Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's a Brand New Day

Let me address the elephant in the room.

I was relieved of my duties as editor-in-chief of Chicagoist Tuesday. The site will “go in a different direction” as Gothamist executive editor Jen Chung said when we met.

That direction, I have no doubt, will continue to be upward and at a faster pace than I was able to steer it the past year. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming; things had been tense behind the scenes for months and I was reticent to change with the times. But the growth of the site the past 4-½ years is one of a litany of positive experiences I’ll take from this job. The most important one is having the chance to work with so many dedicated and talented writers whose words and faces graced Chicagoist during that span. The contributions of these men and women cannot be discounted and were instrumental in the site’s growth to become one of the best and most-respected media outlets in Chicago. I've taken it as far as I can and it's time to hand it off to someone else. The current staff under the guidance of Lisa White is primed to navigate the Good Ship Chicagoist into uncharted waters and embrace what they find there. I wished I could have offered them a proper goodbye; this will have to suffice.

(Please do keep in touch, y’all!)

I also have to thank Jen Chung and Jake Dobkin for taking a chance on me when I became editor-in-chief in October 2010. Confidence is something I often lack—every day during my first year as editor I felt like a fraud at the job and wondered if they would let me go. Their hands off approach allowed me to sink or swim with my editorial decisions and that instilled in me the belief that I could do this job long-term. It was their faith that allowed me to leave with a proven track record of success and will carry me into the adventures that await.

What those adventures entail, I’m not sure. I know I have options, tons of marketable skills way more important than having a degree and have spent most of today reaching out to professional colleagues for feelers. I'm taking solace knowing my "fight or flight" response is pegged to the max on "fight." (And if you have any leads, I'm around.) All I ever wanted to do was write, journalism in particular. I remember holding up a copy of the Sun-Times as a senior in Ms. Cervenka’s debate class at Lane Tech and giving a speech about how I one day wanted to see my byline in that paper. In a still-volatile local media landscape, I achieved that dream and so much more thanks to Chicagoist.

I’m not angry with Jen’s decision to part ways—it actually came as a relief. It’s only now that I’m starting to shed a few tears thinking about how wonderful the journey was while it lasted, and the staff with whom I’ll no longer be able to discuss story ideas or talk through edits, and chatting with my “work wife” Lisa all day and who knows more than anyone the stresses that come with this job. She was the Riker to my Picard but she’s ready for this, although a niggling part of me feels like I let them all down.

Ultimately, being an editor (whether it's a website, a newspaper/magazine or for broadcast) is like living in a home. You get the keys, determine what stays and what goes. You make that home your own until it's time to move on and hand the keys over to someone else. But you hope you leave that home in good hands with the foundation still solid. I sincerely hope I did the latter.

I told some of my closest friends the news Tuesday; others have reached out after finding out second hand. Those friends will help me get through this and so will she.

                                         Photo credit: Jill Howe