From Disruption, Journalism

Blogger launched as I entered my senior year of high school in 1999.

I didn’t know about it until 2006 when I was on my way to Madagascar as a Peace Corps volunteer and wanted to document my life abroad. That site, abandoned after I grew tired of blogging in just a few short weeks, is so buried in the interwebs that not even I could find it.

To be clear: I’m not someone generally quick on the uptake of new technology. Yet my professional life has been marked by great technological upheavals. Upheavals that have disrupted what we know about journalism, what we believe it is, and what we hope it can be. And this has been the greatest opportunity of my life.

Blogger, Craigslist, Facebook, WordPress, Twitter and countless other innovations (some included on the timeline documenting Chris’ and my careers above) have all shaped my professional life as a journalist. They have changed how I think about audience, how I think about publishing, and how I think about the role of the press.

I’m part of a post-Watergate generation, inspired to newsrooms not by Woodward and Bernstein, but others. We’re digital natives; we used word processors in elementary school, AOL in high school, Napster in college, and Twitter in the early years of our careers. We publish on WordPress, Tumblr, and Instagram, sometimes in addition to our newsroom CMSs.

We’ve been backpack journalists and bloggers. Entrepreneurs and disruptors. And it has changed what we want from journalism.

Working on my own I’ve had many opportunities to explain “why I do what I do,” or, more specifically, what it is that I do and what I believe journalism is.

I published some of these thoughts in a recent column for Nieman reports writing:

I believe in journalism, and I believe in our communities. I believe in holding those in power accountable. I believe in building civic knowledge. I believe in celebrating the good and trying to understand and solve the bad. But mostly I believe in storytelling. In the power of stories to validate who we are, how we live our lives, and our experiences, and the power of stories to allow us to enter into a communion with our communities, sharing who we are, and perhaps together, becoming who we would hope to be.

What I think is most important about the journalism I believe in is that it is not an industry that is built on the absolute action of an anointed reporter, but instead the collective documented experiences of a public.

This is a journalism that could only have been built out of the disruption that has marked my professional life, disruption that has made traditional jobs an uncertain promise but opened pathways to building a new model, a new form, of journalism, too.