I probably have someone say that phrase to me (or some other quote from The Wizard of Oz) at least once a week. I’m not going to lie, I don’t hate it. I don’t like it, but I don’t hate it either.
And I’m guessing I’m really going to hear it a lot when I make the move from Naples, Florida to Washington, DC to work at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive in October.
One of the first people I talked with about this move once it was announced was Steve Klein. I can’t even remember how long I’ve known Steve, but I know I always feel like I learn something everytime we talk, so I love it whenever we get a chance to hang out together.
After our most-recent e-mail conversation, Steve posted a note on Poynter’s e-media tidbits site.
Here is the full-text of that e-mail Q&A exchange:
* What did you go to Naples to do, did you have enough time to do it, and what is the legacy you leave behind there?
I guess there were a couple of things that were in the back of my mind — I wanted our team to show that this type of new-media-based journalism could be profitable enough that a company would want to keep investing more and more money into real local journalism, and I wanted our team to prove that you didn’t have to be in a college town like Lawrence to have this sort of interactivity and detail be successful.
And though everyone knows how much I love the Kansas Jayhawks, I wanted to be a part of journalism that didn’t involve balls and basketball courts. Covering Hurricane Wilma and the overwhelming affordable housing problems in Naples are two of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever been lucky enough to be a part of. As of right now, those are the stories and projects that I’m the most proud of being able to work on.
But to be honest, I really just wanted to work with John Fish again, and I thought it would be a ton of fun to work with John in a place where there are palm trees coming out your backside.
(John Fish was the publisher at the Topeka Capital-Journal when I was there.)
As to whether or not we had enough time to accomplish all that we wanted, of course not. It was never a part of the plan to only be in Naples for 13 months. We’re not even a quarter of way through the list of things I hoped we’d get to do here.
There’s a huge project that we’ve been working on for the last year or so, with the seeds of that project actually being planted about four years ago, and this was the first place where I thought where we could actually get it rolling. More to the point, I thought we could get it done at one of our smaller sister newspaper sites on Marco Island.
What kind of sucks is that we’re pretty close to having at least an early version of it ready, and in another three or four months, it definitely could be done. I sure wish I could be here to see that badboy finished. It is the most-detailed and continuously updated hyper-local project we’ve ever tried. It makes the stuff we’ve built in the past look like we were just monkeying around.
* What do you hope to accomplish at WPNI?
I guess if I had to boil it down to syrup, we want to do the things we’ve always done, which is basically build cool things that readers dig. I think everywhere we’ve been, we’ve tried to focus on building obvious things, and we’re not going to stray from that now.
I’ve already got a list of projects I know I’d like to try — and let’s face it, the opportunity to work with the amazingly talented and smart people at WPNI, the Post, Newsweek and Slate makes it seem like I just won the journalism lottery.
But if there is one thing that I hope that maybe we can add to that equation is a dash of nimbleness. I love having ideas at lunch and then going live with them at 5 p.m. We may not be able to do that at WPNI, but maybe we can be live by 8 a.m. instead.
We want to build creative things, important things, useful things and get them done in weeks, not months.
* Was this move inevitable?
I’ve never dreamed of working at a big newspaper or for a big organization. For some reason, that’s never been something that motivated me or was ever something that I wanted.
I unapologetically love working at places that are the size of the Lawrence Journal-World and Naples Daily News, especially when those places have enlightened leaders.
That being said, for years, I’ve been saying that there are five publishers in the nation that I would like to work with, and this organization was always on that list. When I met Caroline Little and Mr. Graham, I knew the direction and tone being set at the highest levels of this company were in-line with the things that I love. I knew it could work.
To be honest, as scared as I’ve been of larger organizations, I’ve always kind of felt like they were a little scared of me, as well. I don’t like meetings and I’m not much into structure. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always thought it was much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
And big organizations usually don’t like that. But we’ll see. I have this gut feeling that it’s really going to work at WPNI. Heck, I’m willing to bet my career on it.
* Plus, give me a little hint. What’s next?
Whenever folks from huge newspapers have seen what we’ve done in Lawrence, Naples or Topeka, someone in the group always tells me that this sort of approach won’t work in a big market. Well, we’re about to find out.