I think I always knew I wanted to be a journalist.
I’m not sure where the inspiration came from, because when I look at my career in retrospect, there’s really no one person I can point to and say, ‘yep, that’s the one.’ I started out in this business working in weeklies, then dailies, then digital, and now all three as editor of this publication.
And I can’t begin to describe how crazy of a ride it’s been.
Any journalist will tell you that they are well-aware that they’re never going to strike it rich – unless, of course, you sell out and become a mouthpiece, but that’s just never been a personal aspiration. But when you don’t go that path, then you’re on a path of real, the true authentic journo life. The path where sometimes your paycheck may not clear or you’re forced to decide between health insurance or eating.
But through all the furloughs and buyouts and new editors and new owners, the one thing I’ve realized that has never wavered is an inane passion to cover my hometown. I’ve never wanted to work at any other publication and when former Daily News Editor-in-Chief Michael Days asked me my five-year plan during my second interview with the publication in 2006, I vividly remember replying, ‘hopefully, working for you right here.’
Fast forward 13 years and here I am penning my own column as the editor-in chief of our city’s last original alt-weekly. Some would argue that this is a regressive step (since typically a move to a daily is seen as a step forward), but I’ve never felt so sure that this is where I belong as a writer at this stage of my career.
I read this article in Poynter a while back where the writer talked about how to keep it cool after being laid-off from your journalism job. One of the things he wrote was, “I suppose that’s what I get hitching my wagons to an alt-weekly.”
That always stuck with me, because that’s exactly what I have done.
The last few months has been one of the most stressful I’ve had as an editor. I lost my right hand man in Max Marin, but gained a right hand woman in Andrea Cantor. I dealt with another ownership change (the fifth in my career) and another redesign of a print and digital model. It’s been two months of late nights writing and editing, massaging the sensibilities and patience of extremely talented freelance journalists as we transition to a new company, haggling with content management salesmen so I can get our full-timers the tools they need and stay within budget – all while trying to be the best dad possible to two toddlers under three.
I have never drank so much coffee in my entire life.
But for me this business has always been about the end result. I’m still that writer that gets a little giddy to see my byline. To edit and fact check a long form investigative feature that people talk about throughout the city? That’s my shit.
Now, my excitement has arrived in the form of heading a complete redesign of a beloved city staple that is Philadelphia Weekly. If you’re reading this in print, what you have in your hand is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of smart, talented, devoted individuals who don’t want alt-journalism in this city to die.
I hope that as you flip through this beefed-up 40-page edition, which we designed the absolute shit out of, you get a sense of what alt-journalism is supposed to look like and get behind us in support. I don’t remember when PW was called the Welcomat, but from what I’ve read time and time again is that this publication originally was meant to serve as a vessel for what’s going on in Philly. If someone had a gripe then they wrote-in to be edited, fact checked and published. Someone has an obscure event the dailies might scoff at, PW ran it as the centerpiece in it’s widely-regarded calendar section.
To me, that’s a good alt-weekly. You tell us what’s going on and we put it out there. For better or for worse. For those of you that say we’re impossible to find, well, you’re right, we were. It’s why we rid ourselves of that distribution model and now we have a better one. We’re on racks in your favorite bars, your favorite delis, shops. We’re in Wawas, which let me tell you was no small feat. Don’t believe me? There’s a button on our website that lists everywhere we’re supposed to be. You don’t see us? There’s a contact person you can tell.
We’re not fucking around here. No more Mickey Mouse planning and operating.
Everyone apart of this new look has “hitched their wagons to this alt-weekly,” because we know and understand the value of this voice remaining the pain-in-the-ass little brother that calls people out when they’re fucking up and puts the little guy on a pedestal when they’re making our city a better place. You want to know what’s going on? Well, we’ve doubled our calendar, which means more events everyday of all types for you to choose from.
Personally? I’m hitched. I’ve had multiple opportunities to get that safe desk job that pays solid money for you to write and edit medical journals and update university websites. But fuck that. I’ll do that shit when I’m dead and for now, this city, this publication and this renewed passion for seeing it become what it’s always been has never been more alive.
Tell me what you think of our new look. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.