Jake Ortman

What did you major/minor in at the University of Oregon? How would you describe your time at UO and when did you graduate?

My name is Jake Ortman, online editor from 1998 to 2000. I was part of the class of 2000, major in journalism (magazine emphasis) with a minor in computer information technology. My time at UO was spent primarily at Allen Hall or in the EMU (Emerald offices or the pool hall in the basement), with occasional jaunts to Hayward Field watching every track meet I could or to the music building as I performed in the campus band.

Describe your career path, so far. Where are you working now and what is your title?

In 2000, online newspapers were a fairly new thing (the web in general was in its infancy). After I graduated (and after working at the Statesman Journal during a summer internship before my senior year), I worked for a software development company that developed software to help college newspapers manage and make money with their online content (the Emerald was one of their first clients). However, like many dot-coms of the era, their business model wasn't fully fleshed out and most of the company was let go a couple years later. That being said, I was able to meet lots of great college advisors during that time and was even able to contribute a section to "The Student Newspaper Survival Guide" by Rachele Kanigel, who I met working at that company. I then went to work for a group of vacation rental companies in Central Oregon, handling website development, IT support, marketing, graphics design -- a bit of everything. After 10 years of that, I now work as the Factotum and Scapegoat (aka, Communications Manager) for Weston Technology Solutions where I handle our marketing, newsletter, web site, vendor relations, inside sales and internal systems management (small company, lots of hats).

How do you think your time at the Daily Emerald prepared you for the job you have now? 

I think working at the Ol' Dirty prepared me for anything that could be thrown at me. The one perk about working for a student paper -- especially one like the Emerald -- was that we never knew what was coming next. At the time, technology was just starting to take a larger role in our lives and in how we consumed news, so we were able to experiment with technologies that are commonplace now. Everybody there (especially folks who worked with me on the online edition -- all two of us) had to wear a lot of hats. I've always worn a lot of hats in my professional life, and the Emerald certainly helped with that.

Describe your fondest memory relating to your time at the Daily Emerald. 

While I could reminisce about all the stuff I learned and memories I had during my time there, I think there are two events (one funny, one less so) that stick out in my mind the most about my time at the Emerald:

1) It used to be a tradition (sadly) in Eugene that every Halloween there were always drunken morons that would start riots. We would always try to cover them, but they rarely happened at convenient times for our press run (which was still analog and hand-delivered via Taxi back then). One year, the Emerald EIC was having a staff party at his house and we could hear the rioters starting to pick up volume down the street. One of our reporters at the party, still fully dressed as the old-school Adam West Batman outfit (spandex and all), grabbed his notebook and started running down the street. Understand that he was a shorter guy. Our photographer made it down there a few minutes later, and managed to snap a perfectly hilarious picture of Batman interviewing a police officer which hung on the Emerald wall for quite a while.

2) The Thurston High School shooting was a "Oh my God" moment for our entire newsroom. Our website (which I'm pretty sure we had just relaunched at dailyemerald.com instead of darkwing.uoregon.edu/~ode) was getting hammered as we took advantage of the medium to keep folks up-to-date until we went to print. It was my birthday, and I was actually in Bend at the time visiting some family. I was on my way back to Eugene when I got a page from the newsroom (cell phones were crazy expensive then but I managed to be able to afford a pager). I pulled over in Vida, called into the newsroom on a payphone, heard what was going on, and booked it back to Eugene as fast as I could to start getting news online. Our website was breaking news quicker than the local media and it was quite the feeling to be scooping the big boys who were unable to get their news out there until they went to print. 

3) Bonus memory: bringing my newborn daughter to the newsroom after winter break (she was born over the break of my senior year). Any hardened journalist will turn into mush when they see a dolled-up baby girl and that's what the newsroom did that day. 

Tell us about a time you managed a project at the Emerald. What was the process and the outcome?  

As the Emerald's first online editor (at least, as far as I know), I oversaw a few major projects for the website. There were several that I was a part of and I was proud of. 

First off, the website URL when I first started was http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~ode/. Not very memorable or easy to remember and it pained me to see that printed on the masthead everyday. Back in the day, registering a domain name and getting it working and pointing somewhere wasn't the five minute, $15-ish process it is now. The University had to be involved (as it required an InterNIC handle and public registered domain name servers, which they had) and it cost us $90/year. So all the editors voted (based on availability) and DailyEmerald.com was born. 

The second was a project to streamline our production process and redesign our website from the basic, mostly text-only site it was previously. We were limited with what we could do by a poorly-built QuarkXpress plugin, but it got the job done and allowed a bigger focus on the graphics that our designers worked so hard to create that accompanied the print stories. The site went on to win or get on the podium for multiple national awards.

The last was to move the website to a proper content management system. Easy-to-install and configure content management systems were still many years away from release (Wordpress' initial release wasn't released until years after I graduated). We partnered with a company out of Nebraska who had set up a similar news site for The Daily Nebraskan at the University of Nebraska. We relaunched our site on a proper content management system with a new design. Content from that initial database is still available on dailyemerald.com (including some of my really-dated online technology columns). 

How do you stay in touch with the team you worked with at the Emerald? Is there anyone you’d like to reconnect with?

Sadly, I don't stay in touch with too many folks from college in general, let alone the Emerald. I have enough to deal with on a daily basis with two older daughters, both who are college-aged and suck up all my time (and money). I did keep in touch with some of the admin/full-timer folk (Becky, Michelle, Judy) after I graduated because of the work I was doing and because the Emerald was a client at the time, but fell out of touch years ago (though I did see Becky at a McDonalds here in Bend a year or two ago, which was random). I do follow and stalk several of my old co-workers on facebook periodically.

If you had the opportunity to speak to current student journalists at the Emerald what would you say to them?

I don't envy anybody trying to be a journalist professionally right now. Not because it isn't an awesome and noble and vitally important check and balance in our society, but because there are a lot of crappy "journalists" giving proper and true journalism a bad name. I remember there used to be a distinction between "opinion" and "news," but that is pretty much gone now. Our society has (sadly) started to believe that the truth is whatever the talking heads on their favorite cable news channel tells them. So if there is one thing I could say and hope they would take to heart: Fight for the truth in everything you do.

Parting shot??

I think I've written enough for now. Go Ducks and I look forward to making it back there again once the world and Hayward Field open back up again so I can check out that awesome new facility.