The Future of Journalism (and my career) is in Cambridge
About six months ago I took a big leap, leaving a good job, stable paycheck and measure of security behind me. When I left the Press Herald I didn’t know what I’d wind up doing next, or where.
Well now I know. This story starts with an email I received while sipping a margarita on a beach in Florida in May and ends today. I’ll save you the unabridged version and get to the point.
To paraphrase one of the more disastrous job announcements in recent history:
“This fall I’m taking my talents to Cambridge and joining the Nieman Journalism Lab.”
Jim Gray: “Nieman Journalism Lab, that was the conclusion you woke up with this morning?”
Sorry, that could go on forever.
I’ll be joining the team at the Lab to write about the Future of Journalism. What does that mean? It’s writing about new business models, exploring innovations in newsgathering and new technology helping reporters and editors. It means talking to the people deciphering the state of media today and trying to transform journalism.
It means having a fundamental belief that journalism will actually have a future.
If you’ve checked out the lab recently (and if not, do so now), they’ve been studying things like the role of SEO and metrics in online news and the pitfalls non-profit news organizations face in becoming sustainable.
To say these are questions I’m deeply curious about would be an understatement. To say it’s something I’m passionate about would be spot-on.
For most journalists looking ahead goes only as far as the next day’s assignment or deadline. It’s not often we get a chance to step back and say “how are we going to make this thing not just survive, but become better?”
It’s an exciting opportunity to do work that has a real affect on journalism, not to mention a chance to work at Harvard University. (I’ll try not to bring the collective IQ down…too much.)
Sadly, what this also means is my time living in Portland is coming to a close. Portland was my first home as a “real” adult. I got health insurance (thank god), bought a real car here (Sorry Pontiac Sunfire and Ford Taurus, you were deathtraps and you know it) and lived sans-roommate for the first time.
And, luckily enough, I met a woman whose love of college basketball, 90s hip-hop and pop culture matched my own, and became the foundation for an amazing relationship. (And made a home for two tiny dogs.)
What I discovered here was a welcoming town that taught me as much about where I live as who I am as a person. With my family 1,500 miles and a time zone away, the many good friends I made here have become an extended family. (Albeit one with a lot of crazy cousins, loud aunts and drunk uncles…but in a good way) You put up with my pop culture references, my devotion to bacon, my baking and my at-times laconic nature. (Not to mention my sports-related meltdowns, which are increasing in frequency thanks to the Old Gunslinger)
Escaping Maine wasn’t my first thought when I left the Press Herald. But if you’re in the journalism game you always know that relocation could be on the horizon for the right opportunity.
Opportunity was the reason a guy from Minneapolis, left Missouri and took a chance on Maine. And if Harvard calls (or emails, as in this case), that’s a pretty good opportunity.
The good news (aside from, you know, employment) is that I’m not going too far. Just a short bus/car/train ride away, along with the lure of Sox/Pats/Celts, concerts and more. And naturally, IVY LEAGUE SPORTS! (Yale has been added to my list of natural enemies, behind the Green Bay Packers and the University of Kansas).
The other good news? Since I made a big production out of my “early retirement” at the beginning of this summer, we have no choice but to kick out the jams on another outstanding party. If it can top the bacon/bourbon-fueled insanity of “Stay Classy,” I don’t know. But we can try.
My “Summer of Unemployment” (as some of you took to calling it. Thanks guys.) is – thankfully – over. Considering the overall job climate (not to mention the prospects for journalists) I count myself as lucky.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the most prolonged time off I’ve had since the summer of my junior year in high school, I’m ready to get to work.
As a fictional president famously once said, “Break’s over.”