Image via Greenwich Village Daily Photo
This past Tuesday, October 26 was a big day for me. In my own personal history, it was huge. Not quite on par with getting married (which I did on May 2, 2006) and I hope having children one day, but still pretty big. On that day, I became an insider after a lifetime as the consummate outsider.
What do I mean by this?
In practical terms, what happened is that I got the job of Web Editor of Time Out Chicago Kids. Currently the kids website is part of TOC proper, but it will soon be on its own like its NYC counterpart. The print edition will also be expanding. It’s now published monthly, but will be bi-monthly eventually. All these new pages (both digital and print) will require more content and this is where I come in I’ll also be managing social media, marketing our content more widely, growing our audience and much, much more.
In more philosophical terms, I’m finally in. After two years of knocking on the door of the media business and going through some rough times, I’ve finally been allowed to enter. I’m sure I’ll continue to feel like an outsider at times. As I wrote before, once you’ve persistently felt this way for large portions of your life, you’ll always feel it to some degree. And in this business, like in so many others, there are always other doors. Once you breach one, you will surely run into another. Still, for now this is a victory and I can bask in it.
But while I’d like to take all the credit, I haven’t gotten to this point alone and there are a few people I’d like to thank.
First and foremost, I want to thank my best friend and favorite person in the world: my husband. He is the most kind and generous person I know and has been an unfailing supporter of me in everything I’ve ever done. He has tolerated my being glued to the computer more times than I could count, surrendered me on many a weeknight evening to networking or social events, brushed off suggestions from others that maybe I should go do something else and of course comforted me in those moments when I was feeling my most despondent. At every turn, it was clear that he sublimated any other concern or need for my current and future happiness and I don’t think there are words to properly thank him for this. If you like anything I’ve done in these last two years, you can compliment me first. But Jim should be a close second.
Thank you also to my friend Brad Flora. Were it not for Windy Citizen, I might never have ventured into this industry. I’ve previously written about how I got my start while congratulating Brad on a big accomplishment, but I’ll say it one more time here. Brad has almost unparalleled integrity, vision, persistence and generosity of spirit. In the time we’ve known each other, he’s been a great sounding board, a giver of advice and a source of encouragement.
Thank you to the wonderful Megan Cottrell, another friend and frequent shoulder to cry on. I can’t believe I only met Megan in February of 2009. It feels like a lot longer and I mean that in the best sense possible. On a day that month, Brad, myself and many others attended the Chicago Journalism Town Hall. Everyone wore name tags and Megan spied mine. “Are you the Anna Tarkov that does the Daily Daley?” she asked. Yes, I answered. She went on to gush about how much she loved it. She implored me to keep it going and then she wanted to hug me. If you’ve ever been an unpaid, unappreciated, for-the-love-of-the-craft blogger, you know I hugged her back immediately. Such validation! It was quite a rush. We’ve been friends ever since and have shared many of our frustrations, hopes and dreams while trying to break into this business. Like me, Megan didn’t come to journalism through the traditional avenues and she too is now enjoying a modicum of success which I know will only continue to grow as her career progresses. She is immensely talented, passionate, kind and I am proud to know her.
Since I linked to his great Chicago Journalism Town Hall write-up while he was still at Time Out Chicago, I’ll move on to Scott Smith. If you don’t know Scott, I’d recommend changing that as soon as possible. I’m not sure if he remembers, but we first met at a Colonel Tribune tweet-up of all things. I found him dynamic and funny right away and since then, my regard for him has steadily grown. He is unfailingly helpful, always willing to listen and has a true and abiding love for the media business. He celebrates the good, points out the bad and always continues to think creatively about where things are going next. Scott is a NBB and a strong believer in the new news ecosystem overall. He fights for it daily and he does it with tremendous grace and integrity.
Along similar lines, we come to the inimitable Steve Rhodes, editor and publisher of The Beachwood Reporter. I actually met Steve the same night I met Scott. It was somewhat far from the tweet-up of course, at the Beachwood Inn in Wicker Park. Brad had told me about Steve and I was intrigued. I wanted to meet the man who wrote those wonderfully acerbic and biting words I read daily and pick his brain on whether I had any hope of becoming a real journalist. The answer, to be brief, was… not really. Steve said I should go to journalism school if I was really serious about learning this craft. He said that anyone could blog, but reporting was a different story. I was chastened, but undeterred. Since then, I’d like to think that Steve and I have become friends and that he believes I’m talented. He is most definitely a mentor for me, especially in terms of ethics. After all, not many people would willingly leave a paying gig (with little to fall back on) simply to be able to look themselves in the mirror and know that they acted on their principles. Though I’ve never had to do it as directly as he has, Steve and I both try to live what we preach.
