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Driving to fly-over country

On Monday we drive to Columbia, Mo. where I am joining the Missouri School of Journalism faculty as a professor and Knight Chair in Digital Editing and Producing.

The official announcement is here.

I can’t begin to describe how exciting this opportunity is. Mizzou is the oldest journalism school in the country. (Also the best – don’t @ me.) The “Missouri Method,” where students work in six on-campus professional newsrooms and two full-service strategic communication agencies, teaches with a perfect mix of theory and practice.

Additionally, there are just two dozen Knight Chairs in Journalism around the country, all of whom (current and past) are amazing talents and I am humbled to join their ranks. Many thanks to the Knight Foundation for endowing faculty positions that allow career professionals to, “practice journalism, teach innovative classes, and create experimental projects and new programs that help advance journalism excellence in the digital age.”

Starting in August my focus will be in the classroom, working with the Mizzou newsrooms and agencies on digital editing and product development, and serving whatever roles I can in support of innovation, audience focus and entrepreneurship within the school and across the industry. There will be more to say on that once I actually unpack my office.

I am indebted to more than a dozen people for their help in my career search since I left McClatchy. I have been and will continue to express my gratitude personally. Hopefully you all know who you are and how much I value your advice and insights. I do need to publicly thank Professor Mike McKean for his work chairing the search committee and Dean Dave Kurpius for extending the invitation to join the amazing Mizzou faculty.

As an aside, during my first visit to campus in March several people asked if moving to the middle of Missouri was a concern. They may have detected my slight East Coast residency bias: Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire (twice), Virginia, Massachusetts and North Carolina.

The question prompted a bit of research. Turns out, I have lived in 18 locations – 13 with Annette (sorry about all the moves!) – and the most recent six with Josh. The farthest I have been from Interstate 95 is 44 miles (Belmont, N.H.) and the closest was 1.2 miles (Orono, Maine) Overall, the median distance has been 14 miles from the highway and 30 from the Atlantic Ocean. If I am reading this map correctly, Columbia is 800 miles from both.

Aside from the 14-hour drive, the entire family is looking forward to the change of scene. For Josh, high school starts almost 90 minutes later in the morning. For Annette, Central time means the Red Sox wrap up around 9 p.m. most nights. For me, as a soon-to-be official resident of Missouri I can safely make Midwest dad jokes (starting with the above headline.)

For the record: No, I will not be taking sides in the North Carolina v.s. Kansas City barbecue wars. I think in this divided political climate everyone can agree that all barbecue is good. And yes, I am now obligated to pay attention to another local ritual called “college football.” It is apparently quite popular there. Regretfully, Missouri doesn’t play Liverpool, but I am still willing to watch and learn.

Go Tigers!