I’m entering my 21st 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 a veteran of newsrooms and disruption and an editorial adviser, digital strategist and consultant in the public media system and nonprofit sector, I think a lot about:
• revenue models that can sustain excellent, ethical journalism,
• how to earn attention and engagement from the communities where I work,
• the best ways to create a problem-solving, entrepreneur-training culture in journalism, and
• aggressive, audacious experimentation to benefit community newsrooms and others.
As a freelance reporter and editor and college professor, 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.
During my tenure as the executive director at The Daily Tar Heel, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that serves the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and surrounding communities, I had the chance to test ideas about revenue models. (When I arrived, the annual budget deficit hovered around $400,000; we reduced that shortfall to $20,000 in one fiscal year, thanks to a reorganization, the development of a brand studio, fundraising, new lines of revenue and one national championship basketball team.)
These days, I am a full-time assistant professor on the tenure track at Western Washington University, and I keep my journalism fresh as I freelance (recently for Publishers Weekly, The Poynter Institute and Nieman Lab), consult with news organizations as one half of the media consultancy Hedgehog+Fox (clients include StoryCorps, Kaiser Health News, the Ashoka Foundation, the Knight Foundation and the American Press Institute), and volunteer with The Op-Ed Project and community organizations in Bellingham, Washington.
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 have previously taught ethics, writing, and news literacy — for Harvard in 2013, and for Northeastern University in 2015. I am also an alumna of Trinity College Dublin, where I earned a master’s degree in writing. I did my undergraduate work at Wake Forest University, with a bachelor’s degree in English literature (useful in my professional life) and an emphasis on medieval studies (useful in making strangers back away from me in bars).
When I’m not thinking about journalism, which is rare, 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.