How Did I End Up In Journalism?

There is a logistical and ideological story. I have tried to capture both.

Life can be a war and everyone picks their battles.

Which is to say – everyone has a passion. One is lucky if they are able to identify it. Even more so if they are put in a position to pursue it. But answering that internal call can be one of the most satisfying of decisions. If life IS a war – then it is better to choose your battles, on the fronts and fields that you are passionate about – rather than feel like a cog in someone’s brigade.

It was sometime in college, while working on my honors thesis in rhetoric, that I became fascinated with media and in particular journalism.

My thesis was about the “evolution of communication.” I constantly referred to the “evolution in the exchange of information.”

I still believe, as I discuss in my thesis, that one of the most important parts of a healthy culture (not just a “democracy” but a culture) is the honest exchange of information which includes a critique of that culture by every generation. Without an honest exchange of information a culture suffers from pathologies.

This was the thrust of my academic studies at UC Berkeley. I was double majoring at the time in rhetoric, where I had two very inspiring professors, and philosophy where, in truth – I had none.

I was also working at the student library. Yes….. I was a librarian.

My freshman and sophomore year I lived with one of my best friends from high school. It was a blast, but he could also be a cold character. As many of our mutual friends (and roommates) were planning their Junior year abroad, I decided to move into a studio and live alone for a year. I jokingly called it my “Junior year inboard.”

You learn a lot about yourself when you live alone. Every moment of every day is up to you. There is something very liberating about that which I still miss. It was during that year that I wrote and recorded my own album (maybe one day I’ll upload those songs). To really dive into living alone I took classes over the summer while most students left the campus. I’ll never forget the night I took myself out on a date to see Matrix II alone, as 95% of my friends were back home for summer vacation. That might sound depressing, but coming from my high school experience (another post) I relished being alone.

The following fall I became friends with an eccentric co-worker at the library who was also a philosophy major. To give a sense of his eccentricities – to this date he has the record for most books checked out from the library at any one time. It was in the several thousands, if I recall. Visiting his North Berkeley abode was “a trip.” He lived in the attic of an older woman’s house and books were stacked into piles in some order that made sense to only him.

He asked me if I wanted to join him and a friend in creating an undergraduate philosophy journal that they had started the year before. It was completely student run. Well, it was really run by just the two of them. Maybe I was board. Maybe I was curious. But I joined him to discuss it with his partner in crime and the younger apprentice that he had chosen as well. The four of us got to work.

The undergraduate philosophy journal at UC Berkeley, Harvest Moon, is still going. I was the managing editor in its second and third years. I am still in touch with the other three founding editors. We had a reunion at one of our weddings recently (crap, my college friends are getting married!)

The work put into the journal was enormous. We had to raise the money for it.  We received one grant, we lobbied the student government, etc. We had to do the design ourselves. We learned InDesign. We had to solicit, edit, re-edit and copy-edit the student papers. We worked with the printers, etc.

I loved producing the journal. But by the end of each year, I was sick of philosophy. I am happy I majored in it – but it is difficult to find a more self-righteous group of people in the world than undergraduate philosophy majors.

So when the opportunity came to be the managing editor of the literary arts magazine at UC Berkeley, I went for it. Now in my senior year the magazine was handed down to one of my roommates and the two of us worked on it together.

Again, I loved having worked on this publication but it was filled with poetry, short stories, and other flowery types of writing that didn’t appeal to me.

And then it hit me. I was dabbling in media. I had a belief that information needs to be honest and “mutual,” that this is a condition for individual freedom. Combining the two would lead me to journalism. I volunteered for the Daily Cal and wrote a few stories for them. Nothing too special. It was mid-year my senior year and anyone who works at a college newspaper knows that it’s an all or nothing thing. I tried to defy that by volunteering a few articles here and there.

Then I started interning. The only thing I could get was at the “Nob Hill Gazette.” I’ll never forget that. My bosses were two old women named Martha and Merla. I still giggle and picture them over a boiling cauldron chanting “boil boil, toil and trouble.” I spent my time filling photos of famous/rich people.

But I was persistent and ideological. After I graduated the search for real work continued.

One of the worst summers of my life was when I first moved to San Francisco.

I was applying to internships and jobs like crazy. Ideally something related to journalism, but I was ready for anything.

On the drive up from Los Angeles moving some of my final things I got a all back from the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco for a job interview. I got that job and spent most of it answering the phone “Shalom, JCC – this is David how may I help you.” At night that phrase would repeat through my head like a catchy commercial jingle that just won’t shut up. This was the second worst job I’ve ever had. We had to stand on the job. There was no chair, and being behind a desk nowhere to pace. Standing at attention for hours at a time, even when young, can destroy your back.

I also had an internship at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco for a whopping $45 a month. This was a blast and the only thing that kept me going during this time.

The room in my new apartment wasn’t ready (I ended up living here for 2 years and it was one of the best living situations of my life). Since I didn’t have a room – I was sleeping on couches and living out of my car. Every morning I would go to my car, assemble my bike, ride to one of my two places of work. If it was the JCC, I’d bring my black pants, blue shirt and name tag (UGH). At night, I’d disassemble my bike, try to find a parking spot where I wouldn’t get a ticket and figure out whose couch I could crash on.

I spent a good amount of the time at the JCC on Craigslist trolling for other jobs. One was for….


I still can’t believe I got the paid internship at Wired News. At $10 an hour it paid better than the JCC and I’d be working in journalism. Even better, my father was subscribed to Wired (he’s a total nerd) and after I got my first byline he stopped questioning the journalism route.

Just as the internship was ending the assistant editor took her maternity leave and instead of kicking me out, the job extended and I picked up more hours. Eventually I had to quit the Commonwealth Club.

My time at Wired was amazing and the start of a real career for me. In a stroke of genius (or oversight) they let me hire my replacement when I decided to move to New York. I am proud to say that his title wasn’t “intern.” In fact, to my knowledge I was the last intern ever at Wired News. My replacement, who was dating my roommate at the time, is still working there today. Sometimes I wonder if I had stayed – would I be working at Wired today and how my life/career would be different.

But my drive for journalism wasn’t just to cover technology or to study the evolution in how information is exchanged. My passion wasn’t to observe these changes, but to take part and shape them.

The flow of information is integral to society. It can be manipulated for good or for ill. I’ve seen first hand how negative forces influence the flow and content of information. And that ….. is why I have landed to where I am. Pushing boundaries so that more people can participate in the flow of information. So that the flow is transparent, honest, and allows people to communicate and find themselves through community.

4 thoughts on “How Did I End Up In Journalism?”

  1. well david-this is great. very interesting. i hope you will continue & tell us how you came up with the idea for spotus & crowd sourcing- i think it’s a great thing. i am a poet & playwright but have always kept a journal. i wrote down what was happening around me & what i saw & heard. i called it the journal-american and most of my work came out of it. lately i’ve become more interested in journalism (& media) & have been following “real” journalist. i like reading about how they work. okok say hey 2 kitty. . . thanks & regards, sk

  2. I’m quite certain the experience you’ve gotten from not working for a publication or web service and trying your own hand is the best thing you could have done, even if you end up back at someone else’s some day.

    Of course, working for others is also good even if you end up leaving and working for yourself. ; )

  3. Curious if there were any key events in the news that pushed you in the direction of journalism. For me, it was the start of the Iraq war in 2003 and the election in 2004.

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