P E R S O N A L   N E W S

Seriously, when did we start calling new job news “personal news” and why? It’s professional news. It’s just me, getting a new job. Personal news is “we adopted a dog” (we did!) or “we’re having another kid” (we’re not!) or maybe “we’re moving to New York” (also not happening!).

But other things *are* happening.

Personal News
I am excited to tell you that I have a new job starting next week.

I’m joining Chalkbeat to lead product and growth. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization that’s reimagining local news with a focus on issues of inequity in education. I’m grateful to be stepping into an amazing team in four cities, and I’m eager to help them grow and continue to build a sustainable model for nonprofit education news.

Screenshot 2015-12-01 13.24.28

In years past, I’ve said young people don’t care about local news until they buy a house and send their kids to public schools. Guess what? I care about local news these days! And I’m a two-issue local news consumer: 1) Full-day kindergarten, and 2) are we ever going to build the stadium for that NASL team we were promised? The first issue is more important. And it’s tied to issues of managing housing development in Loudoun County a little more consistently. This might be a first world educational issue in my corner of the county, for now, but I’m an engaged local news consumer.

When the opportunity came up to get involved with an organization dedicated to covering high-poverty schools across the country, I jumped at it.


I’m grateful to everyone at Gannett for the opportunities I’ve had there over the past five years. It’s been a privilege to work with local journalists and technologists on the biggest challenges facing the news business. My mission in journalism has always been to make a difference at scale, and Gannett was the perfect place to do so.

But now it’s time to move on, and I can’t wait for everything that comes next.

Any questions? I’ll start.

Q: Chartbeat? Cool, real-time analytics are totally addictive!
A: They sure are. Love that stuff. Not working for them, though. It’s Chalkbeat, like the chalkboard beat, like education news. If there’s one thing I know about education, it’s that repetition can be important. Chalkbeat. Education news. In context. Chalkbeat. Dot-Org.

Q: It looks like Chalkbeat is in New York. Are you moving to New York?
A: Chalkbeat’s leadership team is in New York, but there are also teams covering the Denver area, Indianapolis, and Memphis, too. It’s a distributed organization, like many nonprofits and startup news orgs these days, and I’m not moving anywhere. Ask me about my new home office, and the standing desk I’ve been building. And the walls I’ve been painting. And the bed and dresser I have up for sale on Craigslist. Please, ask me about the furniture. Bring a truck to ask me about it.

Q: So… [whispers] …are you hiring?
A: SO GLAD YOU ASKED! As a matter of fact, Chalkbeat is hiring a Full-Stack Engineer. This person will work directly with me on product development. WordPress is the core of the proverbial technology stack right now, but there’s amazing work to be done on measuring impact (read about Chalkbeat’s MORI here), as well as other big ideas around audience analytics. We’re going to be supercharging Chalkbeat’s already strong remote culture with inspiration from Vox Product, 18F, Fusion, and others, so although New York or DC-based candidates would be cool, remote would work for the right candidate, too. You should ask me more about this role. You’re probably right for it. Yes, you.

Q: What can I say, I’m inspired! How can I help?
A: First of all, if you have kids or family who teach in New York, Denver, Indianapolis, or Memphis, head directly to your local Chalkbeat and start reading today. Subscribe to an email newsletter. Follow Chalkbeat on Twitter. Like Chalkbeat on Facebook. You can do all of these things.

But also, you can make a donation today to support one of the few nonprofit news organizations in this space doing local reporting on some of the most critical issues facing schools in America’s poorest communities. Want to help tell this story? Help fund the important work they’re doing today.

Q: We know you’ve been listening to Hamilton a lot lately. Does this have anything to do with Hamilton?
A: I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, you forget yourself.

Q: Is there one more thing?
A: You know there is. It’s about finding a new job you love. You don’t find a job by obsessively refreshing LinkedIn, or Glassdoor, or searching Idealist and Media Bistro and Journalism Jobs multiple times a day. Nope. Doesn’t work. Good luck!

You find your new job on Twitter. Seriously. I should know better than to use any other method, but I first heard about this job listing in a tweet during ONA. I wasn’t even at ONA. I guess I was following the hashtag in Tweetdeck and happened to look up at the screen? Maybe? Or someone retweeted this. This:

Screenshot 2015-12-01 13.20.10Thanks, Twitter. Thanks, Sarah!

Be a silobuster

Remember the great print vs. online war of 1995-2005?

