Within the journalism industry, social media editors are woefully underappreciated. In the era of endless scrolling, it’s these quick-thinking digital gurus who communicate timely news and keep folks informed in the moment — conveying big concepts and headlines into bite-sized pieces. And it’s no small responsibility: the hard work of writers and editors relies largely on social media editors to reach its audience. This has been ever more important during the pandemic.
That’s why we were so interested to speak to Claire Tran, a 24-year-old Vietnamese American journalist based in Washington, DC. Tran recently joined Washington Post as a social media editor. Tran is a graduate of Boston University, where she majored in journalism and minored in political science and public health.
Vietcetera sat down Tran to learn more about her career, her day-to-day work at the Washington Post, and some of her favorite Vietnamese artists.
When and how did you get into journalism? What sparked your interest?
When I was younger, I regularly watched the nightly news on TV with my parents and thought it would be fun to interview people and research new stories every day. As I grew up, I learned more about journalism’s power to highlight issues worldwide and drive change. Being able to read and write all day for my job is truly a dream.
What does a typical day look like for a ‘breaking-news fanatic’ at The Washington Post?
Part of my job is producing the more fast-paced social media content: Any new stories that publish, we decide if it should go on Twitter and/or Facebook, and if so, when it should publish and what the social copy should be. The Post publishes hundreds of stories a day, so it's lots of quick decisions! The other half of my job is more long-term. I create weekly social analytics reports, work with reporters and editors to make social plans for big upcoming projects, and coordinate engagement initiatives like Twitter Spaces Q&As with reporters on newsy topics.
To date, what are some of your favorite articles you’ve worked on, and why?
I recently created this Twitter thread about tightening up your security settings on platforms like Google and Facebook. I love service journalism and giving our readers clear steps on how to improve their lives. I also produced this Twitter thread about the Paradise fire, which is a story close to my heart since it happened near my hometown. The story is heart-wrenching and shows the importance of journalists establishing trust with a local community and reporting a story over months, even years.
As someone whose work is on social media, how do you separate your personal and professional life?
It’s definitely difficult! I try to be present and mindful when I’m feeling good reading through social media versus doom scrolling. I don’t have notifications for any social media and I try to follow lots of accounts that bring me joy (that’s usually cats or art) to balance out the often dreary news. I also try to limit my usage outside of work hours and partake in my other hobbies.
Which platform is your favorite, and how do you curate your own social media posts?
Twitter is probably my favorite platform since it’s the one through which I’ve been able to establish the most connections. So many of my friendships started by becoming mutuals on Twitter! I don’t do too much “curation” of my posts; I mostly just tweet whatever comes to mind. The only thing I try to limit is adding to the noise when there are too many dunks and hot takes. I don’t need to add more fuel to the fire.
Who do you consider your favorite influencer and why?
I can’t choose, so I’ll name two people! Dustin Vuong and Linh Truong are two of my favorites, and they’re friends too. They mainly just vlog and post about their everyday life, and their editing style is so calm and relaxing. I definitely look to them for fashion inspiration, too, as they really encapsulate the indie/vintage aesthetic.
In your years of experience, what was your proudest moment and how did it change you?
In college, I interned at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and worked on a series of stories that looked into the high number of suicides in Massachusetts prisons. After the stories were published, federal prosecutors announced they would begin investigating the matter. It reminded me of journalism’s ability to shine a spotlight on issues and motivated me to keep working in this industry.
How has the global pandemic affected your work?
I’ve been working from home since March 2020. It hasn’t affected my work too much since my duties are primarily digital. I suppose the most significant impact is trying to create a routine for myself, whether that’s going for an afternoon walk or curling up with a book in the evening. It’s definitely taken a while to figure out how to best structure my day for my mental health when I’m at home 24/7, but I think I’ve got a solid routine down.
We’ve known that one of your hobbies is curating Vietnamese indie playlists on Spotify. Who are some of your favorite Vietnamese artists?
I love artists like Ngọt, Lena, Wren Evans and Vũ Thanh Vân! I’m also really into pop-punk, so bands like 7Uppercuts, Đá Số Tới and Jaigon Orchestra get me super pumped up.