By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Award-winning journalist booked at Linfield

He will discuss his newspaper’s plans for combining rich data analysis and storytelling in “Tell me a story (with numbers, too)” at 7:30 p.m. in Riley 201. Admission is free.

“It feels really neat for me to come back and talk about storytelling at a place where I learned to tell stories,” he said. He also plans to meet with journalism classes.

Tankersley started his journalism career working for the News-Register. He wrote a column and a variety of stories for the N-R, including features about peafowl, his travels to Alaska and day trips in and near Yamhill County.

After graduating from Mac High in 1996, he studied political science and edited the campus paper at Stanford University.

Before joining the Post, he covered education at The Oregonian, politics at the Rocky Mountain News and Toledo Blade, and politics and environmental issues at the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and economics at the National Journal. He won the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in 2007.

Tankersley has covered economic policy at the Post since 2012. He considers the topic “a story about change.”

“The economy doesn’t work the way it used to for most people,” he said. He raises some big questions, including, “What does it take to get and keep a job? Why haven’t middle class people seen their income go up? Why are fewer women working today? Why are the people suffering most from climate warming the least convinced that it’s happening?”

To better address those questions, and convey the information to readers, Tankersley said, he proposed an idea to his editors: A new type of platform that will combined electronic and print media with statistics and storytelling. “We’ll use the power of human stories to help us understand really complicated things in our lives and deal with decisions being made by elected officials,” he said.

It’s not reimagining journalism to fit today’s technology as much as it is combining old-fashioned, quality storytelling with the data analysis technology makes possible, he said. The combination will make economic news more accessible and understandable to more people, he said.

The Post will soon launch the new platform under Tankersley’s leadership. It will feature his work and the work of other members of the newsroom as well as “data wizards” and a staff economist.

He said he expects his team to develop “at least one great narrative story a day.” They will start with the big questions, examine studies and research on those topics, and find people who are going through those issues, to whom readers can relate.

He said he’s excited to try the new format, and he’s pleased by the opportunities afforded by the Post, which recently was purchased by Jeff Bezos, the founder of The Post is treating his efforts and other changes as opportunities to build readership generally and especially on its digital platforms.

“There’s a lot of energy behind new initiatives with the new owner, and I’m surrounded by really talented people,” he said.

Tankersley, son of Tom and Jann Tankersley of McMinnville, said he was flattered when Linfield contacted him, asking him to visit campus. He accepted immediately.

“It’s pretty amazing to get to speak at a place where I used to go to basketball camp,” he said. He also attended preschool at Linfield, he said.

He’s looking forward to speaking and answering questions from the audience.

He’s especially excited about the opportunity to work with students. It’s something he loves to do and considers important, since he benefited from good mentoring himself.

“We have a responsibility to work with younger journalists, to find the people who want to do a high-quality, high-integrity product,” he said. “I’m excited to encourage them to find a path where they’re thinking about readers and how they tell them about important topics.”

Tankersley plans to bring his 7-year-old son, Max, with him on his trip to McMinnville. His wife, Marci Prenger, will stay home in the D.C. area, where she’s attending graduate school.

His visit is being sponsored by Linfield’s Department of Mass Communication. For more information, contact Professor Brad Thompson at 503-883-2291.

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