The Cohort: In memory
The Cohort is Poynter's bi-monthly newsletter about women kicking ass in digital media.
Hi. This is Kristen Hare. I’m a reporter at Poynter, but you may know me from Katie’s clever sign-offs at the bottom of this newsletter. As The Cohort’s editor, I’m usually behind the scenes. This week, I’m stepping in for Katie.
On Feb. 4, Katie’s husband, Jamie Hawkins-Gaar, was less than one mile from the finish line of a half-marathon. He collapsed and died. He was 32.
This isn't the kind of thing you’d normally read about in a newsletter. But The Cohort isn't a normal newsletter. Its strength comes from honest conversations with this community, and it feels wrong to stop that now.
When Katie started this newsletter, a group of us at Poynter brainstormed names. I think I lobbied for something like Nellie or Ida. Someone suggested Represent. Then, Katie remembered a powerful talk given by journalist Stacy-Marie Ishmael at the very first Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. It was about building a group of peers that supports each other — a cohort.
And Katie has, both in real life and through this newsletter. I’ve seen the power of her cohort in the last few weeks: Filling her living room and kitchen in stunned sadness, silently sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a Decatur, Georgia, church, and aching for her on Facebook.
In the midst of watching my friend and colleague go through one of the most horrible things I can imagine, I have also watched her cohort activate. She didn’t ask them to. No one knows what to do or say right now. But they have showed up in so many ways, because that’s what teams do when they have to.
This cohort that my friend has built has shared her anxieties, work hurdles and love of coloring. It loves her clever quirkiness. It sees her stepping bravely into a place where women still have to push harder, play smarter and look out for one another.
And now it’s looking out for her.
I’m not sure when Katie will be ready to start writing again. In the meantime, her cohort of women kicking ass in digital media is here, ready to guest-write this newsletter until she returns. I’ve changed up this week’s newsletter format to make space for a little shine, a look forward and a glimpse of someone a lot of us feel really lucky to have known, even if it wasn’t for nearly long enough.
<3 <3 <3,
Speaking of cohorts...
It looks like ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator was a big hit last week in L.A. Add these women to your list of ladies worth following. Then, add these women, too. Poynter’s academy is coming up next month, and we’re so excited to spend the week with this amazing group of leaders.
This week, Katie and I decided to introduce you to one of the greatest feminists in her life, her late husband.
KH: Tell us about Jamie.
KHG: Jamie was one of the biggest feminists out there. We both took each other’s last names when we got married. We shared chores. He did all the cooking; I was the breadwinner. Whenever he had a dream, I supported it. When I had big ideas, he made them even bigger. He wore his “A Woman’s Place” shirt with enormous pride. He planned to be a stay-at-home dad for our future adopted baby. He bought my tampons, for God’s sake! We were partners in every sense of the word.
KH: The stories about Jamie’s life and impact have been abundant. Any favorites?
KHG: I will forever treasure this beautiful obituary by Poynter Managing Editor (and dear friend) Ben Mullin. There’s the poignant epilogue, and the hundreds of tributes on Facebook. And I’ve loved watching every video tribute, including this sweet remembrance from former Poynter staffer (and dear friend) Jordan Kranse.
KH: For your readers who didn’t know Jamie, what do you want them to know about him?
KHG: His dream was to be a filmmaker. My favorite sketch of his, The Internet Goes to Washington, takes aim at the journalism industry (RIP Gawker).
He pursued many other passions, too. He was a talented improviser, masterful barista, incredible cook, aspiring writer, devoted volunteer, ambitious carpenter, hilarious storyteller and determined runner. He embraced failure and its inevitable growth more than anyone I’ve ever met. He was brilliant in everything he put his mind to.
KH: He was a Cohort reader, too, right?
KHG: He was such a supporter of this newsletter. He offered feedback on every essay ahead of time, and would send me texts packed with compliments and enthusiasm after each issue published. He got to meet several women from the first two Leadership Academies for Women in Digital Media and was fortunate to know someone from this year’s class.
I wouldn’t be where I am in my career, and in my life, without Jamie’s unwavering support and encouragement. I wouldn’t be who I am today without him.
KH: What else do you want your cohort to know about Jamie?
KHG: I shared this at Jamie’s funeral service, but I think perhaps his biggest project in life was for me to see how much I am loved and to learn how to lean on others for help. He set the foundation, and now I have to take those lessons and apply them.
I’m going to be OK. I have to be. I have years of happiness and hundreds of people to buoy me when the days get dark. And I have this community. When you surround yourself with people that love you and find purpose in your life, you’ll realize you’re stronger than you ever imagined.
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The Cohort is part of Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. XOXO to all the friends who helped co-edit this week. We're so blessed to have you in our lives.