So friends, our dear ENC Eddie James Ronks The Fourth ((Ed Ronco)) is doing his darndest to save a radio station out here in the Emerald City. They’ve crossed the halfway point, but there’s still a long way to go to hit $7 million by June.

If you’re a longtime Puget Sound resident, you might not have had the opportunity to live in a community without a thriving public radio news outlet. Trust me as someone who makes cross-country drives listening to NPR: it’s rare. Verrrrrrrrrrry rare. We need to preserve this valuable asset we are fortunate to have taken for granted.

If you know Ed from school, maybe you’re thinking, “Ed gets things done, I’m sure he’s doing just fine with this ENORMOUS UNDERTAKING because he’s kind of a force of nature. A gentle, druid-like force.” And you’re not wrong, but I really think that for this project, we need to summon the ‪#‎citydesk‬ ‪#‎campusdesk‬ ‪#‎Udown2die4this‬ crew. Because ‪#‎SpartansWill‬ and I’m sure you’ll agree that this ‪#‎MarchMadness‬ was a bit of a bust.

Do you know that KPLU hasn’t been able to hire an education reporter because of this crazy buyout situation? And, in a brief tangent, I need to point out that the Seattle Times is also hiring an editorial person with expertise in education? Good things, scary things, and crazy things related to education are happening in this region, and I’m desperate for those stories to be told. We don’t have the capacity right now to tell even a fraction of them.

A few months ago I snarkily told Ed over Hawaiian pancakes at Kona Kitchen (I dragged the poor guy all through my first neighborhood) that if they didn’t save the news station, the jazz station that will allegedly replace it wouldn’t matter because jazz only happens when we cover news and build that community connection. My tone could have used adjusting, but I think there’s still truth in that statement.

I left journalism because it got too broken for me to be a healthy contributor.Ed Ronco and the other folks working to tell stories all across the nation and the world are still fighting that battle every single day. I want us all to be in that room where it happens, so I hope you’ll join me.

Click here for the Save KPLU Ambassador Kit.

This piece was originally posted on my Facebook page.

A Tale of Two Articles

Ever since I learned that you could make your living as a nonfiction writer, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.

I had a few plum internships, my final one sending me to the Florida Times-Union. The job was stressful and enjoyable, but two main articles stick in my mind seven years later.

The first is essentially the reason I left journalism.

Cause of death released for pair.

My metro editor deserves mad props for giving this story to a metro intern rather than one of the other three cops and courts reporters. Except that I didn’t really want to call a family to tell them their parents were buried alive. At all. Ever. Calling them was the biggest regret I have in my reporting career. My and my editor’s choices were questioned by the alternate weekly, and even by our conservative editorial board. As a human, I do not regret my choices. I can see how a journalist might disagree with me.

Earlier that month, I called L. Patrick Gray’s son to add to the AP’s obituary. L. Patrick Gray was in charge of the FBI during the Deep Throat scandal in 1972-73. Ed Gray called me back as I was leaving the Jacksonville Police Department, where I had just finished sifting through the police reports for the day. I sat in the lobby, a bit unprepared for his call. I asked him all the questions I usually asked for obituary stories, about his life, about their last times together, etc. I figured the AP would have all the Watergate and Deep Throat details. Plus, my knowledge of post-1920 history was woefully minimal (nice work, Stevenson High School), and I didn’t want to look like an idiot.

As our interview reached its end, I thanked Ed for his time and expressed my sympathies. Ed cleared his throat; he’d ostensibly been talking to reporters for the bulk of the day. “Thank you,” he said. “You know, you’re the first reporter I’ve talked to all day who has actually asked me about my father.”


I’m glad I’m no longer a reporter, but I still love nonfiction. I hope you join me in 2012 for the Sibert Challenge. More information to come.