Leaving AJ+ but wow, what a ride!


Let’s not bury the lede. I’m going to be leaving AJ+ where I’ve been an Executive Producer for the last year. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I’ve been given an opportunity at Advance Publications to work on some new and exciting initiatives (that will be another blog post soon). I’ll at least say this: Whenever you are faced with two awesome alternatives – you should consider yourself lucky. And I do.

In my career I’ve had lots of opportunities to explore new space and ideas. I walk away from each having learned about the industry, myself and gained new skills and maturity. AJ+ is no exception to this. I’ve loved being a part of AJ+ and witnessing its coalescing over the last year. As an experience AJ+ has been more than I could have hoped for.

When I joined AJ+ a year ago the Facebook page had just over 50,000 likes. Recently it surpassed a million. And it’s not unreasonable to have a video that gets a few million views on any given week. This is a not so humble-brag way of saying: It has been an incredible ride and I consider myself lucky to have been a part of AJ+’s rapid growth. When I first joined I remember getting strange reactions from colleagues. “You joined something called ‘AJ+’ owned by Al Jazeera?” Today – my friends and colleagues know exactly what AJ+ is and comment on how much its style has become influential.

Here’s the kicker: I can’t say that I’ve played any “pivotal” role in the operation. And don’t read that the wrong way. It’s my way of pointing out just how awesome the operation at AJ+ is. A few notes off the top of my head.

  • I’m willing to bet AJ+ is one of the more diverse newsrooms in the country. It is a wealth of experiences, backgrounds, languages, knowledge and ideas.
  • It’s chock-full with talent. From animators/designers, presenters to video producers, editors and a whip-smart engagement and social team. The crew at AJ+ is sharp and ready to cut.
  • Combine the two above with a solid strategy and you have a recipe for success.

Everyone was fantastic to work with. Don’t forget AJ+ itself started about a year ago. Creating a work culture/vibe isn’t easy. Especially out of thin air while work needs to get done asap. I like to think I played a small role in this (next week I hope to share a management tip I began practicing mid-way through my experience). Slowly but surely everything and everyone has gelled together. Showing up to work felt like this.

davidkick(a Gif the team made for me on my birthday)

I expect big things for AJ+ in the future. I think it’s just hitting its stride. Which also makes it really hard to leave because I know only more great things are going to come for the organization.

Larger media thoughts

I joined AJ+ because I believe the future of video news will be dramatically changed by social/mobile. Where TV once was the center of gravity, you can see that center shifting. Which means storytelling formats will need to change, and AJ+ is pioneering these formats. I also appreciated AJ+’s dedication to audience engagement which is palpable. The first element (the changing nature of video) has become even more obvious. If you are in the video/news business and you aren’t paying attention to leaders like AJ+ and NowThisNews – it is to your own peril. And the second continues to be AJ+’s secret ingredient. It’s that extra mix of “Thousand Island Dressing” that makes an In-And-Out Burger the supreme delight that it is. This doesn’t need to be complicated or rocket science. But it does need to be intentional. You can’t accidentally find this ingredient. It just shows a little extra love in the product.

I will be watching AJ+ and cheering them along. Perhaps with a little nostalgia and jealously wishing I was still a part of the team. The good news. I’m staying in the Bay Area, so I fully expect to swing by the office on occasion and distract people from getting their work done (something I’m great at already!!!).

I want to thank everyone at AJ+. I could easily write a special little “you rock” note to each of them and that’s why I won’t call out anyone out by name (for fear of leaving anyone out). But hey gang – hit me up on email and I’ll write a little haiku about what our time together meant to me.

Below is a little something (slightly edited) I wrote for the one year anniversary. I wanted to share it here as another kind of public ode to what AJ+ has meant to me and what I expect of the team going forward.

Dearest team

Today there was a party for one year at AJ+. I am sorry I missed the occasion. Some of us just couldn’t physically be there. Some are no longer with AJ+ but our hearts are all united through the great work we’ve done in the past year.

I have been honored to do editorial battle with you this past year. Through it all we’ve learned a TON. About ourselves, each other and this crazy thing we call the internet. One of the interesting takeaways from the event I was at on Monday came from Emily Bell and she put it this way: 2015 will be remembered as the year platforms became publishers.

That’s a kind of brave new world.

But not to you! You’ve lived and breathed it. Dare I say – we’ve grown to wear it and wear it well:wink:

Any startup project can make it to a 1-year anniversary. But it takes an amazing team to make it there in style. To make it through the trials and tribulations and be able to call each other colleagues/friends and badass journalists. It takes moxy to make it to that one year anniversary having become an industry leader in the bold new world of social publishing. That is not just something that happens – it is an accomplishment!!

And for all these reasons and more – I salute you.

And of course. I would be remiss if I did not end this with…… ONWARD!

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