Saying My Good-bye to AJR
March 3, 2015
Lisa Rossi

I have resigned my position as news editor of American Journalism Review. My last day is March 13.

I am leaving to take a job at The Des Moines Register in Iowa – as storytelling coach. I grew up in Iowa, so this is an exciting transition for me.

But leaving AJR is not easy.

I’m tremendously proud of the transformation I’ve overseen since I started in October 2013, along with co-editors Leslie Walker and Sean Mussenden, among the most wonderfully creative and lovely people I’ve had the privilege of working with. Two months after I started, we relaunched American Journalism Review as a digital-only publication. This was a big change. AJR’s history includes more than 30 years of award-winning journalism as a print magazine.

While here, I committed to telling stories that aimed to help the news industry navigate an uncertain, but exciting future. I made sure we weren’t just bemoaning the bad stuff: The layoffs, the mistakes, the ethical lapses; but we were also watching what was going right. We recently covered, for example, the professors who used Legos to teach their students data visualization; the Vice News reporter who has “hundreds” of FOIA requests out at any given time; and the newsrooms taking a rogue plunge into using Tumblr – and being inspired in the process. We are also in the midst of rolling out a series of Q & As with enormously creative journalists to highlight the interactive projects they are producing. We regularly seek out smart people who tell stories in innovative, new ways. And then we ask them how they do it.

Among the things I will really miss about AJR is working with students. In addition to being news editor, I’m also a faculty member at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, which is the publisher of AJR. (AJR’s stories are written by a mix of students and faculty members at Merrill College, as well as by freelancers and other journalism experts around the country.) Say what you will about Millennials, but the AJR student writers came to me willing to do serious work on industry issues of keen interest to them. They pushed AJR to be early on the storytelling capabilities of Snapchat. They did in-depth research to uncover troubling trends regarding the compensation of reporters. And one AJR intern even agreed to an assignment where he did all of his writing on a typewriter for a week (even lugging the thing around campus). A digital native all his life, he wanted to get in touch with journalism’s past.

This sounds like such a great gig. So why am I leaving? There are a couple of reasons. During my time at AJR, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the big challenges newsrooms across the country face. How do they produce good journalism while also being responsible for distributing it? How can they navigate reinvention towards a digital future without losing their soul in the process?

There were many days that I pondered these questions while fighting an overwhelming urge to actually be in the newsrooms we were covering, working the long, difficult hours to seek the solutions myself.

I found my opportunity to do just that at The Des Moines Register, a newspaper with employees who are charting the future by taking brave leaps to reach readers in new ways, all the while staying committed to what has always mattered: Producing great journalism.

It also doesn’t hurt that The Des Moines Register is located in Iowa, which just happens to be home. It’s the place where I graduated from high school and college. It’s close to my amazing and supportive network of family members and longtime friends, who are going to teach my children lots of things about life that my husband and I couldn’t do without them.

I’m always a bit awkward about good-byes, so here it is. Please stay in touch. Inspire me. Keep me accountable. Make me laugh. The best way to reach me is on Twitter: @LisaARossi.