When I landed in New York City in June 2008, it was heady times for TPM. I arrived from Belgrade, where I had accepted an international press freedom award for TPM’s work on the U.S. attorneys scandal. While there, I had been approached by a representative of the Pulitzer Prize, inquiring about how the eligibility rules for the award could be expanded to include digital native news outlets like TPM.
From the outside looking in, it might have appeared that TPM had arrived. But on the inside, we were paddling fiercely to keep things afloat and to compete in a news and business environment where everyone else seemed bigger and better funded. It was a mark of how busy we were just to survive that, beyond a few courteous email exchanges, I never found time to help bring the Pulitzers into the digital age. Belated apologies for that, Sig.
My stop in New York was brief but eventful. I met Josh Marshall and the rest of the team for the first time. I had known Josh virtually for three years by this point and been affiliated with TPM for two years, but I hadn’t met any TPMers in person.
Longtime readers know the outlines of the story: I had been practicing law in Missouri, an ex-journalist intrigued by the dawning of the digital media age. I became a source and a resource for Josh and TPM. In a quirk of time and place, Josh asked for me to substitute for him on occasion. That turned into a regular weekend gig. Eventually I left the practice of law and came aboard as editor-at-large, before settling into the managing editor role. For the first few years, I oversaw the editorial operations remotely from Missouri, until I uprooted my first and second graders and moved to Washington to open TPM’s DC bureau in 2009.
It has been a crazy ride, but in the most challenging times for TPM, as a business and as a journalistic enterprise, I have been reminded of a Burmese journalist I met when I was in Belgrade. His outlet, Mizzima News, had won the same award the year before TPM. Exiled to New Delhi, they smuggled news and information out of Myanmar. Their sources risked their lives. Their families back home were under constant threat. The government was actively working to thwart their news-gathering efforts and to punish anyone who cooperated with them. Nothing TPM did then or does now compared to that, and I felt some personal embarrassment about being hailed alongside those who put so much on the line to do their work.