I started a new full-time job on July 6th as Deputy Editor at Street Sense Media. Street Sense is the “street paper” for Washington, DC.
It’s a nonprofit news organization that provides low-barrier
employment to homeless residents. Vendors purchase weekly newspapers from us and sell to neighbors for a suggested donation. Most Street Sense stories also end up online
for free and there are email newsletters
. Street Sense produces reporting on local DC issues like housing, public health, and early childhood education.
At Street Sense, I’m focusing on producing that weekly paper. This is my first time as an editor. It’s interesting to guide other reporters and shape several stories and once. I’m crash coursing on Adobe InDesign – the software most of the publishing industry uses to layout print and even digital media. It’s different from the other Adobe products I know well and affords an anachronistic canvas that nonetheless still matters in 2021.
With this print journalism, I feel as if I’m learning a dying art, like blacksmithing when
mass production factories came online. But, the “deadwood edition” still matters a lot at the local level. This is where I lament the death of the Washington Post Express
broadsheet that probably did more to inform everyday Washingtonian commuters than any other local news outlet.
I’m extremely grateful to every one of you reading this. I’m hoping to speak, email, or DM directly with everyone – but this is my wide broadcast thankyou for now. The Street Sense editorial leaders seem interested in making real many of the dreams I had for Street Justice, the news startup you all made possible for two years.
Perhaps the journalism I’m most proud of producing with Street Justice is the October 2020 story I did about Unity Park
in Adams Morgan. I did that report for the DC Homelessness Crisis
news blitz, an annual event Street Sense organizes to focus one news day across the DC area on our neighbors who deserve our attention, compassion, and ultimately the focus of government policy-makers and purse strings.
I’m proud to keep serving as a local journalist in DC. I’m as convinced as ever that my motley bucket of talents and passions fit best in the civic square. And we’re having a Hell of a time sharing this planet with each other.
A hundred people died in a Miami condo building in large part because their resident leaders couldn’t convince the homeowners
to sacrifice short-term for long-term maintenance costs. The Boy Scouts of America have joined
the Mount Rushmore of Institutions Abiding Child Sex Abuse. There’s seemingly no consensus on who and how Americans should vote. And maybe the most corrupt institution in the history of organized sports banned an American sprinter because she smoked weed during the most stressful few months of her young life.
That said, it’s fiction to say our institutions are worse than 50 years ago, or that humans have strayed further in that time from the deity of your choosing. I don’t believe that. Rather, I think that ignorance is deceitful bliss. The fight about Critical Race Theory
teaching in school is instructive. Debates about what we should allow taught in public schools are nothing new. I read this fight about CRT – the 1619 Project
– and other anti-racist teachings to be a fight to force our children into that ignorant bliss of uncomplicated heroes and unblemished moral positions. I refute that approach. No simplified reality you can construct will ever be as fulfilling as the chaotic truth.
Journalism is a public service because it claws open the accidental and intentional fallacies of our messed-up reality. The oil companies pretend to be environmentally proactive while they co-opt and kill Congressional efforts
. Bo Schembechler and his coaching staffs were leaders of honorable Michigan Men – and probably
inexcusable conspirators to a serial rapist.
However, journalism, storytelling – “content” in the parlance of modern-day creators and influencers – can and should reveal to us that our neighbors can be just as unimaginably selfless and giving as they can be devious and immoral. I’m not a fan of the feel-good stories on the evening news, but really what I hate is that they’re rarely given the right narrative glue: The point is to connect the local violent crime spike with the local pastor organizing after-school programming. Bad stuff is happening – to and by neighbors – but many others are doing what they can to help. And that paster isn’t any more perfect than the alleged criminals are damned. And here are the options our elected leaders have to fix the systemic issues.
I say all that to say…I’m mostly thankful that I can spend my life doing that storytelling of the human condition. I struggle with nihilism sometimes, but I try to source compassion and hope from the wellsprings of this chaos. “À Mon Seul Désir
,” the beast of possibility. I lay my faith in humanity’s very potential
Put another way, and in spite of all that intractable conflict, I believe in love. Love may not be omnipotent, but it is omnipresent. It connects us all in ways no mortal can sever. I love all of you. The seven billion I share this planet with, the few million living in the DMV, and especially the few hundred of you who know me. I look forward to serving all of you where and how I can, as best I can.
I’m back in DC in early August, after spending a few more weeks working remotely and helping my parents with my grandmother. When I see you next, we can shake hands, but I’m a hugger. A wave is okay too if you’re not that touchy-feely.
Here are my new on-the-record contact info for news stories and tips:
NOTE: All interactions here are on the record unless otherwise agreed to by both parties. ‘On background’ and ‘off the record’ are okay, but please proactively ask for those terms.
Contact Info/Send Tips
Office Phone: 202-347-2006
Office Hours: Mon-Fri; 7 AM - 3 PM ET
Office: 1317 G St. NW, Washington DC, 20005
Twitter (DMs open): @GordonAChaffin
Mobile SMS and Secure Messages via Signal: 586-549-0303
Street Sense Media is a “Street Paper” and 501©(3) nonprofit.
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