What an intriguing voicemail, I thought.
I looked down at the scribbles on my reporter notepad. “Hey Scott,” I said to my editor, “I just got the strangest message. There’s this investment bank that is looking to hire someone to do corporate research, and they got my name.”
Scott didn’t miss a beat: “Call him back.”
I Googled the firm and the stock analyst who’d left the voicemail. He’d been recently quoted in Forbes. I called him back.
That was about one month ago. Fast forward to now. August 12 will be my last day reporting and writing for seattlepi.com. In a few weeks, I will start as a research associate at the investment bank.
If you’d told me last year – nay, last quarter – that I’d quit my journalism job to go work for an investment bank, I would have said, “Get out.” (At least, that was the reaction of my former business editor Margaret when she heard the news, followed by, “Congratulations!”)
But then again, a lot has happened in the past year that I wouldn’t have thought possible. First, I attended the inauguration of the first black president and sat near the front row. Then, Lady Fortune came out of nowhere, took a big swig of liquid economy, picked up the baseball bat marked “career,” and whacked most of my friends. My newspaper shut down. WaMu disappeared. Back to the point. . .
I’m excited about this transition into a world to which I’m already connected. Often when a business stumps me with some change of direction or unique accounting charge, I turn to analyst experts for help. After about six years of covering the markets and business, now I get to learn what makes Wall Street analysts tick. I never could resist the allure of learning new things!
And so, off I go.
Journalism asks: How can you leave me?
Please do not interpret my leaving seattlepi.com as foreboding about the news site’s future. The Web site commands a high readership and from what I hear from management, the already robust content will get fuller and better with each new partnership and added revenue stream.
Journalism industry watchers would do well to keep an eye on Seattle’s online journalism experiments, from what Hearst is doing at seattlepi.com to the rise of community news blogs that are rich with engagement.
Journalism is a rapidly changing industry, and for the past few years, I’ve had a front row seat.
The future will include more democratization of data, more citizen engagement, more unpaid writers, fewer generalists, more amateurs with fan followings, a greater appreciation for quality business reporting, and a whittling down of traditional journalistic authority against the rise of the niche-hobbyist-turned-pro.
The notion of journalists as gatekeepers is obsolete — those who pridefully struggle to hold onto that antiquated view will watch helplessly as information flows around, over and beneath the gates. Those who humbly embrace these changes will become the new stars, appreciated for their ability to generate unique content while at the same time navigating and making sense of the information flow.
Since journalists make a living out of calling people out on their contradictory statements, it’s only fair that I share mine. Before my newspaper stopped printing, I made some public declarations about how I was loathe to leave journalism.
I told Jon Friedman at CBS MarketWatch that, “I feel like I was born to do this work. I’m so curious. Give me a job where I can get paid to be nosy as hell, get my curiosity satisfied and write every day. I can’t imagine going into another field.”
And I declared via the Columbia Journalism Review that, “Journalism is just too much fun to give up. Even now. I’ve seen job openings in other fields, but I don’t want another type of job. I love learning new things. I like questioning authority and calling b.s. when I see it. I’m nosy as hell, and paid to be.”
Here’s what I think now, given the present flux in media: Trying new things maintains career growth and passion. And the same personal qualities that led me to pursue journalism — a love of writing, a desire to understand and make sense of how the world works — are what intrigue me about investment research. In short, I’ll still get paid to ask questions.
I’m not going away forever; my media connections are deep and I’ve loved the business, even as it was breaking my heart. Just last week, for example, I was scheduled to speak to a class of journalism students at my undergraduate alma mater, but had to cancel when duty called. So, I won’t disappear for good, but I do intend to keep my head down well into the near future to learn the ropes and immerse myself in this new adventure!
Please stay in touch. After a six-month training period, I hope to set up shop back here in Seattle.
One more reflection:
Covering Seattle business has been a blast. Each day I’m reminded of how lucky I have been to chronicle the stories of our corporations, large and small, and the workers who are each threads in the tapestry of this iconic city.
The days leading up to my recent interview were a perfect example of how Seattle innovation has spread:
Wanting to look the part for my interview, I strolled into Nordstrom for assistance on buying the right outfit and shoes. Then, I flew from Sea-Tac to the Twin Cities on a Boeing 757. Once there, a placard in my hotel room declared that the coffee pot “proudly” brews Starbucks. And I was slugging a Microsoft product over my shoulder the whole way: my laptop runs Windows Vista.
I’ll be checking seattlepi.com to stay on top of all of Seattle’s news. I hope you do too.
Cheers and onward.
Update: August 11, 2009: I’ve posted a goodbye to the Seattle P-I’s aerospace blog. Read it here.