I’ve changed my Twitter name – I’m now @newsmary. I can’t be @edpmary any more, because I’m going to be leaving the Eastern Daily Press and Evening News.
I’ll be moving to financial journalism publishers Citywire in London at the start of November, where I’ll be doing social media work, SEO and digital planning, and I hope to be an active part of their currently-forming data journalism operation.
In the last three years I’ve discovered what I love.
Three years ago, I sort of tripped over and fell into journalism. I was six months out of uni after a course in American Literature and Creative Writing – and believe me, no matter how impressive your marks are, that does not give you much traction in the jobs market. I was applying for editorial assistant jobs and design jobs and database admin jobs because of my experience in those areas, and I saw an ad for a local journalist and I applied. A horrendous current affairs exam and a face-clutchingly gruesome interview later, and I’d beaten more than 100 other people to get a job in journalism. The people that hired me saw something I didn’t even see in myself.
That changed, though. I went up to train at PA in the Evening Chronicle and Journal offices in Newcastle and, though I had a hard time with homesickness and loneliness, I grew to love the work. I went from decent-writer-but-scared-of-interviewing to feeling much more confident and happy in my role. And I won an award for getting good at it, and I came back, and I worked for the EDP and then the Evening News when we merged, and I loved it harder and harder every day, even as it became more difficult. I loved the thrill of seeing my name in print, next to my story and my words.
A few months after I started work I discovered Twitter, and it changed everything. I started this blog. I got lots of things wrong, repeatedly, on the internet where everyone could see; discovered Google Reader and used it religiously; fell in love all over again with data and coding and spreadsheets but this time in the service of storytelling and data journalism; played with video and audio; fell in love with the internet, full stop. Started reading Paul Bradshaw and Clay Shirky and Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen, and more and more of the many, many others at the coal face. Started getting evangelical about what news can do online and what online can do for news. Crowdsourced. Liveblogged. Livetweeted. Visualised. Wordled. Piped. Started waving my hands in excitement and enthusiasm at things that had very little to do with the day-to-day life in the newsroom of our print-first papers.
That’s where the disconnect began. Bit by bit as I explored this incredible new world, I realised the papers I work for don’t live there. They pass by regularly, sure, and they do some things very well, but they live in print and not in a series of tubes, and in recent times the focus has been unerringly on print. But that’s meant that in the newsroom where I wanted to be working for mobile and for web and harnessing the power of the internet for storytelling in all its forms, it’s become harder and harder to spend any time doing it.
If I was coming new to regional journalism now, I don’t know if I’d have time to explore Twitter and the web and data journalism and computer assisted reporting and fall in love the way I have. It’s something I do in my spare time, at home, at the end of 10-hour days or the mornings before a late shift, on my own. But in a sea of things I love doing, it’s what I love most. I’ve discovered that, for me, what’s better than seeing my name in print is seeing my work sprout wings and fly online, whether it’s got my name on it or not.
I believe, at Citywire, I’ll be in a newsroom that lives on the internet. It’ll be my job to have ideas about what we do online and on mobile and how to make it social. I’ll be throwing myself into social news, mobile news, online news, and I’ll be working out ways to make useful, relevant, awesome journalism. I’ll be part of a team including data researchers, and I hope I’ll be doing data journalism at work as well as working with data behind the scenes.
I’m going to miss the EDP and the Evening News. I’m going to miss Norwich and Norfolk. It’s going to be a huge wrench to leave behind the daily visits to new places to talk to interesting people. I’ll miss court and I’ll miss the buzz of breaking a big story and I’ll even miss council meetings, I expect.
But I won’t stop being a journalist. I won’t stop doing journalism. I won’t stop telling stories. You’ll see me more, not less, because I’ll have support and I’ll have time (and I’ll be in London instead of the wilds of Norfolk).
I want to do online journalism, not journalism online, and here’s a place where even if it’s not my byline, my face at the top of the page, I can help make that happen. I can help build an aviary for journalism and help it grow wings and fly. I can set up camp at the shifting frontier where journalism and the internet meet, and get busy building something brilliant.