June 1, 2010

Are you a closet entrepreneur? InvestigateWest editor helps you decide

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Wow, I'm on 'the road to Vegas.'

That's where John Ensslin put me when he launched his blog on programming for this year's Society of Professional Journalists convention in Las Vegas. It's coming up in October, and I'm on the program with a presentation called, "Crap, my paper closed!"

Ensslin is the legal affairs reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette, but he sure gets the subject, because he used to work for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, which closed a couple of short months before the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, my former employer. The closure of the P-I just over a year ago launched the founding InvestigateWest, an independent, nonprofit investigative journalism center serving the Pacific Northwest.

His first blog is on my presentation, and you can read it here. I'm flattered John wanted to write about my experience, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with more folks at SPJ.

So far, InvestigateWest has released some important stories on issues like toxic parking lot sealants and campus sexual assault, and we've got several more nearing completion. Our staff is hard at work on stories that will surprise you, and make you happy that journalists are still there working to keep corporate and governmental institutions accountable. But I can tell you that it takes courage and blind faith some days to be out there doing what we're doing in a news industry undergoing as much upheaval and transition as this one. But the change brings opportunity and a chance to try new approaches to find new audiences. And that's why InvestigateWest is here.

John asked a lot of good questions. I liked this one a lot, because it helps people identify whether they might be an entrepreneur at heart!

Not all journalists have the entrepreneurial instincts that you’ve displayed. Where did you pick up that talent? Did you even know you had it until you needed it?

A: How do you answer this question: Is failure an acceptable risk of success? Are you willing to find out if something works by risking failure? If the answer is yes, you may have the entrepreneurial gene. If you’re not willing to risk failure, you may not have it.

Before I launched InvestigateWest, I might not have described myself as an entrepreneur. But I was always willing to risk failure on an innovative approach to a story or project or management task to determine if there was a better way of doing things. If you’re not risk-averse, you may be a closet entrepreneur!

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