I’m entering my 19th year as a journalist — I started as a cops and courts reporter in a small town in Western North Carolina in 1998. We still did wax paste-up before pages went to the tiny, pre-digital press in the back of the building. The sharp, comforting smell of printer’s ink permeated the building.
Absolutely everything about journalism has changed since then — and many of the things that I love and ways that I think about journalism have changed, too.
As the executive director of The Daily Tar Heel, I am responsible for the nonprofit, student-led news organization that serves Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the surrounding counties, and the community of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These days, I think a lot about:
• revenue models that can sustain excellent, independent journalism,
• the best ways to create a problem-solving, entrepreneur-training culture, and
• aggressive, audacious experimentation to benefit our community newsrooms and others.
As an editorial adviser and digital strategist in the public media system, a mentor-editor with The OpEd Project, and a member of the North Carolina Newsroom Cooperative board, I spend the rest of my time thinking about:
• creativity and inclusivity in public and digital media,
• how stories work (and why),
• and how to bring professional journalism’s standards to citizen media.
Quick history: A 10-year career in community newspapers (and a four-year side trip at ESPN) led to a 2012-’13 fellowship at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. As a fellow, I studied leadership and the collapse of the newspaper industry’s business model. In 2013-’14, I earned an M.Phil in writing from Trinity College Dublin, where I examined digital disruption and innovation in book publishing. From there, I explored nonprofit and start-up journalism as an editor and digital strategist for AIR, a nonprofit that supports independent producers and editors in the public media system, and for its Localore: Finding America production, which experiments with ways to create sustainable media projects with and for existing nonprofit newsrooms. As time allows, I teach ethics, writing, and news literacy — for Harvard in 2013, and for Northeastern University in 2015.
I’m an alumna of print newsrooms in Alabama, Idaho, Nebraska and North Carolina. I have written for the Knight Foundation, Publishers Weekly, The Boston Globe, The Weekly Reader, Nieman Reports magazine, Nieman Storyboard, and regional lifestyle magazines. I am also an alumna of Wake Forest University, with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, which has proved useful in my professional life, and an emphasis on medieval studies, which has proved useful in making strangers back away from me in bars.
When I’m not thinking about journalism, which is rarely, I think about rhetoric and criticism, human-centered design, children’s literature, other people’s letters, food (the production, distribution and cooking of), North Carolina politics and public policy, Brazilian jiu jitsu, urban planning, Southern culture, gender, family, science, and pandemic diseases.
On Twitter, TinyLetter, Storify and Instagram: @ODitor.