging war on truth-tellers like WikiLeaks"), and President Trump himself to mark his first 100 days.

High-Priest-of-Helix4 karma

Thanks for doing this, guys, super interesting ama. I know some (most?) of you haven't been there that long, but I was wondering what the perception of the paper has been on the inside for the past few years. It's always been my impression that the post was super well regarded for Watergate, but has dropped off until bezos bought them out and revitalized it. Is that perception true in the paper too? And if so, why did things suddenly change again?

washingtonpost9 karma

I was only hired on after Bezos, and I can only speak on the tech/product side of things:

But to me, with all of the product launches in the last fews of years, there's been a general feeling of revitalization. Big investments in engineering, programming and different media platforms like apps on Kindle/iOS/Android; on Snapchat Discover and soon to be on Medium ... there's been a lot of excitement among the younger journalists in the newsroom.


DarkerMyLove4 karma

Has a post or comment on reddit ever given you the idea for a story?

washingtonpost5 karma

I used to be on a team of general assignment reporters charged with, in part, writing stories with a lot of interest and resonance online. I'd often turn to certain subreddits for story ideas. -Elahe

emplah4 karma

Where do you most frequently find the stories that you cover? What's the journalistic technique from arriving in the office in the morning to having news reported?

washingtonpost6 karma

Hi there! For the pop culture beat, I have sources alerting me to shows, etc. coming up, and I'm often looking at social media (Twitter, especially) and the trade and specialty publications in the morning to see what's bubbling up. Also, it's important to just know what's going on generally in the world for this beat, so I start my days with NPR, our paper and other sites to get a quick download on the news of the day. -Elahe

washingtonpost5 karma

I was on reddit well before I joined the Post. And oddly enough, the skills I developed on Reddit -- identifying something really interesting, and framing it in a way that makes other people want to read it too -- have been incredibly useful for story development as a journalist.

Generally speaking, I look for things that make me stop and say "wow" or "huh" or "holy shit!" I figure if I'm surprised by something, others will be too. Sometimes that's the case, other times it's not.

-- /u/cingraham

washingtonpost3 karma

Usually I find the best stories come from just talking to people. Maybe they'll mention something they know off-hand that would be news to others. Or maybe they drop a really interesting idea that connects to some other stuff I've been writing about lately. In general, much of my job involves connecting dots that people haven't thought to connect before.


iwas99x4 karma

Most people i know my age (33) and younger don't pay attention to news. How does the Washington Post plan to get those 18 to 39 years old to read your paper online and in print?

washingtonpost2 karma

A lot of my team's work is focused on finding platforms where we can directly engage readers rather than waiting for readers to find us.

The Post publishes nearly all of its content on Facebook Instant Articles to give users access to our stories on a giant social media site. This year we also partnered with Facebook to publish a daily edition of the top 5 stories of the day.

The Post is also about to launch a new vertical next month called The Lily which will publish primarily on Medium and social media platforms.

Also this year we've launched on Snapchat Discover delivering news and features to an audience who we've found to want to be highly engaged in news but sort of want it delivered to them.

We're constantly looking for ways to engage new readers as an extension to our print and online presences. Hope this answers your question. — /u/twpinoy

fungushnitzel4 karma

How much pressure do you feel to provide news in a fashion that is slanted in one direction or the other?

I'm not accusing you of that, I'm just curious how much legitimate pressure there is to do it.

washingtonpost4 karma

Hey there! Great question. Some of us touched upon in here:


cobaltcollapse3 karma

What subreddits are you embarrassed to be subscribed to?

washingtonpost14 karma

/r/darksouls3. Still trying to git gud.

-- /u/cingraham

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I haven't beaten Ringed City yet. Too stressful atm. - /u/genepark

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filthy casul -- /u/cingraham

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I don't know about embarrassed.. but I do spend a lot of time on /r/pokemontrades trading all my breedjects and /r/cinemagraphs because those guys do some great work in there.


washingtonpost10 karma

I created a separate reddit account for this AMA, but on my other account I have a ton of posts over on r/thedivision. The game has its flaws, but the lore and setting are right up my alley. Big fan of dystopian and tactical things over here.


washingtonpost9 karma

/r/fo4. I actually gave up on that game and got really bored, so I don't think I was ever involved in that sub. - /u/genepark

D_Bowey3 karma

Really quick one: what advice would you have for an aspiring journalist? (aka: me).

