2010: The year I made my mark on journalism

At the beginning of 2010, I was working as a multimedia producer and living life day by day, mostly confined to my small apartment in Berkeley.

By the end of the year, I had published my first book, sold my blog of three years for a nice sum, and became the National Innovations Editor for the Washington Post.

How did a guy who, until a fateful meeting with an English professor several years ago never had any intention of being a journalist, end up doing in one year what takes some a lifetime to accomplish? The answer is simple: nobody told me I couldn’t do it.

I often say I’m a “see a need, fill a need” kind of guy. If I see a void that needs to be filled — for example a straightforward book about “new media” journalism — I work until I see it done. We’re all fortunate to come of age at a time in journalism when all the tools for doing it yourself are readily available. Creating a blog with WordPress takes just a few minutes, publishing a book is as easy as uploading a PDF to a site like CreateSpace. But behind the scenes is a lot of sweat, hard work, and perseverance — all in the name of furthering journalism.

My accomplishments are the product of lots of long hours and hard work, but more importantly the support of thousands of people — some of whom are immediately close to me and some who I will never meet. For the past several years I have been fueled by helping other journalists learn what I have learned — the power technology has to further our work as reporters and to communicate the news to the world.

That same ethic has fueled my work at the Washington Post. I and others work to incorporate web technologies into our offerings and elevate everything from daily stories to big picture projects. So far this has included using DocumentCloud to explain “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, using Storify to chronicle 2010 election night, mapping astrological phenomena with Google Sky, following bad behavior in Congress with a timeline, and tracking Transformers as they made their way through D.C., plus many more behind the scenes efforts.

So what’s next for me? As you can imagine, topping all that’s happened in this past year won’t be easy. But the thing about me is that I rarely set goals for myself (as in “In 5 years, I will accomplish X”) because I never know where life or my career will take me. Instead I’m focusing my energy on the task at hand — revolutionizing the Washington Post along with an amazing team of journalists, editors, and technologists. Of course, with my track record I always have something up my sleeve and a few things happening on the side.

And I hope that’s the lesson for every journalist…you are more than just the job you have now. You are more than the company you work for, or the people you hang around, or the city you live in. Follow whatever your passion is and don’t let your ideas just nag at you and never get realized. The tools are available for you to change your life and hopefully in the process change the lives of others.