Civic engagement. Strategic communications. Social networks. Investigative journalism.
Those tools all have the ability to reveal and communicate truth, to deepen understanding, to build communities, to inform movements, to uncover transformative solutions and to enable us all — individually and collectively — to make better decisions.
I am fortunate that engaging in collaborative and creative communication is both my personal and professional passion.
I am also fortunate that I have had amazing venues in which to develop my craft, and many incredible friends and mentors who have educated and encouraged me.
We live in an age of disclosure and connectivity. For all the pitfalls that creates, it also empowers us to build and share narratives about our lives and our world as never before. It’s a golden age for storytelling. So let me tell you a bit of my story.
I was born Oct. 12, 1971, at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. The umbilical cord around my neck complicated things a bit, but fear not — I don’t remember a thing about it. Nancy, a microbiologist turned environmental activist turned science teacher turned potter, and Tom, a lawyer, were nice enough to provide me with two younger siblings, Lyn and Mike. My family now also includes my beautiful wife, the artist and communications superstar Jesse Kline, my brother-in-law Nick and two adorable nephews.
A wonderfully disastrous flame out at Mamaroneck High School led me to one of the greatest educational experiences imaginable at Colorado Timberline Academy in Durango, Colorado. Yes, being bad does have its rewards!
Something clicked at CTA and my love of learning blossomed, a passion that led me to the über-intense Oberlin College, where I majored in English and officially became an “ink-stained wretch,” pulling all-nighters to publish the award-winning Oberlin Review, which continued its rein as the best independent college weekly newspaper in the country while I was editor-in-chief.
I moved to Ithaca, NY, in 1995 and entered the newspaper journalism master’s program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication. I was fortunate to earn a full-ride, and truly lucked out when I got to work with then-Dean David Rubin as his teaching assistant and co-author.
An internship on the business desk of The Post-Standard was followed by an internship on the business desk at the Plain Dealer, and then a “real job” covering police and courts in The Post-Standard‘s Auburn bureau in November 1996. Covering murders, disasters and all other types of mayhem suited me rather well. Soon, though, I began to cover government, first Cayuga County, then Auburn, then Onondaga County and then Syracuse.
I became an editor in 2001 and managed the Madison County satellite office for a year as Bureau Chief, supervising five reporters and producing both a daily broadsheet and weekly tabloid. During my tenure, circulation of the Madison Edition increased at a time when other editions of the paper lost readers, something that helped propel my career and eventually won me the paper’s Government Editor post.
As Government Editor, I had the privilege of supervising five of the paper’s best reporters, all with high-profile beats. As a team we won many awards. One I was particularly proud of was a series of awards Michelle Breidenbach, then the paper’s political reporter, won for stories on what turned out to be a scandalous sale of public assets to a favored developer. The series led to changes in law strengthening public disclosure.
The tough economy and the changing media landscape created opportunities for me as The Post-Standard looked for fresh ideas. I was able to develop a new position, Civic Engagement Editor, that focused on drawing readers into the paper in a new way. The idea was for the paper to collaborate with its own readership to help solve the community’s problems.
To execute the initiative, I formed a partnership between the paper and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and created CNYSpeaks. The project attracted thousands of participants, more than 10,000 ideas for improving Syracuse, a Citizens’ Agenda and the 2009 Best Online Content Award from the New York State Associated Press.
I took a buyout from the paper in July 2009 after 14 rewarding and fulfilling years in which I published nearly 3,000 stories, all available under my byline on Nexis. (Subscription required. A small sampling is also here).
The Maxwell School then hired me as Project Manager for CNYSpeaks, which remains one of my most important projects and clients. Other current clients include Home HeadQuarters, the Syracuse Housing Authority, WowWe Inc. and NYSUT United Magazine.
In December, I earned an Executive Master’s of Public Administration at the Maxwell School, the No. 1 ranked program in the field, along with a Certificate of Advanced Study in Conflict Resolution. I’ve really enjoyed the combination of journalistic, commercial and academic work I’ve been able to piece together since leaving The Post-Standard, one reason I have decided to continue with my academic work by entering the Mass Communications Ph.D. program at the Newhouse School, where I’ll start at the end of August.
Jesse and I make our home in Auburn and live in the house Jesse grew up in — a living work of art and expression of her creative talents that was featured on HGTV. My office is in Syracuse at the Campbell Institute for Public Affairs.
I am proud to volunteer with several organizations, including the Onondaga Citizens League and Hospice of the Finger Lakes, and to actively support groups such as SyracuseFirst and 40Below, which I helped establish in 2004 with a dynamic group of individuals that included Rob Simpson, Jake Roberts, Nichole Wenderlich and Jessica Crawford. Rob, Jake and I co-authored the 40 Below Action Agenda.
Other passions include cooking and eating out at independent restaurants, live music (particularly reggae, indie rock, jam bands, funk and rockabilly), and all forms of non-motorized outdoor activity, especially downhill and cross-country skiing, running, hiking, biking and swimming.