I don't go to a large school, in fact I go to a local state university. I feel like sometimes that I have a major disadvantage.


washingtonpost12 karma

Write for your school newspaper. Find the town's community paper and pitch stories for them. The best thing you can do is get experience in reporting and writing, and developing a portfolio of published work. Good luck! -Elahe

D_Bowey2 karma

Awesome! I'm doing both those things already in my 1st year in college, glad to see I'm on the right track.

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One other thing I'd suggest: don't be shy about reaching out to professional journalists, especially in your area, to grab coffee and pick their brains. Journalists, in my experience, can be very open to mentoring. -Elahe

washingtonpost10 karma

As someone who wrote for a local Vermont paper in college, I can't echo Elahe's advice enough. I got a bit of a late start (I didn't write in high school) but getting that experience as early as possible is key. Also: read, read, read. Read a news article for its content — then read it again to dissect it and figure out how the writer structured it, how they presented the information, what kind of language they used, how it sounds when it rolls off the tongue. All that stuff makes a difference to the end reader!


washingtonpost10 karma

As someone who attended a local state university, I started by writing for the school paper, just like what Elahe and Brian said. Reach out to your local community paper. Find a mentor. I think you'll find that many journalists are eager to teach our craft.

In fact I visited my campus just a few weeks ago, visited the old college newsroom with students who are just about to get their start. Met a lot of promising, smart folks. - /u/genepark

ExpandThePie3 karma

Has journalism changed as a result of online and instantaneous distribution of articles and reports vs not showing up until the next morning?

washingtonpost12 karma

I'd say that journalism itself -- the principles that we are trying to achieve every day -- have not changed at all. But the pace has definitely sped up because you can't just wait to publish something at the print deadline. The other big difference, especially in what I do, is the ability to reach and interact with audiences across a bunch of different platforms (as opposed to just via a daily paper) -- Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, video, etc. I'm not sure our predecessors could have ever imagined that.

I think all of us on this AMA, though, are of an age where we've never experienced journalism before digital was part of it, even though we've seen it grow and change over our careers.

-- Jess

RichardChumneyCT2 karma

Thank you all so much for doing this. The Washington Post has been a staple of my house since I was very young, it truly is one of the reasons I want to be a journalist. Having the incredible privilege of helping with a Washington Post story last November only increased my enthusiasm for journalism.

I write for my college paper and have recently come across a unique story that has thrown up some challenges for me. I hope you might be able to give me some advice on how to proceed with the story.

The gist of the story is that county lawmakers recently approved the sale of an old high school property to two local businessmen. The sale is fairly controversial in this area, residents hoped the space would remain public and were upset to learn it would be used for a private development.

After going through campaign finance disclosures I discovered that the two businessmen have given thousands of dollars in donations (in-kind donations in the form of rent free office space) to the party of the lawmakers who approved the sale.

The party used the office space owned by the businessmen as campaign headquarters in the months leading up to the 2015 and 2016 Virginia elections. The 2015 donations were disclosed by the party, but the 2016 donations have yet to be disclosed. I only confirmed that the businessmen provided office space in 2016 from a party official yesterday.

For the past week I have tried to contact the chairman of the county Board of Supervisors (who oversaw the sale) and the businessmen who won the bid to purchase the property. Every time I call I get a voicemail and I have yet to receive a call back. I am concerned that my status as a student journalist made the county chairman and the businessmen less concerned about getting back to me. How could I better approach contacting these individuals. And is there a way you would propose framing the story?

washingtonpost9 karma

Have you tried visiting their office? Sometimes a phone call just won't work.

When I covered education, I would literally sit outside the superintendent's office every day and wait for him. It's a great way to develop sources and relationships there so you don't idle while waiting for your primary source. - /u/genepark

Muthafuckaaaaa2 karma

Do you browse reddit for pleasure and lose some productivity while you're at work like the rest of reddit?

washingtonpost12 karma

washingtonpost10 karma

I cover the Internet so technically it's all work for me, right? -- /u/aohlheiserWaPo

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Cam3Ran2 karma

What is the first thing you do when you get leaked information?

washingtonpost11 karma

Try to get it confirmed, using all the tools at our disposal.


