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Insider Q&A: Joanna Geary, Twitter’s director of curation

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NEW YORK — As Twitter’s director of curation, Joanna Geary is in charge of showing users what’s going on. This can range from the day’s biggest news events to celebrities or quirky trends.

Geary, 38, joined Twitter in 2013 after a career as a journalist in the U.K., first at the tiny Birmingham Post (circulation around 3,400) and later The Guardian, where she ran the community and social teams.

She spoke with The Associated Press about serving a global audience that is Twitter. Questions and responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How has being a journalist prepared you for Twitter?

A: Everything that I learned along the way, right back from the beginning of the Post, has been useful to what I do today. The importance of the work that journalists do and the importance of thinking through things such as verification, impartiality, accuracy, responsibility, good research … all of that has come into play.

Q: What’s it like working with non-journalists at Twitter?

A: I was worried about not being a journalist any more. It was a big step to take … but also exhilarating to end up in a business where some people have the same sort of instinct as me. But not everyone. I was exposed to many more different skills and expertise, which helped me think very differently about journalism and its place in the world. And not everyone was the sort of news junkie that I was.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

A: I’m regretfully a monolinguist. I only speak English, so building up a structure and a format and a way to build rapport with teams who work in completely different languages and to understand the quality and the nature of the curation, it’s super challenging. Over time, I feel like I’ve built up a tool kit … and a level of standardization as to what we’re expecting.

Q: What about cultural sensitivities?

A: Even within a shared language, there’s such diversity of meaning and cultural differences to how people approach communication. I’ve learnt a lot about where I should sit in a meeting room in Tokyo, how direct do you need to be when asking for work with Arabic speakers. Words that are not rude in the U.S. that are quite rude in the U.K. People in the U.S. sometimes forget how much of Twitter is outside of the U.S.

Q: Is it hard to not be U.S.- and English-speaking centric on Twitter?

A: I don’t think so. One of the pure joys of the job is having such an international team. The joy is there are many different communities on the platform. For example, I had no idea about Japanese cat Twitter, where people in Japan post totally normal, everyday videos of their cats. It’s amazing.

Q: What’s your ideal vision of Twitter?

A: I believe very much in the power of connection over a geographical distance and culture. When you can get it right, it’s incredibly powerful, especially when it builds empathy and understanding. The interesting thing about Twitter is we’ve demonstrated that we can do it.

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