Category Archives: Journalism

A New Leap

I’m sitting right now at my kitchen table, in the quiet of my apartment, alone with my laptop. The same way I started Homicide Watch. It’s a different computer, a different apartment, but the kitchen table is the same. I’m the same– and different– too.

I remember those first words typed, those first sketches, the excitement and fear of what they meant. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew it was something. And I knew it could be big.

I said I was alone. I wasn’t. With me were the reporters I’d worked with. All of my editors. All of those I’d read and admired. My sources were there, all the people I’d interviewed. And my community, too, always guiding my next step, always my sounding board, always my north star.

Since that launch, in September of 2010, my table has grown blessedly more crowded with friends and mentors. Ann Marie Lipinski. John Davidow. Elizabeth Osder. Jane McDonnell. Jim Brady. Stefanie Friedhoff. Steve Buttry. Betsy O’Donovan. Walter Robinson. Jeff Howe. Ethan Zuckerman. Rosental Alves. Barbara Mahany. And so, so many others.

I carry them with me into the Boston Globe where I will soon be editor of multimedia and data projects.

Yes, I’ve buried the lede here.

The position at the Globe is an exciting opportunity for me. I will get to guide deep, data-driven and investigative coverage. To build journalism that truly engages local communities. To work with people (Katie Cloutier, Andrew Ba Tran, Andy Rosen and Evan Horowitz, specifically) that I respect and admire.

The Globe is a newsroom that believes, as I do, in answering community needs with quality, well-designed journalism. (Did you see this? And this? And this?)

The projects and work I will guide will be measured by three simple audience questions: What does this story tell me that I didn’t already know? What is my part in this story? What can I do with this information?

These questions are the yardstick by which I measure the quality and impact of local storytelling.

In short, I am thrilled and excited and ready to get to work.

Among the benefits of the job is that it ties Chris and me to Boston. The Nieman-Berkman fellowship gave us the opportunity to try Boston out, and we decided we liked it and that we would be interested in staying here. In Boston we have found an incredibly open and collaborative community of journalists and innovators. They crowd around our kitchen table. In person and through their influence. For this I am grateful.

But the Globe also means changes for us. I won’t be available day-to-day for edits, or to run payroll, or answer email from readers for Homicide Watch DC. For now, Chris will be taking on my day-to-day responsibilities. I will though remain available as needed for our reporters’ mentorship needs and for our partners’ editorial support.

Chris has always been core to Homicide Watch. And though you may have heard less from him about it than from me, it would not exist without him. For us, this change doesn’t feel so much like a handoff as it does an extension of our partnership. But this isn’t a long-term plan.

The reality is this: Chris and I know that we are no longer the right people to shepherd HWDC. It is a local news site and the DC community deserves for it to be run by people who live there. In short, it needs a DC home in order to continue to exist and thrive.

We are hopeful that this will happen by the end of the year (we have conversations underway with two possible partners) and we look forward to helping that transition and following the continued good work of Homicide Watch in DC. We will keep everyone posted because we know that so many of our friends and colleagues, not to mention the DC community, is invested in the continued work of HWDC. That support is something I value and cherish. Every day.

It’s not insignificant that I’m sharing this news on JournoJazz. Entrepreneurship and journalism both remain deeply improvisational for me. But in both I seek swing time. I practice. I find balance. Jazz also teaches me that when the swing is right, it’s time to take risks. To improvise. To challenge ourselves and change how we describe the world.

This, above all, is what I look forward to doing at the Globe.

Brian McGrory, David Skok, Jason Tuohey- thank you.

The Great Improvisation: Jeff Bezos, Duke Ellington and the Washington Post

I’ve been listening today to Duke Ellington’s “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.” It’s a track that I’ve been saving all summer, recommended by Tom Stites who passed the album along with the advice that I play it before reading anything, then read the liner notes, then listen again.

Others recommended this track, too, so I had some sense of what I was listening for: the moment when a woman disrupts the performance by dancing, sending Paul Gonsalves on the tenor saxophone to 27 straight choruses, changing the mood, the jazz, the audience permanently.

I thought of this track this morning as I reflected on the sale of the Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, an outsider, off stage, suddenly shaping and changing how one of America’s most iconic newsrooms is playing.

Just as that moment at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 was a pivotal moment for jazz, the sale of the Washington Post is a pivotal moment for journalism. It is the moment in which we realize how actions off stage connect deeply to what happens on stage. How outsiders can become insiders. How disruption– from a single dancer or billionaire buyer– can change the future.
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Covering Murder: Blogs, Maps and Databases

Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

The reality is that Chris and I looked at lots of other projects that were trying to do what we were thinking of doing with Homicide Watch DC.

Those projects, many of which were excellent, helped us think about our priorities, our editorial approach, and our goals before we even started designing a website or reporting stories.

Because I know how important that research is, and how valuable that conversation between what’s-been-done and what-we-can-do is, I am now so incredibly proud to see Homicide Watch used as inspiration for other projects, and I am always interested to see how others interpret how Homicide Watch DC works… and how it might work for their communities.
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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.
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