RestingMurderFace2 karma

How does one get a 'Dear Abby' like gig?

washingtonpost5 karma

No idea, but this is genuinely my dream job, if Marty is reading this AMA (he's not) -- Jess

(Also, have you read Carolyn Hax? She is the best.)

Adolf-____-Hitler2 karma

Do you have any qualms with crediting a reddit-user with their username if you write a article about something where said user have brought attention to the subject or have made a big contribution to a subject you are writing about?

washingtonpost11 karma

Nope. In fact I've written a couple of stories off stuff I found on Reddit, and always make sure that at very least I credit the user. If I'm writing exclusively about something cool I found on /r/dataisbeautiful, I'll usually reach out to OP to ask them a bit about their creation and why they made it.

It can get awkward quoting some reddit handles, however: "According to reddit user 'Dickbutt69,'..."

-- /u/cingraham

washingtonpost6 karma

no but if that's the case I also try to interview the person about it -- /u/aohlheiserWaPo

tylahnol2 karma

How similar or dissimilar is the Zoe Barnes character from House of Cards to reality?

washingtonpost8 karma

I had to stop watching "House of Cards" halfway through the first season because her character was so annoying and upsetting to me. I found it to be a very inaccurate portrayal of being a female reporter on the Hill, which I was at the time. Marin Cogan wrote a great reported piece about this:


mcleme92 karma

Will I ever have as much fun as I did working at The Daily Reveille?

washingtonpost4 karma

Only if /u/npersa1 is in charge.


lost_in_life_342 karma

How much material has the current president given you to work with?

washingtonpost11 karma

I wouldn’t refer to him as “giving material,” but my coverage certainly includes a good deal of Trump. I cover pop culture (celebrity, TV, movies, music, comedy), so these days I find myself often writing about the president because, just as with so many other aspects of public life, this pop culture itself has become consumed with politics and the president. Trump is also a product of pop culture, in a sense, especially the role reality TV led to his wire. While my grounding and perspective is rooted in pop culture, Trump has become a dominant theme in everything from late-night comedy to award show speeches. These shows and jokes take on even greater relevance when the president himself comments on them. -Elahe

grayrace12 karma

I provide IT support for a newsroom. Some of the security practices are quite concerning to me. I very much understand the overworked and underpaid nature of the business. Do you have any recommendations on how to support and encourage other journalists to practice better IT security?

washingtonpost7 karma

Put it in terms they'll understand. Explain how the use of better security will help protect their sources and methods and help the journalist do his or her job, rather than act as an inconvenience.


bwolfs082 karma

/u/b_fung: Brian - how do you prefer to deal with PR or just general advice? Saw you were covering WannaCry yesterday -- are there stories you want to write or be pitched?

washingtonpost7 karma

Reporters often get questions about how to be pitched. For me, email's best. If I don't reply, I'm probably swamped or not interested — no insult intended!

If you're offering up a source, slap a quote from that person in your pitch to give me an idea of where they're coming from, or include your source's direct contact information so we can follow up ourselves and save time.



the-great-beyond2 karma

Great work, WaPo. I'm a first-time subscriber as of November, 2016 and I'm happy with my subscription aside from one thing: commenting.

I also subscribe to other broadsheets that allow comments such as the NYTimes, and in comparison, your comments are insanely-overrun with Kremlin/Breitbart/MAGA propagandists trolls who spam comments incessantly with propaganda and disinfo. It's out of control. They derail threads, troll shamelessly, spread lies, and subvert intelligent discourse with lazy Kremlin talking points. Every single article that has to do with the Trump-Russian collusion is swarmed and saturated by these trolls.

You have no flagging or banning system to control the problem, and for well-read commentators like me, it's incredibly frustrating. And in light of Comey's and Roger's comments at that first HIC hearing about the ubiquitous online armies of Kremlin spammers, it's frankly irresponsible.

So my question: do you have any plan to control the toxic disinfo spread by Kremlin/Breitbart/MAGA spammers in your comments? It'd be greatly appreciated.


washingtonpost5 karma

Hey there! /u/genepark here. So none of us was qualified to answer this question ...

BUT I did grab our comments editor to answer this question for you. Service journalism with a smile. Here is Teddy Amenabar, The Washington Post comments editor:

Hey -- Thanks for the question. I'm the comments editor here at The Post. First, I really appreciate the feedback. Our goal is to provide a space for readers to discuss the news of the day and our journalism at The Post.

