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Emily Harris joins the Journalism Accelerator as editorial director

Emily Harris JA Editorial Director

Emily enjoys fresh, sun-warmed raspberries. Photo by Collin Oldham.

“What would you really love to do right now?” a friend asked me this summer. Beyond the immediately obvious, she meant. Which meant I had to come up with something besides what I was doing at the moment. Which was, I think, stuffing sun-warmed raspberries in my mouth as fast as I could pick them. I told her I’d love to find a way to get into the middle of dissecting and reporting on the changes happening in journalism right now. And I’d love to do it writing for a website that was itself trying new things.

Lo and behold. As I wrote to Lisa:

You’re experimenting, and that is what it’s all about right now. I also like that you are experimenting while remaining centered around core journalistic values of free-flowing, transparent, accurate information.

I’ve reported from places where accurate information could be pretty hard to get, such as Russia soon after the Soviet Union fell apart and Iraq between 2003-2005. Working in a war zone for NPR, I learned again how important on-the-ground, eyewitness reporting really is, and how much better, always, it is to have more than one journalist covering a given story.

When I spent a year at Stanford on a Knight Journalism Fellowship, two of my fellowship colleagues got buyout offers. The changing pace and face of journalism couldn’t have become more clear. Hosting a regional talk show on the public broadcasting station in Portland, Oregon, made it obvious people really want to know what’s going on – at least with issues that directly affect their lives.

So, what will I learn from the JA? A lot, I trust, about the value placed on journalism – defined here as accurate, useful information created on the public’s behalf that gives people a tool to engage as citizens. And a lot about how publishers, editors and reporters are experimenting with new business models to stay in the game.

Emily Harris in Iraq's Ministry of Culture in 2004

Emily tramps through the rubble of Iraq's Ministry of Culture in 2004. Photo by NPR Baghdad staff.


As editorial director, I’ll help set the tone, but the JA remains a forum by and about you – and all of us pushing the unwieldy journalism beast forward.

Now, just for fun, a short favorites list: Three books that have kept me loving my work.

  • My War Gone By, I Miss It So. Anthony Loyd gets a heroin high off the Bosnian frontlines and captures the shallow attention to war in his own disaffected writing. I like his no-holds-barred descriptions of what it’s like there.
  • The Walk Book. Janet Cardiff – sound, memory, place. It’s always a bit over my head but awesome.
  • How To Write A Lot. Psych prof Paul J. Silvia sweeps away all the excuses. No special nook? He writes in the bathroom. Oh yeah, and turn off the email.