tjdegroat dot com

a work in progress

This Thing On?

More than a year after joining the editorial team at WaPo Labs (part of The Washington Post Co.) it still strikes me as odd that I’m once again a real, honest-to-God journalist. I really thought my various steps into the marketing world had killed my news ambitions. Just as odd: the very different realities facing news professionals now vs. during my DiversityInc days in 2005.

Of course, part of that is due to the actual job itself. As a writer in 2005, I was very focused on cranking out copy for the website and, later, the print magazine. No real thoughts about clicks or traffic from the writers themselves. A little bit of communication with readers, via email. But certainly no real push for community or sharing content via anything but the publication itself. As a more general editor in 2013, there’s this thing called social media. The majority of my copy is restricted to bite-sized blurbs fit for Facebook updates, tweets and G+ posts. Then there are those pesky future-of-news questions we’re trying to solve at Labs. (No big deal.)

People talk about how dramatically the newspaper business has changed in the past couple of decades, but just thinking about how different things are now vs. in 2005 makes my head spin. Which may be a good thing. New perspective and all, right?

Fortunately, there are still opportunities to write, even on a Labs team focused more on developing new products than creating content. One of my favorites from the past few months is this explainer on the Supreme Court’s big same-sex marriage decision.

But now, back to the tweets.

Wanderlust

About three years ago the travel bug bit me — hard. Since then I’ve made it to Mexico at least once a year, including a rewarding nine-week trip in early 2009, to Spain twice and, earlier this year, to Argentina (with a quick jump across the río de la plata to Montevideo, Uruguay).

This passion for travel reflects my continued desire to master Spanish (Italy, Ireland: I’d love to meet you in person, but no se habla español). It also has pushed travel-related writing to the top of my journalistic career ambitions. As a freelancer, I’m solely focusing on stories about my travels right now and am excited to finally have published a trio of articles based on my experience in Mexico City. One is a first-person narrative about my time in the fabulous Condesa neighborhood, another shares my favorite food finds and the third offers tips I learned while taking Spanish classes. Check them out on the updated clips page.

A Decade of Blogging

This site was born in the spring of 2001, when I traded College Ave. in New Brunswick, N.J., for College Ave. in Oakland in an attempt to fast-track my journalism career. But my blogging effort actually began a year earlier, with a site I’ve tried to keep completely separate from this one, with mixed success. Why bother, especially when Google is such an unforgiving gossip? I guess I figured it was better to have a personal blog that did not in any way ‘taint’ my professional site, but it’s become increasingly bizarre to maintain the wall between the two. It’s been like having two close friends who, despite being in my life for 10 years, never have met.

Well, tjdegroat.com, meet vignette.org, once an old-school blog I updated as many as a dozen times a day (a la Twitter) and now a place where I occasionally share personal videos and photos but more often stick to discussing travel (next up: 5 weeks in Buenos Aires) and language learning. I’ve often thought about shutting down that space and moving everything over here, but for now I plan to stick with the distinct properties … although now we all can hang out together.

In other news, I recently spoke to friend Matt Baume about freelancing and I’ve been spending more time putting together posts for the Digg blogs, which you can check out here.

A New Beginning

This site began in 2001, when I was preparing to leave Rutgers a year early to try my luck as a full-time writer based in the Bay Area. I was sitting in a computer lab in the journalism building when I laid the foundation of the site, which received only one major upgrade between then and now (my 2003 drive to freelance full-time was aided by Ben Jenkins‘ lovely, clean and simple design).

Finally, after stumbling upon a WordPress-themed blog (randomly run by the owner of a Spanish-language school in Minnesota), I’m ready to reinvest some time into this site. The goal is to create a space for occasionally showcasing professional projects and for providing a base for the myriad links that make up my increasingly expanding online footprint.

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