AJR  Features
From AJR,   February/March 2012

Taking Over the Media Beat at Poynter   

Andrew Beaujon moves into what he calls a great perch. Fri., February 24, 2012.

By Bill Braun
Bill Braun (billbraun711@gmail.com) is a student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.     

Andrew Beaujon's new career path began when he went after a job he didn't think he would get. "When the opportunity came up, I didn't think I had a chance," he says. "I got very lucky."

Beaujon's new gig is covering the media for the Poynter Institute. The job opened up last August when Jim Romenesko, who pioneered the aggregation of news about the news business, decided to go part time. Romenesko left Poynter last November.

Prior to his leap to Poynter, Beaujon, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, spent almost two years as the arts editor at TBD.com, a Web site that covers the Washington, D.C., area.

So how did he get the job? "By the time I heard from [Beaujon], we had five strong finalists in the last stage of a long series of interviews," says Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online. "But as soon as I read Andrew's writing, I wanted to read more. I worked with him for a day and quickly learned he's also the type of editor who makes us all better writers."

Moos says she was looking for "someone who would bring new ideas, new perspectives and new voices to journalism coverage. Andrew wasn't immersed in news about media or entrenched in an insider's network, and that turned out to be tremendously appealing."

Beaujon, who says he's been checking out Poynter since Romenesko joined up in 1999, says he went after the position because "it seemed like a great perch from which to discuss what I love to talk about: media." He says he emphasized that he wanted to do "a lot less straight aggregation, a lot more reporting" when he applied for the job last December.

He says aggregation will still be a huge part of the deal. But, he adds, he wants to add more depth to the stories he collects. "It's been drilled into me that you can add so much more value to a story by making a phone call..or two..or 10," he says. Similarly, Romenesko himself has been doing much more original reporting on his new site, JimRomenesko.com.

Beaujon, 44, says he wants Poynter's MediaWire to be full of "great narratives" on journalism and the media. "I'm hoping, through reporting and aggregation, to help document this most fascinating time to be in the newsgathering profession," he says. He started work at Poynter on February 13.

Moos, who has stressed that she does not see Beaujon as "the new Romenesko," says it's too soon to say whether the blog will be a team effort, as it has been in recent months, or if it ultimately will consist entirely of Beaujon's work. "The blog where people will find most of Andrew's work will be where people find the news of the day," she says. "As long as we provide news of the day, that's what matters. Some days that might be a one-person job, others not. Right now, there are multiple contributors, but we don't know if that will be indefinite."

Asked where he sees the Poynter site in a year, Beaujon replies, "I hope it won't take that long. I'm really hoping to get the rhythm right. It's really hard to figure out what story should go up when, or where a longer story should go versus a shorter story. I hope my ideas are going to work."

And he knows he'll get plenty of help from his audience. "The great thing about doing media now is that feedback is intense and immediate. You post something, and you hear about it right away, people are commenting and e-mailing in on everything from your typos to your premise."

As for his highly regarded predecessor Romenesko, Beaujon says, "Jim built an amazing audience. I hope I can do something half as successful."

He says he's "terribly apprehensive" about following the man who invented media aggregation. But, he adds, "I don't think filling [Romenesko's] shoes is necessary, because he is still doing great work. I love his Web site. I can't wait to read it every day."

Asked about his journalistic inspiration, Beaujon is quick to name Erik Wemple, who blogs about the media for washingtonpost.com. Wemple is a former editor of Washington City Paper, where Beaujon was managing editor for more than four years. "Erik felt it was really important that big, local daily papers got covered well and fair," Beaujon says.

Before his stint at the Washington City Paper, Beaujon worked as a freelance writer and a copy editor for Spin magazine and Martha Stewart Living, both based in New York City. He has also written a book titled "Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock."

Blogging about the media isn't a position that allows for much free time. But Beaujon will have no trouble filling his. He plays guitar in an instrumental band that specializes in Krautrock, a music style popular in Germany in the early 1970s.