My time in Missouri

As many friends and colleagues know I recently received a fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. The fellowship will let me continue to work on Spot.Us, expanding it to more places around the country and define community-focused sponsorships.

This nine-month journey (an academic year) began this week.

There will be many professional related opportunities during my time here at one of the country’s best journalism schools. I hope to chronicle them on my personal blog, MediaShift, The Reynolds blog and elsewhere. If you are a regular reader, you know the majority of this blog is about the future of news and information. That will not change during my time here. In fact, I suspect it will become richer.

But this post will be about me. Hey, it’s my blog.

In response to the odd look people give me when I tell them I’m moving to Missouri I’ve been repeating the phrase: “it’ll be a life experience.”

I’ve lived in three places in this great country. There is a part of me that belongs to each of them. I love the saying “live in San Francisco but leave before it makes you soft. Live in New York but leave before it makes you too hard.” I can relate to both and I’d add: “live in Los Angeles but leave before it makes you insane.” I am intimately tied and defined by LA, SF and New York. A part of me wants to take the rest of this post to rant about my experiences in each city and how they’ve shaped me. I could write forever about growing up in Los Angeles and being a product of LAUSD (best experience possible), going to school at UC Berkeley and living in SF or my time in New York where I still feel at home. Many people are surprised to find out I’m not a native New Yorker and truth be told, in another life I could have settled down there very easily (most of my friends are still there). But I’ll spare you that personal nostalgia. This is a post about what’s happening right now.

My hope for this time in Missouri is that I will be humbled – but I will leave before I become too humbled.

I am irrevocably a city-boy. I have only lived in major metropolitan cities on either coast. I have never lived outside of a liberal/democrat city with a diverse population. I don’t write this to point out superiority (which is too often the assumption of my city-dwelling friends) but to highlight my background and how this might influence me.

The last two days I’ve biked all around Columbia Missouri. I ate at my first Waffle House. It was AMAZING. I also ate at a Mexican Restaurant out here. It was HORRIBLE. I guess a guy can’t have it all.

So far my time in Missouri has been great (all four days). I live with Will Sullivan from Journerdism which is really cool. I hope to learn a lot from him. If at the end of this fellowship Will can’t form full sentences, it’s because my mind-sucking machine worked (mmuuuahahahaha).

It is a little slice of America here. Or at least – a different slice than what I’ve been served my whole life. It’s all the little things. The lack of fences and open spaces between houses. The loud Sakata Cicada bugs (Yelvington pointed out the spelling error – it shows how little I know). The bunny rabbit I’ve seen on my block several times now. The massive tailgating I witnessed biking past the football stadium. The broke down bar around the corner from me where the entire bar said goodbye to man named “Cadillac,” who had what can only be described as an “epic” beard.

I am inherently a city-boy (as somebody at the Bar called me when I told them where I’ve lived). You can take the boy out of the city – but it’s still in me.

But I am not a city snob. One thing that originally drew me to journalism was the idea of getting to know other folks doing their thing, being who they are. It’s easy for a city-boy to judge. But that’s the lazy route. That’s the “damn liberals” or “stupid conservatives” route that has divided this country. I’m here to learn. I’m here to explore. I feel like a puppy exposed to a new environment, smelling all that she can or the boy from the R.E.M. video “It’s the end of the world as we know it“).

But what song really comes to mind is Simon and Garfunkle – America. The personal irony here is that “The Only Living Boy in New York” was one of a few songs that gave me strength and chills when I lived in Brooklyn. In fact, that song still has significant personal meaning. I suspect “America” will do the same for my time in Missouri. Strange how songs can do that. But the truth is – my time here is just beginning. It will be a life experience. I will capture occasional moments on my personal side blog. This main blog will remain what it is – my rants, raves, thoughts and desires for the future of media, news and journalism. But since moving to a foreign place is one of the more momentous changes a person can go through, I hope you excuse this personal post.


The Only Living Boy in New York.

5 thoughts on “My time in Missouri”

  1. The strange thing is, I had pretty much the exact experience when I moved to LA, except reversed.

    I grew up in Iowa, and you’re a stone’s throw from the KC Star, where I began my career. The Midwest is my heart.

    The things I miss about that part of the country: 1) biscuits and gravy from a honest-to-god diner 2) the forest (like, the REAL forest). It’s the sense of calm that comes with a river, a lake, a country path. 3) The tenderness in people that really is missing on some level in big cities.

    I hope you like your time, sir. I have some great friends out that way who could certainly show you ’round the city, if need be.

  2. @Kim

    I didn’t know you were from the Midwest. I can imagine now what it would be like to do the reverse – especially to LA (where I grew up).

    Almost two weeks in – I’m having a great time – although it feels humid all the time (I’ll probably pray for this humidity in the winter). Still getting used to the cicada bugs – but having a blast.

    Give my love to SoCal.

  3. As you probably know, I’ve only ever lived in LA, DC, and NY (I don’t count my years in SB b/c it’s basically like LA, socal and all). And I honestly envy your time in MO.

    I always consider myself a big city gal and actively applied to graduate schools only in huge metropolitan areas. I write off other places without ever having given them a chance.

    I sort of hope that one day, when (slash if) I get an academic teaching job, I’ll be forced to go somewhere other than the east or west coast and get over my stubbornness.

    Have so much fun. Don’t apologize about the personal blogging. Keep ’em coming!

  4. @Tanya

    I’m glad you like the personal updates. But you are bias. You are a friend of mine from ages gone by.

    I will say this – I really am enjoying my time. The only downside is leaving people behind in the Bay Area. Matt Freiberg just moved to the Bay and BOOM – I leave. The running joke is that we will never live in the same city again.

  5. It’s really edifying to read a post about someone else’s experience going from coasts to the Midwest. I had the same automatic response when I first got accustomed to the idea that I really decided to go to the Midwest for college: I’m challenging myself. Every region has its own culture.

    Up to that point, I had never been in a place more conservative and un-diverse than SW Ohio. My first impression: Road kill, road kill, road kill. Oh! And why aren’t there reflectors on the road? But a couple things that the Midwest has as a whole which can’t be beat: Unforgettable falls and the quintessential all-American breakfast.

    I have to admit, though, that I hated most of my time in Ohio. My friends reminded me constantly that it wasn’t Ohio, but Oxford and–more specifically–Miami. No one town is representative of a region as a whole.

    Getting myself mentally acclimated to move back to the Midwest from Portland was really difficult. Ohio kept popping up in the background, so when I arrived in Grand Rapids, I was shocked to find a very different culture with its own set of charms and oddities.

    I don’t plan to stay in the Midwest forever either. It’s not better or worse, just different. One thing I’ve learned, though: The Midwest can be lumped together about as much as LA and the Bay Area. As in, not that easily.

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