It’s my last day at NPR.
I can’t believe how seven years have gone by so quickly. It feels like it was just yesterday that I first began chatting with then-VP for digital Maria Thomas about the possibility of joining NPR. It was a weird idea at the time: I was a blogger, a telecom policy wonk, an Internet activist. Apart from running a music magazine in college – mainly for the free concert tickets – I had almost no journalism experience. But I figured what the hell – the worst that could happen would be to quit and find another job, back doing what I was doing before.
Instead, I stayed for seven amazing years. I still can’t believe I got paid to spend my days working with some of the most talented people I’ll ever meet. NPR gave me the freedom to experiment, so that’s what I did: Working with Twitter users to fact-check candidates and collect reports of voting problems during the 2008 election. Helping pull together all the major public radio and TV organizations to partner on our online coverage of that election. Mobilizing thousands of online volunteers during Hurricane Gustav and the Haiti earthquake, and hosting hackathons to build tools that helped first-responders in the field. Creating one of the first social media desks in a major newsroom. Serving as NPR’s public face on Twitter and Facebook. Covering the Arab Spring.
None of this would have been possible if it hadn’t been for the tremendous support I received at NPR. NPR management – including Maria Thomas, Kinsey Wilson, Vivian Schiller, Joel Sucherman and Mark Stencel – gave me the latitude to experiment and develop projects that might’ve gotten me fired at another news organization. My social media desk colleagues over the years – Wright Bryan, Eyder Peralta, Kate Myers, Ahmed Al Omran, Mel Kramer and countless hard-working interns - created a collaborative, productive and fun environment where NPR could blaze new trails online. We developed a reputation for being forward-thinking and innovative – and that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for all of my colleagues. For that, and so much more, I thank you.
And now as I pack my boxes full of NPR memories – a rug portrait of Muammar Gaddafi I found in the ruins of his Tripoli compound, the “Get My Vote” magic 8-ball we made for the 2008 election, the guitar-shaped analog radio made for me by students in South Africa – I can’t help but think of the amazing opportunities I had during my tenure here.
I got to experience NPR covering two presidential elections, including each election night. I was able to join two of my radio heroes, Daniel Schorr in the studio and Scott Simon, in the studio to talk about how journalism had evolved, from the first story Dan filed in 1929 to my use of Twitter 80 years later. I attended scores, if not hundreds, of Tiny Desk concerts, and worked with NPR Music while they broadcast live performances from SXSW. I got to know countless amazing people across North Africa and the Middle East – first online, and then many of them in person – as they fought against dictatorships. And I had the honor of representing NPR as an ambassador at countless events across six continents, sharing our vision of how public media, in the words of NPR’s mission statement, can truly create a more informed public.
I’ve had an incredible run at NPR, but now it’s time for that run to end. I’m still working on what I’ll do next. For one thing, I hope to chill for a bit, hang out with my family and our menagerie of pets, and enjoy some time off. I’m working on some short-term plans while I try to map out longer-term opportunities. I wish I could say more, but I promise you’ll be among the first to know.
It’s been an honor and a pleasure, everyone. Let’s keep in touch – I’m just an @-reply away.