ON JUNE 27, 1990, I was having dinner by the beach in Santa Barbara when I looked up and noticed the city was on fire. Within minutes we heard the sirens and my fellow restaurant patrons headed for the door and out of town, away from danger. I, however, slapped on my press pass and hurled toward the raging inferno.
Gay Talese, in The Kingdom and the Power, called journalists “restless voyeurs,” and he was right. We are also incredibly stupid, such as when I arrived at the fire line and realized I forgot to put my window back up after talking to a California Highway Patrol officer (important safety tip: if the fire doesn’t kill you, the smoke will.)
Nevertheless, we are indeed fascinated by the unknown, the dangerous. We are determined to get the story that no one else has, and are motivated by the satisfaction of doing something few others would dare to try. We drive into fires not because we aren’t afraid to die, but because we are afraid to die without first having lived.
Shortly after the fire I left daily journalism to interview inmates on Death Rows throughout the United States for a book I was writing about the death penalty. Then it was back to the newspaper before my next leap, this time to run political campaigns. I did pretty well, despite having the audacity to run a Democratic candidate against a Republican from Texas whose last name was Huffington. He was an empty suit but his (now ex) wife was always nice to me and very smart. I hear she now runs a blog, hope it’s doing okay.
From there I entered the world of PR, another jump into a strange environment. Thankfully I was 1) a total geek and 2) captivated by this tool called a “Web Browser,” which led to my creation of a digital PR practice long before anyone, including myself, knew what that was. I then started my own digital marketing agency with a great partner – just as the Internet bubble burst. I'm blessed with good intentions but less than ideal timing.
Finally, almost four years ago, I came to Edelman to help build a digital practice on the West Coast. I was the only digital employee in California and one of only a handful in the entire time zone. Today Edelman Digital West is more than 65 strong, with great clients and a reputation to envy.
I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished; my last four years have easily been my greatest professional triumph. I did what I came here to do.
NOW ANOTHER CHALLENGE IS calling. I’m leaving Edelman to join an exciting digital agency with offices in New York and San Francisco. I will miss Edelman terribly, but It’s time for me to build once more.
Before I left Edelman, I told the team how proud I was of them. I told them to keep pushing their clients to tell stories and not just “create content.” I told them to remember that what they do is rooted in sociology and emotion, not technology and tools.
Most of all, I urged them to support each other; learn from each other; and continue to forge paths where others fear to tread. Good advice for all of us to follow.
So, at last, here it is. The road is open.
Here I go.
Into the fire, once again.