Settling into Boston

It’s been a very busy few weeks here in Boston, and I can’t say I feel grounded just yet! But I’m getting there.

I’m trying to spend a lot of time at The Boston Globe, and it’s been great. I’m really impressed by the Opinion/Ideas team; everyone is so incredibly knowledgeable about all of the issues affecting this city.

I have submitted my first Globe column – it’s on South Sudan – which may be out in a few days. But while I’m here, I’d also like to focus on Metro and National issues. The problem is: where to begin? Starting this week I’m trying to meet with activists, organizations and influential people for some wide-ranging interviews that can help me figure out where to focus my energies. I came into this fellowship with a goal of doing metro-level reporting on various social justice issues, with a particular focus on inequality – be it in education, housing, income, etc.

One big issue that is currently a point of huge contention here is charter schools. When this state goes to the polls in November, it will face a ballot question on whether a cap on the number of charter schools in in Massachusetts should be lifted. People from both sides have come to make their case in front of the Boston Globe opinion/editorial board. After hearing these opposing viewpoints, I’ve been thinking a lot about some particular facets I’d love to dig into… This week, I’ll chat with my editors and see what advice they have.

I’m also auditing two classes this semester – one on finance, and one on American political institutions. After three years away, I felt like these subjects can give me me some solid ground from which to report on current events in this crazy country.

I’m also taking a class in photography at the Boston Center for Adult Education, from instructor Chris Padgett. (I got the idea from my Neuffer-Fellow-predecessors, Louisa Reynolds!) I’ve already worked as a photographer, in a sense – which is to say, my photos have been published in major outlets. My shameful secret is that I was always, always using the ‘auto’ setting. But not anymore! The class is proving very useful – after just three sessions I already feel more confident about making good use of all the various settings on my old DSLR. After this course I may even have to invest in a new camera! But let’s take things one step at a time…

In other news, last week was HubWeek, which is basically a series of educational events put on with the support of the Globe, MIT, Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital. At one event, for example, I went on a field trip to Dorchester, where I learned about one community’s history – full of booms and busts, growth and decline – from an influential resident and activist named Bill Walczak. And I went to another session on podcasts, hosted by some of Boston’s best producers/hosts/sound engineers. I’m not interested in getting into podcasts exactly, but I would love to learn more about radio recording so that I can become more of a multimedia journalist.

By lucky chance, I also met some members of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, or BINJ. It seems like a great organization that helps talented journalists dig into long-term enterprise stories, and I’m going to do everything I can to get involved with these people, and learn from their expertise.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. In case you couldn’t tell, the past month has been Full. Of. Stuff. And that’s a little disorienting, so starting this week I’m going to find a focal point or two – like seizing on one issue in the Boston Metro area that I can work on, meaningfully, in the time I have left. Which, suddenly, doesn’t feel like that much time at all!

Wish me luck, and thanks for reading!