WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
My complete and total disgust with President George W. Bush’s administration led me to start working in digital/media publishing. It was not long after the dawn of blogging, and there were several platforms available for writers to post their work. An independent outlet, OpEdNews.com, offered me a home. I also grew my following at Open Salon before Salon shut that down.
Though I was posting my work for free, I harnessed these platforms, took advantage of Twitter before every publisher figured out it was a must for journalists to have accounts, and then went on to become an intern for The Nation Magazine. There, I developed into a better-trained journalist, who was able to further increase the number of people who followed my work. I later took a job with FireDogLake.com that offered me the support to truly pursue a career in digital/media publishing.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I work 8-10 hours each day from home. In the morning, I complete any reports or commentary that may be in the works. Or I search through the news or feeds of activist groups to see what stories may be worth digging deeper. I’ll spend the entire day writing and editing. By the end of the day, I’ll post a piece if it is complete. Also, as managing editor, I may have tasks that require attention—like supporting freelancers who are contributing to Shadowproof or fundraising so we can pay our freelancers fairly for the work they do.
Toward the end of the week, it is usually time to record the latest episode of the weekly podcast I co-host with Rania Khalek called “Unauthorized Disclosure.” We post new episodes on Sunday. It takes a couple hours to record, and then over the weekend, I’ll edit the show, which can take anywhere from two to six hours depending on whether I put together a partial transcript of an interview or not.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE?
Shadowproof is a WordPress-based website. We use WP Engine for hosting support of our website. Like several organizations, we use Slack to maintain communications between writers and staff. I draft and edit pieces within WordPress, but sometimes I will compose in Google Docs. I use Audacity to edit podcast episodes.
WHAT DO YOU TO GET INSPIRED?
It is not difficult to find inspiration. There are injustices all around, and stories of corruption that demand more attention every day. But if the question is more directed at what I do to keep up my energy, I listen to music while I write. I also find that after watching a film I am rejuvenated and able to recommit myself to the toil of running an ideal media organization.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
The quote is not terribly brief, but it comes from the great people’s historian, Howard Zinn:
“”When I think of the relationship between artists and society—and for me the question is always what it could be, rather than what it is—I think of the word transcendent. It is a word I never use in public, but it’s the only word I can come up with to describe what I think about the role of artists. By transcendent, I mean that the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war…
…It is the job of the artist to transcend that–to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare to say things that no one else will say.”
Now, journalism may not generally be considered an art form, but I approach journalism like an art, finding ways to infuse what I do with creativity and imagination.
IS THERE A PRODUCT, SOLUTION, OR TOOL THAT YOU THINK IS A GOOD MATCH FOR YOUR DIGITAL PUBLISHING EFFORTS?
Nothing that was already mentioned.
WHAT’S THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
In Chicago, Uptown Tent City Organizers, a group of homeless individuals, with some support from residents with homes, are challenging the city of Chicago over its attacks on homeless people. They were living in tents under city viaducts and in public ways. The city, even as it shuts down properties that offer homeless people affordable housing options, is showing little mercy and poor and working-class people are dispersed through the city, doing their best to survive frigid temperatures and hide from police. The city is reconstructing one of the viaducts with defensive architecture so homeless people cannot return. It is a war against the poor on behalf of private real estate developers. This is happening where I live, and I am most concerned with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman James Cappleman’s cruelty at the moment.
ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS JUST STARTING OUT?
Focus on one topic, beat, issue, or story and cover it relentlessly. Be specific. For example, if interested in covering police violence, drill down to a certain case or focus on a specific police department and aggressively work to expose information the public needs to know. Or, if you are interested in foreign policy, pick a specific country or region. Become an expert and find ways to offer reports from primary resources. This is much easier and will pay more dividends than trying to ride news cycles and offer analysis on every trending story that unfolds.