April 13, 2021

This story is part of a series. You can read other stories from Some Personal News here.

David Clinch was working in his Atlanta home office in February when he got the call.

His wife, Kelly Clinch, overheard her conversation with Storyful higher-ups and walked in, giving him a wide-eyed “what the hell” look from the doorway.

Clinch, a founding partner of Storyful, was being laid off.

The next day, he got a separation offer he could live with, and almost immediately, Clinch and his wife went from disbelief to relief. After 11 years, their marriage and reputations were intact.

With a startup, Clinch said, that’s as much as you can hope for.

—-

This isn’t a layoff story like most layoff stories, and Clinch knows that. He’s been in the industry for a long time. He works, and gets paid, at the executive level. People who run news organizations take his calls. He’s white. He’s a man.

Still, getting laid off was surprising, he said, but not shocking. He’d been thinking about leaving Storyful for a while.

But — “I didn’t really want to get laid off.”

It was a kick in the ego. But once the sting wore off, Clinch realized he had an opportunity to write the final chapters of his career (between five and 15 years’ worth, he figures) himself.

—-

Clinch worked for Independent Television News in London during the first Gulf War. When the bombs started falling, his boss said, “Call CNN.”

Clinch did, and he realized for the first time that the work wasn’t just about news itself, but about connecting to the world. A few months later, he interviewed over the phone for a job at CNN and soon moved to Atlanta. There, he got married and worked at CNN for 19 years on the international desk, where he got to cover and travel the world.

In 2009, Clinch was a founding partner of Storyful, a pioneering project that started out verifying video, photos and text on social media. He managed partnerships with major tech companies. News Corp. bought Storyful in 2013. In February, News Corp laid off dozens of Storyful staff, Business Post reported.

The pandemic was rough on all shapes and sizes of newsrooms, including younger digital ones such as VICE, Medium, HuffPost, The Outline, The Skimm and Quartz.

Now, Clinch is taking his time to figure out what comes next. CNN let him cover the world. At Storyful, he helped build systems to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. Like with the rest of his career, he knows he’ll find what comes next where technology and journalism meet.

As a longtime resident of Atlanta, Clinch also cares about the future of his local newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and is spending some of his time working on ways to support local, reliable news.

News companies are entering a post-Trump, post-COVID future while a lot of them are in the midst of hiring new leaders. Clinch would like to work with the people who move into those roles and help them figure out what comes next.

“I want to grab onto the idea that we’re coming into a new age of quality news and information and I want to help quality news organizations seize that opportunity,” he said. “That’s what I want to do. And I may be ridiculously optimistic, but that’s the opportunity that I see.”

Read more:

Her newspaper closed. She kept reporting.

This new journalist found isolation, not her dream job

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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