I was recently talking to one of my mentors, who told me one of his only career regrets was never working outside of news because there’s a lot of stuff we can learn from other industries.
Working outside of news is difficult to comprehend for those of us in the business. We were drawn to news, I think, because of our insatiable curiosity and our need to figure out what makes us all tick.
I’ve been working in news for most of the past eight years and over those eight years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the smartest, most creative, and most mission-driven people in the business.
But I think that it’s important to grow and stretch and do things outside of one’s comfort zone, to not have a set path or career, and to go in new directions when they present themselves.
Which leads to what you may have suspected some number of paragraphs ago: I’m leaving NPR.
I love public media. I strongly believe in public media and the people and stations that craft it. I love our audience and I’ve love connecting with our audience. You’re smart and fun and always willing to help out. And I’ve loved my coworkers at NPR and Wait Wait and Fresh Air, and directing shows and editing/producing shows and building products and strategies that have helped make NPR a stronger and more engaged news organization.
But I’m ready to challenge myself – and to try something completely different. I’m 30. I’ve been working for nearly a decade, mainly at NPR. I’m ready for something new, something that isn’t within my comfort zone, and something that will allow me to stretch my wings a bit in new directions and learn new skills.
So I’m joining 18F. It’s a skunkworks shop located within the federal government. It started up last spring. They build digital stuff quickly and they do it in a way that’s completely open. They’re a small, flat, non-hierarchical, mission-driven shop – which I like, a lot – and they have some really smart people working for them. Everyone’s on a two-year contract, which means this: You help build something, you help fix something, and you’re in and you’re out.
I like that. I like that they’re located all over the United States and that they hold hack days and coworking days and are teaching and building and iterating in public with their fellow employees.
I like that they operate like a startup. I like that I’m going to learn about new problems. I like that I’m going to think in a different way and bounce off of different people. And for the next two years, I’m going to work on content and product and audience and a slew of other things with them.
I’m still planning to head up to Harvard in May and June to complete my Visiting Nieman Fellowship and examine alternative public media membership models. I’m excited to pilot these ideas and work with member stations and suspect that work will extend beyond the fellowship – and that I will continue to work on it on the side over the next two years, and potentially not on the side beyond that.
And I’m also working on some ways to continue working within public media – and within news – even as I take on this new job. That’ll also be on the side for now. (If you want to chat about that, drop me a line. Here’s what I can do.) I’ve also wanted to ramp up my consulting business and get some side projects going for a while now — and am excited to begin down those paths with some smart and like-minded people. And, of course, I’ll be blogging about the future of news and talking to lots of people not in the news right here on this blog.
But back to the point: I’m excited, I’m jazzed, and I’m going to miss my coworkers, who have become more like a second family over the past eight years.