This column originally appeared in The Cohort newsletter. Subscribe here to receive future editions from our new host, Alex Sujong Laughlin.
Scrolling through dozens of pitches for the next Cohort host, all I could think was that every candidate was more qualified than I was when I took the helm of this newsletter in March 2019. Top-level editors, audio experts, newsletter mavens, and well-known internet folk raised their hand for the opportunity to lead the next evolution of this 5-year-old newsletter community. I was humbled by the quality and candor of these applications.
The fact that we had open and competitive applications for this opportunity is one of my proudest achievements as the host of The Cohort. As many of you can relate, the pandemic slowed to a halt some of my original plans for succession. Speaking to the pain and overwhelm of the last year and a half while figuring out how to move forward myself was one of my biggest career challenges.
But here we are, in this moment of transition, in the betwixt and between. I’m going to take the advice I give to other people when they announce their new job/move/milestone: Be kind to yourself during the transition. Grieve what was. Take stock of what is. And move forward with intention.
I will miss hearing directly from you about how a certain column made you feel seen or landed at the exact right moment in your life. I will be forever grateful to my manager, Tina Dyakon, for encouraging me to take on The Cohort on top of my other job; Poynter senior vice president Kelly McBride for trusting me with this community she’s so invested in; former Poynter managing editor Barbara Allen for mentoring me through my perfectionism; current Poynter managing editor Ren LaForme for making me chuckle; Poynter reporter Kristen Hare for always being on call; and former Poynter multimedia designer Sara O’Brien for creating custom graphics and indulging me when I thought most concepts could be represented by pictures of food.
I am still inspired by the women I interviewed for The Cohort: Emily Ramshaw at the launch of The 19th*. Global Press CEO Cristi Hegranes after she had a baby alone during the pandemic. The parental leave committee at The Boston Globe.
I am proud to recommend all of The Cohort’s columns, especially: “How to quit your job on your terms” by Christina M. Tapper; “How to keep your sanity as you dismantle the status quo in newsrooms” by Becca Aaronson; and “What to do when your career path is uncharted territory” by Masuma Ahuja.
Notice that all three of those popular editions of The Cohort are about moving with purpose during periods of flux. Always timely! My intention as I hand over the reins as editor and writer is to continue focusing on sustainability, deliverability and audience for this beloved product behind the scenes — while cheering on our new host.
And that host is … Alex Sujong Laughlin!
Alex is a longtime Cohort subscriber. You might recognize her from The Washington Post podcast, “Other: Mixed Race in America” or have heard her speak at conferences such as Werk It! and the Third Coast International Audio Festival. She’s produced podcasts for legacy publications like The New York Times, digital organizations like BuzzFeed, and media startups like Transmitter Media. Similar to some of you, she is currently transitioning to full-time freelance work.
Alex also has a keen interest in analyzing and critiquing workplace and labor issues within the media industry. She has written pieces about the limits of “work-life balance” and guides to salary negotiation, as well as blog posts about career pivots and the importance of hybrid roles in newsrooms. I know she’s eager to dig into other issues important to you, including the changing ethics and definition of objectivity, power balances between full-time staff and others, burnout related to sexism and racism, alternative funding models for women-led startups, and the many journalists who are deciding to leave the industry.
Alex is ready to rock. I’m confident her inclusive ideas and expansive experience will change what you get in your inbox for the better and accompany you on your career journey, no matter how it twists and turns.
Big thanks also to the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter for making this next evolution of The Cohort possible.