Hard to believe, but I’m seven weeks into a job at Charlotte Agenda already. Days and weeks move faster when you’re on staff somewhere. But I’m enjoying it. I mean, of course I miss the freedom of freelancing and midmorning walks with Gizmo, but Agenda’s been a refreshing change.
A few months ago I thought about writing one of those “Why I’m joining the Agenda” posts, like the Athletic does. But instead of talking about what I hope to do, or what we hope to do, I figured it was more important to just get to doing it. Now I’ll share a few of the half-dozen stories I’ve written so far.
Yesterday, I had two. One was a longer, reported essay on police chief Kerr Putney, who’s retiring this year. The other was on the 24-hour sprint to save the birds that crashed into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Totally different stories.
Honestly, there are three jobs in Charlotte I wouldn’t take for anything less than $10 million a year and a lifetime supply of Stoney’s crab cakes: police chief, schools superintendent, and district attorney. Any story I write about any of them starts from a place of deep respect.
And I wanted to adopt this Muscovy named Bruiser, but I’m sure Gizmo wouldn’t let it happen.
One thing I worried about when I accepted the job was whether the Agenda’s audience would embrace my writing style. The numbers have been encouraging.
The first story I wrote for them, on HEAL Charlotte founder Greg Jackson and his efforts to save a young boy, was widely read and shared. More than that, it completely changed the trajectory of Greg’s nonprofit. People called and emailed to donate money. They offered him speaking engagements. They offered jobs to the mother of the young boy, Haji.
What else could a writer want?
A few weeks ago, we published a story on barber Shaun “Lucky” Corbett, who became the first black person to own and operate a barbershop in a Walmart. Lucky’s journey is remarkable, and he’s one hell of a man. People seemed to crave a story like his: it generated more than 160,000 views.
Pageviews are only one way to measure success, but for me, they’re at least an indication that my work isn’t falling flat over here. We have a ways to go, and lots of exciting things to announce in the coming weeks and months. But so far, so good.
A few other early takeaways and notes from the first seven weeks:
- I’m still the same person and writer I was six months ago, or a year ago, and that’s not going to change. I’m almost 40; at this point, my voice is my voice.
- I work with good people. They’re generous and funny and have a fire for local media. Our publisher, Ted, literally claps every morning when I walk in. The first year or so Agenda was around, I thought he was an alien. Now, he still is. But he’s also the best owner I’ve worked for in my 20 years in the business. Lizzy, who runs the business side, is a delight to be around and can close a deal. I could go on about every person on the team.
But I want to get to the next point.
- A funny story about Brianna Crane, the Swiss Army knife of our editorial team: When she was in college and I was the editor of Charlotte magazine, she sent me her resume. I received tons of unsolicited resumes in that job — up to six a day in the spring — but I tried to respond to all. I always figured they could be my boss one day. I don’t remember the specifics of Brianna’s resume, but I’m sure I read a little bit of her work and personalized my response. And wouldn’t you know, the first time I stepped into Agenda’s office, she said she remembered me for that.
Which brings me to my last point.
- The Agenda’s audience is active online, more than other places I’ve published work, with the exception of POLITICO. That’s fun and exhausting (just like POLITICO). There’s a troll account on instagram that’s rather delusional and obsessive. We know who’s behind it. I’m all for good humor but don’t get too twisted up, y’all. We’re all trying to make a decent living doing decent work while getting through this life as decent people. Be kind and patient. And remember that Charlotte’s still small, and the media world is, too: You never know who you’ll run into in a job interview one day.
Thank you, as always, for reading.