Well hello, Springfield. I’m the managing editor of this new shindig and I’m so happy you’re here.
Ahead of the official Daily Citizen launch, I asked our reporters to pen essays about who they are as journalists, why they joined and what they hoped to accomplish here in Springfield.
They did so with style, but then turned around and asked the same of me: “Why don’t you write a column,” they asked, “about why you left the L.A. Times to come here?”
And I think that’s a fair request.
From the time I was a journalism student at Missouri State University, working for a mega-paper like the Los Angeles Times was #careergoals. With hundreds of journalists and a recent $100 million investment in the newsroom, it’s one of the largest and most robust newspapers in the country.
I was honored — and still am — that they chose me to join their ranks.
But I did not stay long. The Daily Citizen’s CEO, David Stoeffler, approached me early in my tenure with a proposition I found too compelling to ignore.
The vast majority of my career has been devoted to local news at a much smaller scale than the L.A. Times. I moved from Missouri to California when I graduated college, following the urging of my then-advisor to let my career take me anywhere.
My career blossomed in San Diego. I began at a small business journal and ended up at the San Diego Union-Tribune. There, I served alongside incredible journalists whose watchdog reporting undoubtedly improved the lives of everyday citizens.
I loved my work. I loved local news.
(Photo: Last day in the San Diego newsroom.)
But this thing I loved started to show signs of fragility, not just in my city but all across the country. Small newspapers were collapsing, unable to stand strong while the digital revolution rumbled their foundations.
I never thought I’d stop being a reporter. But I found myself studying data analytics in my spare time, eager to help good reporting stay alive online. Journalists, I believed, could no longer rely on publishers to get their work in front of readers.
Our distribution is no longer paper and ink delivered in trucks — and on bicycles — to your doorstep. Our work is entirely dependent on search engines, social media algorithms and digital inboxes. Not knowing this arena would mean the death of local news. I could not stand by, doing the enjoyable — but increasingly futile — work of writing news that no one would read. I found it mission-critical to adapt to the modern era.
This is how I found myself in the role of a Strategy and Growth Analyst at the L.A. Times. After teaching myself lots of digital tools, I got hired to be embedded in the newsroom, advising editors and reporters on how to survive in the crowded digital world.
Amid all this, I moved home to Springfield, Missouri for personal reasons and worked remotely for the Times. My first baby was born early in the pandemic, and I wanted him to live in a place with space, fresh air and family to love him. It was here, in my work-from-home office, where I received my first call from Stoeffler, who was building a new Springfield news outlet.
I won’t say the decision was easy. I worked very hard to earn a spot at the Times. I had people there; I had plans there. But Springfield is my home. I was born at Cox South hospital and raised in Republic. The people, homes, businesses and parks are dear to me.
Here was an opportunity, Stoeffler said, to be part of a new kind of news organization — one that could both thrive in the digital world and retain the integrity of print values and small, hyper-local teams.
Here was my opportunity to work for the city I grew up in — to build sustainable, local news in the town where my parents raised me and where my son will go to school.
I am on board. I am so on board.
Of all the things I learned in San Diego and L.A., the most important was that people want news that’s written for them. And yet many journalists continue to write news for other journalists. Have you noticed?
Welcome to the Springfield Daily Citizen, v. 1. We built this with you in mind — this whole community and all of its residents (not just some of them).
But we’re only at the beginning. As we get to know you better, we’ll evolve and adapt. Talk to us. Hold us accountable. When we get something wrong, tell us what we’re missing. Tell us how to best serve you.
It’s on all of us to get this thing right. I hope you’ll join us.
You can send news and notes to Brittany Meiling at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @BrittanyMeiling.