We do have a flagging system in place. Policing from readers is an important part of moderation for the community onsite. Our moderators review comments that are flagged and readers who violate the discussion policy will be suspended from commenting.

That said, we do have a lot of great communities on The Post -- check out Capital Weather Gang or Carolyn Hax, for example. Plus, I edit a newsletter every week called Read These Comments. It's essentially a TL;DR for the best comments from readers at The Post.

Thanks again for the question and if you have any other thoughts, etc., you can email me at [email protected].

skinsballr2 karma

This is a fun question:

What is your go-to Chipotle burrito/bowl filled with?

washingtonpost3 karma


  • Burrito
  • Brown rice
  • Steak + Chicken
  • Fajita vegetables
  • Pico
  • Med Salsa
  • Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Guac (Yes, I know it's extra)


washingtonpost3 karma

Barbacoa. I actually don't like anything else on their menu. With the hot sauce. - /u/genepark

startledgrey2 karma

Did anyone get in trouble for botching the Pewdiepie situation? I know there were a lot of people upset at the Washington Post.

washingtonpost5 karma

FYI the WSJ was the one who reported that piece. - /u/genepark, who subscribes to pewds

iwas99x2 karma

Does the Washington Post have a rivalry with the Baltimore Sun or New York Times?

washingtonpost3 karma

Any national news organization may be a competitor to us.

That said we have a great deal of respect for the work done at them. For example, our Twitter account retweeted the New York Times's scoop. Game recognize game. - /u/GenePark

ChickenFriesAreBack1 karma

What's the news rooms reaction every time a Washington team bows out of the playoffs? (I'm still a little upset about the Caps lss. This eemed like their year)

washingtonpost2 karma

My reaction is always to go see what Dan Steinberg had to say about it. -- Jess

bolivar-shagnasty1 karma

As of yesterday, I am a subscriber to the Washington Post. I've become one of your most ardent supporters in recent months, partly because of the coverage of the election and the new administration.

I live in a small town. Most of the people I interact with daily don't care about the news, especially at the national level. Our leading stories are literal jokes.

My question is, what steps can you take to get Americans passionate about long form, investigative journalism? In an era of snippets on Facebook and Twitter blasts, good journalism is difficult to identify.

washingtonpost7 karma

Investigative journalism is important, but it's by no means the only good or important kind. There are two other ways to think about this that are worth considering.

One is local journalism. People trust local news in a way that they don't with national outlets. We shouldn't squander that trust. Local news needs support, and to earn it, it needs to tackle hard subjects, particularly explaining how national-level policies are affecting people in the local community.

Second, traditional beat reporting (keeping a record of things that happen on the day-to-day) is also important. Over time, readers can develop a competency and expertise in a given subject from reading a beat reporter's work. And not only will readers become conversant in that subject, helping him or her become an informed, engaged citizen, but also they'll gain a sense for when something interrupts the flow of what's considered "normal."

When people think of classic journalism, they think of big, honking scoops like Watergate. Things that are dramatic and have lots of impact all at once. But ordinary reporting is just as important.


washingtonpost5 karma

Wow tough and deep question.

I come from a small city where nobody cared about what their government was doing. Our voter turnout was habitually the worst in the nation. And I worked in a startup that focused ONLY on long-form, investigative journalism

We tried to address this by framing and/or focusing on stories that show a clear impact on a person's life. "Impact" is difficult to measure, but that was the aspiration. - /u/genepark

Hyouten1 karma


I have two sets of questions for you: serious and non-serious.


Given the current landscape of the industry in general, what do you think is the most important class that journalism schools are currently, or should be, teaching?


What do you think of onions?

washingtonpost2 karma

Serious: Lean towards classes that will get you well prepared for digital media, data visualization, coding, multimedia skills. All of those skills will make you an attractive, compelling job candidate.

Nonserious: Onions make everything better. - /u/genepark

dazmo0 karma

How professional do you think your new black whiney emo look is?

How do you parse being in the journalism industry and not actually being journalists?

How big of a slice of the dnc/clintons media budget do you get?

Do you prefer "Washington compost" or "brainwashington post"?

How many resumes have you shopped out?

Do you iron your romphims every day? Do you use starch, or just let the previous evenings semen collection do the job?

I've got tons of these roasts. Are you hiring ?