The only thing certain in life is change. Journalism has been my life’s passion. But it has changed since I first entered a newsroom some 22 years ago. Not all for the good. Not all for the bad.
I see great promise in how technology has knocked down barriers and allows for a multitude of voices to be part of national and global discourse. I see the eventual fall of the type of tyranny that thrives on the silencing of free speech and perpetuation of secrecy. I see great opportunities for entrepreneurial journalists willing to step out of conventional roles to fill the void of local news coverage created by retreating dailies or feed demand for more specialized news.
Technology has leveled the playing field and with it brought bountiful opportunities to reshape a landscape once dominated and defined by big media companies. While the heart of journalism is now being challenged, courageous journalists will prevail.
But in the haste and haze of filling the information vortex of the Internet, I grew professionally weary.
Resources once used for enterprise reporting and triple-checking, and exclusive breaking news stories that defined a media outlet as a unique news organization were siphoned to feed the Web. Scoops were shared, competition was diminished, and a homogeny swept across the reporting landscape. Like many veteran journalists, how I spent my working hours shifted drastically. I lay awake at night wondering how to hold on to my generation’s journalistic identity in the new paradigm.
I could do the work. I understood the transition to the Web and the economics of the time we live in. But I found myself struggling with the change more than embracing it.
I realized that after 22 years, it was time for me to make a change. I retired from journalism on March 30.
My readiness to try something new became clear after a job opportunity presented itself earlier this year allowing an entry into my second professional love: commercial real estate.
It is the beat that I covered for more than a decade, and the lure of being in the middle of the big deals instead of just covering them was an exciting prospect.
So at 44 years old, I jumped out of my comfort zone and into a new career.
There were moments when I thought I couldn’t leave journalism, but there were more moments when I realized I needed to.
I am now director of business development for a commercial real estate developer in South Florida. But the toughest part of this career change wasn’t walking out of a newsroom for the final time; it was the realization that I would not be able to lead SPJ as president.
Our bylaws technically allow me to be seated as president at our national convention in September, but I can’t do so in good conscience. I firmly believe that the president of SPJ must be a working journalist or a journalism educator to have any credibility in the high-profile fish tank that SPJ and professional journalists are now swimming in.
You must be in the trenches to lead SPJ with any true legitimacy. The choice to finish out my term as president-elect but not step up as president was a clear one.
So I will resign as president-elect prior to the national convention. This will enable the delegates to directly elect SPJ’s next president, which is allowed under the bylaws. At the same time, delegates will elect a president-elect who will assume the presidency at the 2012 convention, per the normal procedure.
Despite my personal desire to serve as your president, there are others that offer the professional stature that I no longer do. SPJ’s executive leadership ranks are populated by those able, willing and ready to step up as president. Our organization is not shaped by any one person, but rather by the collective journey of our 8,000 members.
Being part of SPJ and working together for journalism’s common causes has been the highlight of my career. This organization continues to serve as a beacon that guides the way for professional journalism.
And while I will not serve as president, I have every intention of continuing to serve the cause. I plan to freelance stories as opportunities arise and remain engaged in SPJ as a member and supporter.
As long as professional journalism embraces SPJ’s core tenets of seeking truth and reporting it; minimizing harm while doing so; acting independently; and remaining accountable to the public it serves, SPJ will always be relevant. These are the actions that set a professional journalist apart from the rest of the white noise.
There is one principle that holds true for both journalism and commercial real estate: Quality always rises to the top and stands the test of time.