Thank you to Frank Sennett, the Editor-in-Chief of Time Out Chicago and soon to officially be my boss’ boss. Frank and I met via Twitter sometime ago and didn’t meet in real life until I interviewed for the job I will soon start. Though only communicating via Twitter, e-mail and Gchat, I came to know Frank as a person of unmatched integrity, intensity and unflinching dedication to his ideals and to the pursuit of truth and justice. I also learned that Frank, unlike many in this business, is a true believer in rewarding and nurturing talent, improving media overall, copping to criticism when its warranted and dishing it out when no one else will. Perhaps because we’re so similar in all this, Frank has always respected me. I can assure you that others have not been so kind. In short, I am absolutely thrilled to work for an organization that has someone like Frank leading it.
Thank you to Whet Moser, the brilliant Web Editor of the Chicago Reader. I could thank Whet for many things, not the least of them being his amazing work at the Reader, but I also thank him for something that could be said for many of the people I’ve talked about already. So I thank Whet (and all the others above) for taking me seriously. Ours is a business in which its really easy to do the opposite, especially with young, whippersnapper upstarts who seem to want a seat at the table without putting in the work that those who came before them put in. It’s always been obvious that Whet and many of his colleagues at the Reader just don’t feel that way. Their approach is more: you want to write about issues and people we care about? Great! Let’s have a look at it and maybe we’ll publish it. It is this approach that has led them to employ amazing talent like Whet, Mick Dumke, Ben Jarovsky and many others. For his part, Whet has always been unfailingly nice, approachable and willing to help. On a professional level, his ability to be in full command of certain topics is incredible. And he is among the gold standard for web editors. I hope I can do the job title justice in my new position.
Thank you to Mike Fourcher, the ambitious publisher of the Center Square Journal, Roscoe View Journal, former political consultant and much, much more. The question you may well ask is: when does this guy ever sleep? The answer is that he often doesn’t or at least not very much. But despite his busy schedule, he has found the time on more than one occasion to give me a pep talk, to assure me that eventually there will be a job that’s right for me. When no one else would even interview me, he actually offered me a job editing Center Square Journal. When some people were telling me to give it up or drastically change my approach, he convinced me to stick with it. He validated my belief that the problem wasn’t me and people like me. The problem was that the media business hadn’t yet caught up to the new way of doing things. There were entire jobs and job descriptions yet to be invented and things were moving very slowly.
For some of the same reasons, I thank Jay Rosen who hardly needs any introduction. Long before I was involved in media, Jay had been helping me and others like me without our knowledge. He was doing it by laying the foundation for the new ideas and new ways of looking at things that would become absolutely essential in the New Journalism. He was challenging the status quo long before I ever sat at a keyboard and by becoming so influential, he helped me and others tremendously as we eventually began navigating the media waters. I’m not sure how long it has been since Jay followed me on Twitter, but it was always a source of pride. He only follows 631 people (as of this writing) so it’s a bit of an honor to be included. Jay also put me on a Twitter list he compiled called Young, Smart Newsies (I wrote about it here). The list was explained thusly: “They’re the next generation: born on the Web and ready to reboot the news.” In this description, Jay acknowledges the unfortunate fact that just because we are ready to work and have great ideas, it didn’t mean news orgs are ready to hire us. I’ve always held onto this reality as an anchor and clutched it ever more tightly when Jay told me, like others had, not to give up, but to accept the fact that it might be a while before I landed a job. Now that I have the job, I will do everything in my power to prove that us young newsies aren’t all talk. I will prove that we can get results.
I know I’m going to forget people, but I want to quickly mention a few who were also tremendous sources of support, whether actual or moral: Michele Mclellan, Craig Newman, Charlie Meyerson and his lovely son Ben, Deb Segal at CBS2, Karen Kring, President of AWJ-Chicago, Sally Duros, Barb Iverson, Andrew Huff, Adam Verwymeren, Dan Sinker, Kate Gardiner, Steve Buttry, Craig Kanalley, Ramsin Canon, James Janega, Ken Davis and I’m sure many, many more people. If I’ve forgotten you here, I apologize. Whether or not your name is mentioned, you know who you are and I appreciate and value all of you more than words can say.