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Update: We now have a CaringBridge page for folks who want updates.

Today, I announced my departure from DallasNews. The official notice is below (with some boring administrivia redacted), but i want to share some additional context.

Some context:

About eighteen months ago, I learned my Dad has late stage Alzheimer’s, something that he and my stepmom had out of intended kindness, kept from me. As an only child, I had to take control of the situation without any guardianship, power of attorney, useful documents or basically any information that would be helpful. From cross-country, I began problem solving, figuring out how to get him into care; how to pay for it; how to move him when the initial care was not enough and there was a shortage of beds available. It wasn’t easy, and continues to be a struggle as I get late-night calls frequently when urgent issues arrive. Then there’s the emotional side of that, including a side-dish of paranoia that I could be headed down the same road.

Then, in September, Crystal fell ill. We and our family doctor thought it was COVID, then chicken pox, then Mononucleosis, then a total mystery. She has continued to worsen in cycles over time and hasn’t had more than a couple consecutive days without fever in ten months. She can’t reliably go out, or do much of anything, without overheating, breaking out in worsening lesions, gasping for air or, most recently, losing consciousness.

The ins and outs of that are her story to tell, but what it means is that our lives and home have largely been turned upside down.

While we are blessed and privileged to have means and access to good medical care, what I didn’t have was the good sense to pay attention to my emotional state. It’s worn on me over time. I spent the first few months saying, “I’m always best in a crisis. Pile it on.”

Then, in arrogance and hubris, I’d say, “Me at my worst is better than a lot of people at their best. I can handle it.”

Then, I started trying to patch with a smidge of self-care, but wound up just feeling anxious that I was letting my people down by not being on my A-game in any aspect of life. I had ignored the advice I so often give, that in bumpy skies you need to put on your own air mask before assisting others.

Basically, I felt exactly like this:

I can’t encourage you enough to watch this video. Too many of us wind up feeling this way.

Over the last couple months, I finally began to realize that by carrying so much, I was making myself physically and emotionally unwell. I had conversations with our CEO, who was supportive and offered some really kind solutions, but I had to admit that anything short of a longer break felt like a half-measure.

So, I am taking a long sabbatical from all work. As I’m about to turn 50, I’m calling it my “halftime break.” It will be somewhere between six months and a year. Obviously, it’s not fair to leave DallasNews in the lurch over that period of time, so I’m fully stepping away. I believe there could be opportunities to reunite down the road, but that shouldn’t be on anyone’s radar at this point. DallasNews has the right team (that I helped build) and I am 100% focused on the business of the Orren family.

As news has come out in the office today, I’m overwhelmed with the offers of help and support, and I expect more of that is to come. So I’m going to share how you can help me:

Pray that we find answers on what’s ailing Crystal so we can begin treatments. If praying isn’t your thing, then just spend some moments mentally wishing us well and see if that bears some fruit.

Take an object lesson about the importance of self-care and mental health. I foolishly used to scoff at the idea of therapy or psychiatry. I don’t now. I also know that my gut-it-out mentality is not healthy in situations like this. I realize that we are beyond blessed and privileged to have the ability to check out of the world for a bit — most people don’t have that. But I also know I might not have gotten to the point of needing a full time out if I had taken care of myself in smaller ways over time. Don’t do what I did, especially if you work for a team as supportive of mine.

Don’t forget about me. I am not done building the future of local news and marketing, not by a long shot. Make no mistake, part of this is about me getting a breath so I can come back at full strength — tan, rested and ready. I figure if I’m lucky, I have a couple more shots at felling this windmill and I intend to do just that.

But help me take the break. I want to be very clear — the absolute earliest I will take on any work of any kind (besides the odd hobbyist DJ set) is early 2023. Even if the dreamiest dream job or the most exciting consulting opportunity rolls by in the next few months, I’m not here for it.

I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me in this decision and been so kind to us as we’re gearing up for a season of healing, reflection and growing in strength. We’ll see you on the other side.

My Wick Allison MBA

Wick Allison (1948–2020)

Yesterday, Dallas — and a specific group of brilliant writers, sellers, artists, accountants, hustlers, misfits and dreamers — lost a dear friend, mentor and father figure. D Magazine founder and publisher Wick Allison left us last night, taken by his umpteenth battle with cancer.

I haven’t worked with Wick daily since 1999; been in business with him since 2009; or seen him more than a couple times a year since 2012. But even absent this reason to think back on him, if you asked me who the three people who had most influenced my career and adult life, the answer would be Wick.

We alumni of D, almost regardless of era, share an inefable connection. (I say almost, because like the only other person I can think of so connected to his creation over so many years, Lorne Michaels, Wick had a relatively brief intermezzo in the early nineties.)

Having worked for Wick is an experience unto itself and connects us, for some ill, but mostly good. I could meet a stranger who worked for Wick for six months forty years ago, and we could have a daylong conversation without a lull. While the details might differ, the stories would rhyme. Within minutes we’d be finishing each other’s sentences, because the connection, the man, is indelible and familiar.

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Weekly spins: Folk Family Revival, EODM, Hollis Brown, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Dylan LeBlanc, Rickie Lee Jones

If three makes a trend, I’ve got this weekly post nailed now. There’s an embarrassment of riches this week, so I’ll jump straight in:

I’ve got a big soft spot for this Texas band, whose heartfelt debut hit right as I was going through a rough patch at the top of the decade and served as the soundtrack of that year for me.

