I’m joining the Philly newspapers

Today is my first day at the Philadelphia Media Network, owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com.

A few weeks ago I made the difficult decision to leave Fusion’s tech team and join PMN. I can’t speak highly enough of Fusion tech, a distributed engineering team nestled within Univision’s Disney-funded attempt to build a viable competitor to Vox and BuzzFeed.

At Fusion, I got to work underneath Daniel Bachhuber, something I had wanted since I came across his work with the CoPress gang back in my Onward State days. Daniel is to me the epitome of a 10x developer, and he taught me how to be an engineer. Daniel and I got to work together briefly at Thunderdome, before its early demise, but our time together at Fusion was totally different. I got to see, and help in some small measure, Daniel build a distributed engineering culture from zero. We documented our efforts within our tech-docs repository, as well as our team blog posts. Our CTO and Daniel recruited some phenomenal technologists – Toy, LisaThan, More Than, Gabe, and Scribu. Together we built tools that moved Fusion’s stack closer to the world-class publishing and distribution platform we originally set out to build, and we always stayed true to our values. Truly this was just about the perfect job for me, and I highly recommend checking out the available roles if it sounds like your kind of gig.

Why did I leave then?

Because I missed local. I missed local so much. I walk around Philadephia, and I see a city thriving while its least continue to struggle. I see a media environment that remains fractious, infighting distracting us from working together to solve our city’s serious problems. I see news of gun deaths in north Philly, of a school system failing our youth, of corporations building glass palaces while underserving the very community that gave them birth. I identify as a progressive – these goals are not partisan, they are human.

I believe that local news – and specifically, the tradition of newspaper journalism – is an essential and fundamentally good segment of our society. I believe that local news still faces an existential threat. I believe that there is no floor. I believe that if Philadelphia were to lose one of its major newspapers, any of its newspapers, or to see their revenue decline to such a point where their journalistic activities need to be significantly circumscribed, that would be a tragic loss.

At Digital First Media, the metric that mattered most to me was the aggregate number of years our institutions had been serving their communities. At the Philadelphia newspapers, that metric stands at 293 years. I see it as our mission to make sure that figure continues raising by three annually. And, hey, if ever that number were to begin raising by more than three annually, well that’d be cool, too.

Community rules everything around me, and Philly right now is mine. I can’t wait to start helping the Philadelphia newspaper company solve its hardest problems, enabling its journalists, supporting its business efforts, and thinking about how we might make Philadelphia great again. I’m so excited to join the technologists and journalists already working on these problems, and to understand how I can be of service. The new colleagues I’ve met in the past few weeks have been just so impressive. And that’s not even to mention those I knew already from past activities – Mike Topel, Eric Ulken, Diana Lind, Erica Palan, Aubrey Whelan, Gar Joseph, Jon Tannewald, Emily Babay, and more. It’s a pleasure to be joining their team.

In my first 100 days of employment, it’s my goal to have lunch or coffee with 100 of my new colleagues at PMN. One thing I’ve realized from the managers I’ve respected most – Daniel and Hong Qu at Fusion, Robyn Tomlin at Thunderdome – is the importance of listening. I haven’t always been good at this but I want to be better. I am sharing that goal here to keep myself accountable.

I also want to hear outside ideas on how I might help. Tweet me, email me, text me, whatever – your drink’s on me.

#onward

Posted Sep. 8 2015, 8:47 am by davis