Some exciting news: I’m now the managing editor for Billy Penn, the mobile news website I joined pre-launch in 2014.
The new title comes on the heels of a broader announcement for our company — an investment from Gannett that will allow us to hire more positions in Philly and launch new brands in other markets.
When I left my job in public media to work for Billy Penn, I told myself working for a startup is no less risky than working for any other media company, given the doom and gloom headlines often associated with the journalism industry. I mostly believed that, but leaving an established organization to become the very first hire at a brand new company probably can’t be described as a classically “safe” career move.
My first day of work was Aug. 20, 2014; we had nothing but a Twitter account. An email newsletter followed soon after, then two reporter hires in the Fall, then our website in October, then a full-time developer, then a sales and events lead. We celebrated our first birthday in October 2015 and hired our third reporter this February. Our part-time weekend editor is now our full-time culture editor.
Our content has been evolving as much as our staff has, and by content I don’t just mean articles. We do original reporting every day, but we also link directly to other news stories reported by journalists who don’t work for us. We’re now the official Pennsylvania partner for PolitiFact. Events are content, too. We pulled off an impressive 300-person first birthday bash, organize regular happy hours with our expanding network, and turned this story about Philly’s black music history into a game at an after hours museum open house.
My day-to-day started off more as social media and event building. These days, I manage our Facebook and Instagram accounts, keep an eye on Twitter mentions, edit stories, and hire and manage interns, and am building out our Featured Contributors network. I work closely with our events VP to turn articles into events and vice versa, and spend a lot of time thinking through use experience scenarios with our designer and developer. I’ve written before about what it’s like working with a small, hands-on team.
I have also built shelves for our office, squeezed grapefruits for event cocktails and hawked our merchandise in the middle of a mall. I have fun at work every single day, and I’m looking forward to all the adventures I expect are in Billy Penn’s future.