It’s been a decade since the bitter cold winter when I started covering politics. Plenty of Democrats wanted a chance to unseat President George W. Bush, so New Hampshire was bustling with candidates. It was a rare stump speech that didn’t reference 9/11, and most voters I met knew at least one person stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Everyone who turned out to hear the potential challengers or, later, the president himself believed that this election would somehow make things better.
Sure, politics has plenty of problems. There’s too much money. Too much celebrity. Too much disconnect between the loud debates and the everyday lives of most Americans. But the political process is also beautiful. A campaign is a microcosm of a community: coalitions, networks, passions that bring people together and drive them apart. In the months before an election, voters become more public with their anger, their fears, their hopes. They display their opinions on lawns, on car bumpers and with pins on their lapels. Collectively, we consider who we are to ourselves and who we want to be in the eyes of the world.
And, as a journalist on the campaign trail, it was my job to find them at their coffee shops and their town halls, flip open my notebook and listen.
When I decided on the career shift that would eventually land me a teaching job at UNH, I assumed I was done covering politics. I was wrong. Which is awesome. Because I really missed it.
Since early June I’ve been filing dispatches from New Hampshire for the Boston Globe’s new political section, a visually stunning effort called Capital that appears Fridays in print and throughout the week online. (Here’s Poynter’s take on the project, and a look at the section’s design philosophy.) Capital was great when it launched, and it’s only gotten better since then.
Updated 7/3/2014: Thanks to dozens of generous donors, this project was a huge success. We raised nearly $9,500 during the month of June, and we’re confident we’ll reach the $12,000 mark by the end of the summer. Running the campaign was a lot of fun — but also a lot of work, which is why things have been quiet around here for the last month. I’ll be back to my regular blogging habits after Fourth of July weekend. — MH
For the next 30 days, I’m leading a crowdfunding campaign to send 10 early-career female journalists to a conference organized by the Journalism & Women Symposium. Our goal is to raise $12,000 — enough to provide these talented women with several days of mentorship, networking opportunities and leadership training.
Programs like this are crucial to newsroom diversity, and newsroom diversity is vital for telling accurate stories about all segments of our society. Although women are the majority of entry-level reporters, they are far less likely than their male peers to rise to management positions. Supporting emerging female journalists is one way to counter that trend.
I gave $25 to the campaign this morning, and it’s my goal to convince 10 people in my social and professional networks to do the same by the end of this week.
Please visit our CrowdRise page, watch our fantastic video and consider supporting this important cause.
Journalism education — much like journalism itself — is in the middle of a massive reboot, one with the potential to redefine how news is produced and consumed in the decades to come. Students still learn the basics, but digital is the default, and the most innovative schools are churning out graduates with skills newsrooms may not yet know how to use. Read the full story at NetNewsCheck.com.
What the hell happened to the last month? Actually, I know exactly what happened: finals. Lots and lots of finals to grade. And portfolios and projects and essays to read. And students dropping by my office to talk about their summer plans* or ask advice on applying for jobs. It all unfolded at a pace similar to the week before an election: dizzying, thrilling and, in hindsight, rather blurry.
It’s over now, and I’m looking ahead to a summer of consulting, freelancing and — here’s the tricky one — wrapping my head around what it means to be a writer in a beautiful, fascinating and overwhelming digital world.
The consulting is already underway. I’m spending a few days each week in the newsroom at the Concord Monitor, the newspaper where I worked as a reporter and, later, web editor for many years. The paper’s staff is young and talented, and it’s my job to help them build stories with all the digital tools at their disposal. (I suppose it’s a little like a professional version of last year’s Summer Tech Camp.)
I have some stories in the works for NetNewsCheck, and I’m hoping to finally start a reporting project that’s been on my list for years. (Details to come.)
As for modern writing, I’m heading to a workshop in a couple of weeks that explores the intersection of writing and yoga. I’m not sure what to expect, but I hope to understand why I seem to struggle more now than ever before to put a few decent sentences on a page.
I’ll be blogging about it all, so please stay tuned.
*Speaking of summer plans, be sure to follow my colleague Tom Haines as he embarks on the first leg of a journey through what he calls “landscapes of fuel in America.” He launched his blog last week, and it’s already a great read.
As for the suggestion to post job ads and call “bullshit” on editors who say they can’t find diverse and qualified hires, check out this piece about the pipeline un-problem and yesterday’s post about recruiting practices.
I seldom write about my yoga practice because, on most days, it defies words. But many of the concepts we discuss at the studio percolate into other aspects of my life. One of those notions — what Zen Buddhists call “the beginner’s mind” — has seemed especially relevant as I’ve navigated my new job teaching journalism at UNH.
The beginner’s mind calls for abandoning preconceptions and staying open to new possibilities, no matter your level of experience. For me, this means remaining always a student, both of writing and of the many platforms on which stories will live in the years to come. Many of my students adore Tumblr, something I’d decided I was too busy to use. That changed last month when, at their urging, I launched a Tumblr of my own. It’s called 1,000 words, and it’s a venue to publish some of my photography.
About a year ago, I started taking pictures with intention. At first, I used my iPhone. Later, I bought a Nikon D5100 and began learning about aperture and shutter speed and focus. Thousands of pictures later, I still have no idea what I’m doing — but I’ve decided that probably makes me a more compassionate teacher. I’m no expert, just one beginner in a classroom full of beginners, all looking for great stories to tell.