Friday, March 6, 2015

Iowa Stubborn

Once upon a time, a long time ago, about last Tuesday, I read the news that local writer Lisa Rossi had resigned as News Editor of The American Journalism Review. She has accepted a position at The Des Moines Register in Iowa, as storytelling coach. And that means that she and her family are moving back home, home to Iowa.

I'm going to miss Lisa. To be honest, I have only seen her in the flesh a handful of times, at blog parties and public functions. That cup of coffee at Lakeside I always wanted to have with her never happened. But her presence on the local scene has been significant. I've always known she was destined for great things, but I also hoped I'd get to know her better along the way.

The first time I saw the name "Lisa Rossi" was as the author of articles on Columbia Patch about her impending first-time voyage into motherhood. She arrived here in the summer of 2010, and did some free-lance writing for Patch before the birth of her first son. She began working for Patch full-time in February of 2011.

Ah, Patch. In the blink of an eye it was with us and then gone. When it burst on the scene we thought it was the answer to our hunger for truly local news. We wanted it to be what it turned out that it could not: an intensely local, interactive news hub. For awhile it was just that, thanks to a handful of amazing people. It was our little Camelot of sorts.

Lisa was one of those dedicated and gifted people. She gave Columbia and Howard County her attention and respect. She accepted those of us in The Bubble for who we are, without losing her perspective of the greater world out there--no mean feat.

Although she (and the others) handled many weightier topics, top on my list of the old Patch days is this series on the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. I don't know why I have become so nostalgic about this. Perhaps it is the easy collegiality between the writers and the idea that investigating our community and what makes it tick can be fun.

Life at Patch turned out to be no milk and cookies affair. But long before the bitter end, Lisa had moved on to a new challenge as News Editor of the American Journalism Review in College Park. She came on staff at a time when AJR was relaunching as a 100 percent digital operation. She drove AJR's social media presence, and she taught journalism students at the University of Maryland. (Somewhere in there she gave birth to her second son.) Times may have changed, but she has consistently moved forward.

Lisa came to town at a time when I was still struggling to find my voice as a blogger. I cared very much about who the Cool Kids were, and was sure that I wasn't among them. Lisa, on the other hand, reached out to me and treated me like someone worth knowing. She shared some of that hyperlocal spotlight and gave me recognition that meant the world to me. In a blogging community that was largely dominated by men, she was willing to listen to everyone in the room. She wasn't just looking for the Cool Kids. She was looking for the best stories.

So, we are all losing something as Lisa goes back to Iowa. But, to be fair, Iowa is a part of what made Lisa who she is. The call of one's early roots is strong: family, memories, treasured haunts. Along with that is the opportunity to pass on her love of storytelling in journalism. It's the chance of a lifetime.

As time goes on, I find myself drawn to making sure that I use this blog to share with other women the recognition that Lisa gave to me. And that is why I wanted to write today and honor her, a truly amazing woman. We'll miss her.




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