Well, some of you are probably still fighting this war, eh? Not everyone got the news yet, but the war is over, and the silobusters won.

Anyway, you’re going to think this is crazy, but lately I’ve spotted a new silo developing, over there in the corner office.

It’s the mobile silo.

Wait, wait, before you go, I’m not the crazy one here; I know how important mobile delivery of information is, and I know you need to pay special attention to it, and I know that people like me have been telling folks at newspapers and media companies for years that they should be paying special attention, too.

But I see a funny thing happening, in large media companies and in job listings — I see mobile as a full department being split off from the Web or “online” silo. Yes, yes, some of you are doing a great job at calling the whole department “digital,” and if it works for you, go for it.

Now, I’m not here to tell you how to run your silos, and I think it’s inevitable that you’re going to do it, if only to make sure there’s someone responsible for iPad app development and WAP sites and a text alert strategy and heck, let’s throw Android into this sentence, too, just to make sure we don’t offend anyone.

What I wanted to say was this:

As always, there’s a huge job opportunity for individuals who make a habit of busting silos. If you’re the person who can get mobile, Web, and print teams on the same (ahem) page, make sure each knows what the others are up to, and help them not repeat work or work at cross-purposes, you might be a silobuster.

Let’s make a short list out of this.

You might be a silobuster if:

  1. At summer camp, you were friends with kids from at least four different cliques. (This was a harder trick to pull in school, just as it’s a harder trick to pull at a large corporation.)
  2. You’re equally at home talking about CSS, CS5, and CB4.
  3. Your idea of “playing politics” is walking into someone’s office and asking them a straightforward question.

What else should be on this list? Jump on in anytime here, folks…

Conclusion: You should expect media companies and news organizations to continue to find reasons (some of them good ones) to segment off different types of development and delivery of news, but if you can see the big picture of how it all fits together — or even better, build the tools that make it all fit together — there’s work for you in this business.

How Twitter saved Mark Luckie’s career

I’ve been meaning to write about Mark “10,000 Words” Luckie’s “How Twitter saved my career… and my life” post since he wrote it, but haven’t had a chance yet. If you want a good idea of what publishing an excellent blog and maintaining a presence in social media channels can do, in the face of layoffs, unemployment, and general upheaval in the news business, read what Mark has to say here. [Spoiler: There’s a book and a great job at the end of the tunnel.]

On the first day of film school at NYU…

…one department head or another asked the 140 freshman wanna-be Spielbergs/Godards/Raimis* in the room to raise their hand if they wanted to be a Director.

Many, including me, raised our hands.

The faculty response: “You’ll be lucky if four of you make it.” (I’m paraphrasing. This happened in 1994.)

When I talk to journalism students, I try to impart a little piece of that message.  How many of you think you’re going to be a star reporter at a major metro newspaper?  I ask some variant of that question, and hands are raised.

Hunter Walker is reporting for Gawker on his Columbia J-School orientation.

“Lemann also discussed our job prospects. Although he brought up the possibility that we may find work for a news organization he encouraged us to be open to careers as possibly starving internet entrepreneurs saying: “its a really interesting time to be in on the beginnings of the revolution… it’s a great time to put aside thoughts of worldly things and do something really creative if you have the nerve.” I agree with Lemann that this transitional period could lead to great opportunities, but I know firsthand that you need capital along with cojones to start your own business ventures.”

That’s something that approaches the right idea.

What the NYU orientation hand-raising exercise did for me was to focus my attention on learning a craft and a set of skills rather than being an auteur.

So, journalism students about to start school for the semester:  Are you trying to be an auteur, or an entrepreneur?

*I was a wanna-be Godard, and there weren’t many of those left at the end of four years.

Thanks, Howard.

As you may or may not have heard by now, my boss at the office, Howard Owens, has moved on.

I just want to take a moment to publicly say thanks to Howard here, and more than obviously, to wish him the best in whatever endeavor other people might call his “job” next.

Personally, I happen to know that what Howard calls his “job” is more of a 24/7 thing than a 9 to 5 thing, and it has everything to do with the transition of journalistic power in small towns and neighborhoods from the press to the community, and very little to do with where his paycheck comes from, or the sign on the door.

So:  Thanks, Howard.  And good luck.

(Of course, I’ll continue to work with Howard on Wired Journalists and other projects across the Web.  This just means I don’t have to do what he says quite as often. 😉 )

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