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Thirty-two months ago to the day, I entered the old Washington City Paper office in Adams Morgan and was handed the proverbial keys to this blog. It was a daunting prospect, as people were not shy about pointing out: When I met then-Councilmember Jim Graham during my first week on the job, he asked me pointedly why I agreed to take this job, given that I couldn’t possibly fill the big shoes left by my prodigious predecessor, Lydia DePillis.
Plenty of friendly people offered to help ease me into the challenge. Within a few days of starting at the paper, I’d had coffee with multiple sources who generously shared their wisdom via a blur of acronyms that I dutifully jotted down before returning to the office and looking them up to try to piece together what the hell they’d been talking about. (“The trouble with IZ is that the 80 percent AMI units aren’t exactly helping TANF or SSDI recipients…”)
Thirty-two months later, I know as much about IZ and AMI as the bounds of human sanity will allow, if not more. I’ve covered an expansive beat that extended well beyond what the Housing Complex name suggests—-development, transportation, education, poverty, demography, and more—-before settling back into a focus on housing itself, arguably D.C.’s most pressing issue.
And now, finally, it’s time to move on. Today is my final day at City Paper; later this week, I’ll be starting a new job as senior editor at Mother Jones magazine. I won’t be going far: Mother Jones‘ D.C. bureau is all of three-and-a-half blocks away from City Paper headquarters. And I do hope to stick with some of the topics I’ve covered here, so please continue to keep the tips coming.
But before I go, I’d like to offer up some heartfelt thanks to my greatest asset during my time at City Paper: you. Without the constant input from my readers, I couldn’t have done a fraction of the work I’ve undertaken. Thank you for sharing the goings-on in your neighborhoods and at your work. Thanks for all of your persistent pestering, via email and phone and Twitter. Thanks for not letting me get away with a wrong neighborhood name or an incomplete historical context or a sloppy construction. Thanks for the steady stream of story ideas that I struggled every day to keep up with. Thanks even for the vitriolic, name-calling comments, which were so much better informed and more insightful than vitriolic, name-calling comments I’ve seen anywhere else.
The hunt for my successor is already getting underway, so hopefully you won’t have to go too long without your Housing Complex fix. In the meantime, make sure to keep up with the coverage of the best reporters in the local D.C. game: my colleagues Will Sommer and Jessica Sidman, City Paper‘s stable of tremendous freelancers, and reporters elsewhere like Jonathan O’Connell, Michael Neibauer, Patrick Madden, Martin Austermuhle, Perry Stein, Aaron Davis, and so many others.
And once my successor is installed, do give him or her all the benefits you gave me (including the jargon hazing, please). I’m sure he or she will exceed me in many ways, because here’s my dirty little secret: When the Association of Alternative Newsmedia named Housing Complex the best blog in America under both Lydia and me, it’s not because we were superlative reporters. It’s because the subjects we covered—-summed up: the tremendous changes the city is undergoing and the challenges they pose—-were so ripe, so endlessly fascinating, and so woefully under-covered in the District. There are more great stories on this beat than a single reporter can possibly cover. I can’t wait to read all the ones my successor will write, and I hope you all remain fans long after I’m gone.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery