How to contribute to your community during covid-19

We are living through a pandemic. Someday I am going to look back and question if I did enough.

To be clear, no, almost certainly, no I have not and will not do enough. But I did want to push myself to gather what I have done. Perhaps it might be good for each of us to challenge ourselves on what more we could be doing in this strange war-time.

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What I accomplished as a Pen and Pencil Club governor 

I first visited the Pen and Pencil Club in January 2009, as a spunky, 23-year-old. After visiting frequently, I finally became an official member of the country’s oldest surviving open daily press club in early 2012.

Then, in 2013 I ran and was elected to the club’s board of governors, with some encouragement from then club President Chris Brennan, a celebrated politics reporter and columnist who worked hard to grow the kind of members in the club. I was growing a reputation with and an active local organizer of the Online News Association.

I was proud. I learned a lot, and I put a lot of effort into being a board member. Next week, rather than run for a fifth term, I am stepping down. Here I share some of what I accomplished during the last four years.

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This will be my first year of saying no

For as long as I remember, I was proud of being someone whose default response was YES. It was the right mind frame for my teens and 20s. But I turned 30 last year. And I now I want to get better at the other side of that spectrum: saying no.

So I made it one of my 2017 resolutions: to say NO more often. Though I hope to do lots with that perspective, it will come down to focusing my attention.

This is my pledge to myself that I will say no, that I will limit what I do and agree to so that I only focus on what I can do well. That means I will have to say no to things I care about.

One of the clearest ways I’m doing that is by dropping and limiting my existing extra curricular activities, while being far choosier about any I add. Understand: this does not mean I don’t have interest in these or other issues. This means I’m focusing on what I can provide unique value to and fits me now.

I’m aiming to take this more into my day job (so I don’t let my office get as cluttered and messy as it was in the header photo from early 2015) but for the first clearest way to show my progress, I wanted to share what I’ve already set in motion.

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In defense of “Off the Record” and back room conversations

Transparency is a modern virtue.

Its pursuit is among the more commonly inalienable constants of news media. But like a child who needs to be exposed to germs to develop resistance, we can benefit from some level of privacy among leaders. Transparency of power can lead to polarization. Some conversations need to be worked out in private.

Of course that doesn’t sit quite right with many newsrooms — or among many civic minded people. A symbolic scourge of journalism is the back room conversation — dealmaking without public discourse.

But it’s so much more complicated.

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Pen and Pencil Club board of governors

The Pen and Pencil Club, the country’s oldest surviving private press association, welcomed me onto its board of governors as one of its youngest members last February. This month, I am proud to say I was voted on to remain there.

Here is some background on the famous private club and my own goals for being part of its board again.

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Pen and Pencil Club: I’m a member of the country’s oldest journalism club

My first trip to the Pen & Pencil Club on Jan. 28, 2009. Photo by George Miller

After more than three years of visiting and even longer being fascinated by its role, I’ve become a member of the Pen & Pencil Club, the country’s oldest press club, dating to 1892.

The private club, in a narrow shotgun building between parking garages on a narrow alleyway, requires sponsored membership, and following months of recent scheduling conflicts, Swarthmore Professor, former Daily News photographer, Pulitzer Prize winner and friend Jim MacMillan helped sign me into the club on Monday, March 26.

I’ve happily gone a few times since, each time with a friend in the press, and I’m eager to become more of a regular, being respectful of the club’s long history and existing members.

From awards and a journalism open house to coworking, media criticism and more, I’ll be interested in learning what leadership hopes to do with the famed P&P, following a recent renovation of its ground floor.