Stepping into values-first leadership, in a new way

Sisi sitting and laughing as she listens to the class.

Sisi teaching at the Data Institute, an intensive workshop that teaches journalists how to use data, design and code. (Photo by Andrew Wang, Data Institute Class of 2017)

After two and a half extraordinary years, my time at OpenNews is coming to a close. In a few weeks, I’ll be starting my next role at The Markup as their new editor-in-chief, and I’ll be bringing with me all the values we live everyday here at OpenNews and in our community.

Being at OpenNews has been transformative — I’ve learned deeply about how to create change, worked with so many of you to lead calls for change, and at a time when the world felt so full of uncertainty and hate, I found hope and a home in OpenNews, where my incredible colleagues Erika Owens and Ryan Pitts made me feel always safe, always supported, and always like I genuinely belong.

In many ways, what’s next is an extension of my work at OpenNews. I’ve been an investigative journalist and editor for most of my career. Marrying that experience with the crucial work we’ve done at OpenNews is what shaped how I think about and understand change. I’m so excited to take everything we’re always learning as a community — whether it’s how we can most equitably recruit and grow, or how we can best collaboratively serve our communities — and get the opportunity to turn what I’ve learned into action.

When I first joined OpenNews in February of 2020, I said I couldn’t “think of a better community to tackle journalism’s biggest problems, and to transform journalism collectively and help it keep evolving into the future.” Looking back, that statement still rings true. I’m so proud of all the work we’ve done at OpenNews, hand-in-hand with our community, whether that’s all the ways we focused on community care, co-creating the DEI Coalition to push for lasting change in the industry, all the deep and meaningful relationships we’ve built at three virtual, mid-year SRCCONs, or all our work understanding our collective power and how to wield it.

It has also been an absolute honor for me to get to work at, and then co-lead, an organization that I’ve known and loved from its inception. My career grew up alongside OpenNews. When I was just starting out and finding my way on what it meant to tell powerful data and visual stories, OpenNews was there for me with behind-the-scenes technical breakdowns on Source and in-person SRCCON conversations about how we should work that I didn’t have access to elsewhere. When I became an editor and then assistant managing editor, and was trying my best to figure out what it meant to edit, manage, and lead, and how to do all three ethically and equitably, OpenNews gave me the platform to share my views on hiring and blind application processes, just as it later connected me to other editors, managers, and leaders whose thoughts on what it means to lead still guide me today.

Similarly, it has been one of the greatest privileges of my career to have gotten to work with Erika and Ryan. The two of them have shown me what the world could be like when an organization and its people take the time to build trust, demonstrate empathy, and exude thoughtfulness. It creates a culture and shared values that are so great that, as a woman of color, I can choose to do anti-racism and equity work, and that choice energizes me instead of drains me.

Our work at OpenNews has always been about transforming our industry together (never in a silo), and making sure that we as journalists understand, own, and use our power to build a more equitable future for journalism. I will always be a proud community member of OpenNews, and you’ll also continue to see me in the DEI Coalition Slack, where my role as founder and community advocate isn’t changing. If the work we’ve done together at OpenNews has helped you, resonated with you, felt meaningful to you — I hope you’ll consider joining me in showing solidarity and support for the work OpenNews does everyday, by donating.

You can also support the work OpenNews does while letting this incredible organization support you, by signing up for the OpenNews community newsletter, where you’ll learn about when all the amazing scholarships, programs, peer-led events, and everything else we do, is announced. You can also read my full parting reflections there too.

I’m so thankful for my amazing two and half years here, and I’m so excited to see how this community will continue to push and lead journalism into the future.

posted August 02, 2022 | posted in OpenNews