My connection to Oklahoma began in 2004, when I came here for college. I grew up in Colorado and had been lured to OU by a scholarship, which I accepted without knowing all that much about the place. (“Sooner than what?”) Over the next four years, I became attached to the state, as you do with the places where you spend your formative years and have the experiences that set your trajectory. Among those experiences, for me, was getting hired as a columnist at the OU Daily student paper by a guy with the weird name Tres Savage.
My time at OU launched me into things I never would have believed I’d get to do: I studied English literature at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar; I moved to New York for journalism school; I got a job at The New Yorker magazine and worked my way up to a desk with a stunning view.
I can’t tell you when or how exactly the idea of moving back to Oklahoma started bouncing around in my head. On paper, I guess it was a counterintuitive career move. It had something to do with a desire for space, both literal — the sky really does seem bigger here — and mental. It also had something to do with a feeling that, of all the places I’ve lived, Oklahoma has the most tangible sense of community. It’s hard to say what exactly I mean by that, but when I talk to people here, I sense a level of engagement with local life that I think is pretty special.
But these are all vague, journalistically unsound personal impressions. More concretely, I realized that if I was going to dedicate my career to journalism, I didn’t want to spend it all at a desk in a fancy Manhattan office building.
The value of local narratives
In 2018, I happened to be in Oklahoma visiting friends during the teacher walkout, and I wrote about it for The New Yorker. The experience of reporting that piece, though brief, was exhilarating, and it made me want to reconnect with the issues and personalities and events that shape life in Oklahoma. It made me a bit jealous of the local journalists, such as Tres and the rest of the NonDoc crew, who could cover that story not as a flash-in-the-pan national-scale event but as a chapter in a long and continuously unfolding local narrative that wouldn’t be over after the national news crews had packed up their cameras and left.
Local journalism might not be the most visible place to work in this industry, but it’s where the stakes are highest and the need is greatest, and I decided that I wanted to be part of it.
So when I heard that NonDoc was hiring a managing editor, it seemed like a perfect fit. I’m excited to use what I’ve learned in my career so far to help NonDoc grow and expand, and I’m even more excited to get my feet on the ground and participate in this work.
I have a lot of people to meet and a lot to learn, and I’m looking forward to getting to know Oklahoma City and the rest of the state. But I will add that if you see me out driving, you might want to steer clear. I haven’t had a car in about a decade, and I might be a public-safety hazard for a few weeks.