The year was 2002. I had been the editor of the Reporter for two years, during which time the culture and economy had been rocked by 9/11, and was starting to undergo enormous changes as the Internet’s influence spread
like a virus.
You need to start blogging,” my higher-ups told me—“we need blogs.” I balked, putting forth a
terrified compelling argument that the Internet was clearly a fad that would go away if we just ignored it. But then, because I didn’t want to get fired am a team player, I started my first Blogger blog, cleverly titled: Julia Goldberg’s Blog. This was pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pretty much pre-WYSIWYG, so I also had to learn enough HTML to italicize and bold my posts.
At first, I typed my missives into a Word doc before posting. After years of writing for newspapers and magazines, the prospect of writing straight from head to world without second- and third-party editing struck me as so ludicrous, I didn't even think to try it. At first. Although I continued to secretly hope the Internet would go away (some days I still hope this), the immediacy it afforded, and the new skills I was learning to use it, had begun to seem exciting rather than frightening.
Within a few years, of course, blogging was pro-forma, and SFR had begun to push as hard as we could, with limited resources, to find interesting ways to deliver our content (we also had started using the word "content" constantly to refer to stories…I blame Bill Gates). My response to the bifurcation of my job also had shifted. In 2006, I participated in an online roundtable series by the national Pew Research Center's Journalism Project. One of the questions posed was:
"How much confidence do you have that traditional mainstream media organizations will survive and thrive in the transition to the Internet?"
My answer in part: "…the Internet is a platform, it's a technology, just as the printing press was a technology. There still need to be creative people with vision behind it. And mainstream media needs to think about how the Internet can help it with its mission, not shift its mission or frantically create fear-driven derivative models of what's already out there."
I recently expressed a similar sentiment (minus the geeky printing press analogy) during a series of journalism workshops I taught in Costa Rica at two universities that are part of the international network at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where I now teach full-time.
The workshops were intended to lay the foundation for students and faculty to launch online student magazines—as we have done at SFUAD during the last two years—so I spent the five days of classes at ULatina and Universidad Americana balancing presentations and workshops between "generating content" (reporting and writing stories) with training and examples of the various online tools in use and under development.
I also emphasized that it was impossible for them, or me, or anyone to anticipate what tools journalists will need in 10 years—just as it would have been impossible for me in the late 1990s, with my notebook and pen, to imagine needing to know how to post a story from my cellphone.
Despite my initial trepidation, SFR distinguished itself as the 2000s progressed, winning numerous national awards for its digital work. And while we also won awards for our print work during that time, the recognition for our use of the Internet was particularly gratifying. For example:
• A first-place national award from the national Association of Alternative Newsweeklies in 2009 for former staff writer Dave Maass' blog "Swing State of Mind," covering New Mexico's role as a swing state in an election year.
• A first-place AAN award in 2011 to former staff writer and future Editor Alexa Schirtzinger and Kohr for "Anatomy of a Downfall," documenting former Sheriff Greg Solano's downfall with an interactive timeline.
These were just a few of the projects—and there were dozens—created during those years. I was lucky to work with a group of smart and excited journalists who skipped my fear/denial stage and immediately saw the potential for the work we were doing. I look forward to seeing SFR continue to innovate during the next 40 years.
Julia Goldberg served as editor of SFR from 2000-2011. She is now a full-time faculty member in the Creative Writing Department at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and hosts a radio program on 101.5 FM Fridays from 11 am-1 pm