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So why’d you leave your job? I’ve been asked that question hundreds of times since I left msnbc.com last year. I’ve come up with a formulaic answer now, kind of like an athlete answering inane questions during a press conference.
There were — and are — many reasons why I left a desirable job and a great workplace for the great unknown. Perhaps I can share one.
In May I went to the Poynter Institute to participate in the Multiplatform Journalism seminar. Below is the letter I included in my application. While it doesn’t include every reason why I decided to become peripatetic and (somewhat) homeless, it does offer a glimpse of where my head and heart are at in terms of my career.
I’m unemployed, out of a job since December.
How’s that for a direct, provocative lead?
After five years working in online newsrooms — two years at FOXSports.com, two years at ESPN.com and one year at Msnbc.com — I decided I needed to step back, look around and figure out where I was headed as an editor and journalist. Somehow I had lost that fire, each day fighting the malaise and monotony that would shroud my work day like a dark, sinister cloud.
I left Msnbc.com in December (not entirely, however: I’ll be covering the Beijing Olympics for the site in August) to clear the mind — and the soul, as cliche as that sounds — and to ponder the question: Do I want to continue to be a journalist?
After three months — time spent researching for my upcoming trip to China and into my family’s background (I’m a first-generation Chinese American) — I’ve answered my own question, dispelled my own doubts: Yes, yes, yes.
Yes, my passion in journalism — especially in new media — still burns. Yes, I still want to connect with users in a medium that continues to grow, evolve, mutate, surprise, impress. Yes, I want to be on the forefront of journalism 2.0.
At ESPN.com I was one of three front page editors, setting the national sports agenda, prioritizing budgets and reacting to news. What gave me the most thrill, however, was using the limited real estate of the front page — with words, pictures, video — to tell a story, to engage and snare the reader into the site.
When I went to Msnbc.com in 2006 as a senior editor in the sports department, I took on more responsibilities. But what excited me, what make me literally jump out of my cubicle, was being able to collaborate with designers and photo editors to share an interactive project that went beyond the game recap or typical wire story.
After taking a step back, I realized I was still in love with a good story. And that I wanted — needed — more skills to become a better, stronger storyteller and journalist.
The Mutliplatform Journalism seminar resonates with my background and where I want to go. I want to continue to tell stories. The next step is to learn how: how to capture vibrant visuals, incorporate audio and package it all together in a coherent and compelling way. I’m eager to learn and grow.
The skills I’ll learn will undoubtedly help me when I cover the Olympics in August. I’ll be able to approach the Games not only as a reporter, but as a “multiplatform journalist.” And when I do return to the newsroom as an editor or producer, I can be directly engaged in how a story can be molded into something innovative and dynamic. I won’t just be part of the conversation — I’ll help lead it.