Editor’s Note: The following is a goodbye letter from Jeff Stein, founder of The Ithaca Voice.
To learn more about The Ithaca Voice’s new leadership structure, see here.
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ITHACA, N.Y. — “Hi, yes, this is Jeff Stein and I’m calling from The Ithaca Voice to learn —”
“You’re calling from where?”
“Ah, yeah. The Ithaca Voice. It’s a new news outlet we just launched right here in Tompkins County.”
“You started a newspaper?”
“Yeah! Well, no. I mean, it’s a news outlet — we write stories — but it’s not printed or anything. It’s online-only. So … sort of.”
“So, yeah, I was wondering if someone there could help me understand this new city project?”
“Um, sure … hold on.” Then, away from the phone: “Hey, boss, some kid wants to interview you for his blog!”
On Saturday, I’ll be moving to Washington, D.C., to start a new position with the publication Vox.com.
The Ithaca Voice was modeled largely off of the editorial and business innovations of Vox and its founder Ezra Klein, so getting to work there is something of a dream come true for me. I’m also very excited about the chance to write about national politics, which I’ve wanted to do for years.
That doesn’t make leaving The Ithaca Voice — or my beloved city of gorges — any less wrenching.
I say that not because I have any doubt about the future of The Ithaca Voice, which began in June 2014.
This site was founded on the idea that Ithaca deserves a publication that is fast, free, engaging, in-depth and — above all — local. That legacy, and our fundamental model, is sure to continue with the staff we have in place.
The Ithaca Voice will be overseen by Executive Director Michael Blaney, a close friend who has been with the publication since September 2014, just a few months after it began. There isn’t a more capable or honest leader in town.
The editorial operation is in good hands, too. New Managing Editor Jolene Almendarez has brought a wealth of experience, tenacity and creativity to covering Ithaca; Reporter Michael Smith has already produced a bevy of excellent, critical municipal affairs stories since starting this fall; and I don’t have to tell you about how essential the reporting of Brian Crandall is.
The Ithaca Voice will also be staffed full-time by Benjamin Torrey, a videographer on the ad side, and Jennifer Wholey, who will be writing about food and dining in Tompkins County.
I am proud of this smart, diverse and determined team. And I’m confident in its ability to continue to take this start-up news operation to heights I could never have envisioned.
But saying goodbye isn’t going to be easy.
Ithaca is a special place. In trying to describe it to friends from out of town, I always end up citing its extraordinary willingness to experiment with new forms, new structures, new ideas.
This is the city where politically radical concepts first get a fair hearing. It’s a place that takes chances on absurdly young politicians and embraces “alternative currencies” and cites Peter Pan in judicial rulings.
In Ithaca, we throw massive, impromptu Harry Potter festivals that draw thousands on a whim. We think we can puncture the drone wars, reinvent the macaroon and transform the future of energy. We make international news headlines by playing jokes on would-be tourists.
And we don’t laugh at 24-year-olds when they ask their new online media outlets to be taken seriously — no matter how unintentionally naifish they may come off.
Thank you for taking a chance on The Ithaca Voice. Starting this publication and watching it grow into a viable news operation has been the joy of a lifetime, and that’s really because of you.
Your readership, your comments and your support over these last 18 months has meant more to me than you could possibly know.
Thank you, Ithaca — and farewell for now. I’ll be back to visit soon.
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