Longtime Folk Family Revival fans might be a smidge surprised by a harder-rocking concept album this time out. The concept piece is a double-edged sword, making it more difficult, but more rewarding to get into the new work. If you like Shooter Jennings concept stuff, or have been hungering for an Americana riff on The Wall, this is for you.

As I said last week, a good cover teaches you something new about the song and about the band playing it. On that basis, Eagles of Death Metal’s new one is a smashing success. I don’t generally dig EODM, but this eclectic compilation hit my sweet spot in the same way that Me First and the Gimme Gimmes does, without falling into the trap of everything sounding exactly the same (see Weezer’s recent outing). Bonus points for two(!) Kenny Rogers covers.

The first of two big lost-and-live releases, this is the most successful, a 1973 vintage Neil Young show that shows off both pristine acoustic takes and his rock, sans grunge style.

As much as I love me some Bob Dylan, and as excited as I am for the upcoming Scorsese documentary on this same topic, I just can’t do another live Dylan compilation, much less fifteen discs of it. There’s a point where completism creates a blur. I tried to get into the single-disc sampler, but nothing spoke to me.

Speaking of Bob, Hollis Brown, named for the Dylan classic, drops a new one that, like Folk Family Revival (above) stretches the band beyond its so-far typical Americana roots. This is a band that I love every time I hear them, but tend to forget later. Ozone Park feels like one I’ll remember.

Dylan LeBlanc is new to me, via a mention on the Bitter Southerner Facebook group. I’m liking his new outing which feels both retro-seventies and modern, while highlighting his Muscle Shoals heritage, via his father. The songwriting puts me in mind of mid-career Ryan Adams.

This is another fairly serviceable covers collection from Rickie Lee Jones that I might not have mentioned were it not for the death of her most famous duet partner this week. That said, her rendition of Bad Company’s “Bad Company” is worth a spin.

I didn’t predict how hard the loss of Dr. John would hit me this week. I loved his stuff before I knew what New Orleans music was about — and he’s been part of more wondrous supergroup moments than I can count. I love him best live, and this disc is the most indicative of the several floating around.

I figured it wouldn’t take long to have a “yeah, right” moment on my random spin of the week, with a too-serendipitous shuffle selection, and here we are. This Alabama 3 song is one of my all-time favorites (like literally top ten all-time) for me — and it happens that band cofounder Reverend Dee Wayne Love died a few weeks ago, just before I started these recaps.

Haven’t heard of Texas’ colonias? Neither had I before a mission trip showed me a Third-World American enclave

Flying back from South Texas yesterday, I found myself vacillating between anger and contentment. Contentment came from service work that my 28:1 men’s group brothers and I had done alongside a men’s group from Park Cities Baptist Church. Anger rose from the poverty, inequality, and squalor we saw in our own state.

Odds are, you’ve never heard of the colonias before. I hadn’t until we lined up this trip. In an informal social media survey last night, once I filtered out friends who grew up on the border, it looked like less than a third of Texans I know are aware of them. Keep Reading

Developers: Come build the printing press of tomorrow today at The Dallas Morning News.

If you know a full-stack or front-end developer who cares about local news, please share this with them:

I mentioned a couple months ago that I’ve gotten the opportunity to lead a product team here at The Dallas Morning News in a complete rebuild of our digital properties leveraging The Washington Post’s Arc platform.

I softplayed it at the time, as there were still a few pieces in flux. So I may have buried the lede:

This is the exact thing that I’ve wanted to do my whole career. Keep Reading

The tellers of truth are not the “enemies of the people”

Last week, I joined with thousands of people around the country engaging with Q Commons on the topic “The Power of We.” For those less familiar, I’d soundbite Q as “TedTalks through a Christian worldview.”

As one of the Dallas Speakers, I tackled the topic of media in our divisive age. The video is below, but I’ve also included my script, as there were a couple pieces I had to trim on the fly to make the time limit work. Keep Reading

How a Flemish film rejuvenated my obsession with Americana music

Original post on Medium.

When Crystal and I fired up The Broken Circle Breakdown on the AppleTV last night, I was initially hacked off to discover it was subtitled. We had bought into it based upon the trailer, which outlined the film via its English-language music and visuals, and not realizing it was an Oscar contender in the foreign film category.

Not that I’m anti-subtitles. Crystal works for a US distributor of Asian and Indie film, which means that we watch more subtitled fare than the average household. (This also suggests I might have been more up to date on the Oscar nods as well.) Keep Reading

How I manage information overload — revisited

One of the most popular posts on this blog was my December, 2009 missive on how I manage all the bits and bytes streaming past me all day. Today, I’m doing an e-Seminar for the International Women’s Media Foundation on lessons I learned in the Pegasus News startup, and my mentorees requested I add the info overload bit as an appendix. Enough has changed in a year-and-a-quarter that I thought I’d update it a bit, with a new post after the jump:
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Just be amazing

On Saturday, I joined a half-dozen media friends, old and new, to speak to students at the KIPP: Truth Academy’s career day. Although it wasn’t part of our planned schtick, one thing that stood out for me was the fact that all of us had one thing in common — multiple jobs. Some divided between two conventional employers; others, had a day-job and their own business; others, a bunch of freelance clients.
As that’s increasingly the norm in our post-post-industrial age, and because I’m getting ready to do some networking at SXSW, I thought I’d go ahead and introduce my consulting entity, Just Be Amazing (JBA). I’d been holding off because of potential dayjob discussions in the background, but I think anyone who knows me understands by now that I’m going to be sharper across the board if I have the mental diversions of multiple irons in the fire.  JBA may just be a dba for my freelance work, or it might someday become its own company, but it’s a concept that I’m striving to display in all I do.
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