Leaving The Wall Street Journal

I had to leave WSJ. Now I Need Your Help.

Hello folks, hope we're doing well. Today’s newsletter is an emotional one, so bear with me.

I mentioned in Monday’s jobs update that I’d left The Wall Street Journal. Now that I’ve had a month or so to process everything, I want to share my experience and some of the shit I, and others, went and continue to go through.

This newsletter isn't to get revenge, but for transparency. There are certain things I don’t think anyone should have to put up with. Stuff the classic line “well that's just journalism” doesn't justify. Newsrooms must always be welcoming and considerate, especially in the most challenging of circumstances due to the pandemic.

For the past year, I worked for WSJ as a graphics reporter in London. I was part of a team of 10 that made maps, charts and other graphics for hundreds of journalists and editors around the world. As part of the international team, we covered any news that happened outside North America. I really enjoyed my job. But I had to leave.

Thanks to all of you, I have an opportunity to shed light and help the next generation of journalists navigate the industry. That’s always been the aim of this newsletter.

I ground away for eight years to get to a title such as WSJ. So my exit was sad and not one I wanted. I wasn’t sure how to announce it, so below is an abridged version.

Now more than ever, Inside The Newsroom really does need your help.

Let’s start from the top…

Prior to WSJ, I worked as an interactive journalist for two years at The Guardian. Half of my projects were assigned to me and the other half I pitched. I typically had two to four weeks to complete my projects, with the rare story completed within a week.

I enjoyed who I worked with — shouts to Cath Levett for being the best editor ever and treating me like an actual human — and the relationship with my editors was generally 50/50.

We understood and respected each others’ expertise and career goals. I knew I had certain professional duties to meet to justify my pay check, and they appreciated that I’d chosen to work for them. I think every manager-employee relationship should be this way. Side note: The Guardian’s visuals team is hiring in the UK and U.S. Go apply!

My time at The Guardian wasn’t all rosy, however. When I was in the U.S. doing everything I could to obtain a visa, I applied to, was offered and accepted a permanent full-time position with the G. But when they sent me the contract (after I’d cancelled all my other interviews), they switched their offer to a 12-month contract. It was take it or leave it.

Working for one of the UK's most reputable newspapers remains one my greatest honours. But for an organization that prides itself on being a champion for its employees, leaving was relatively easy.

The Journal

When WSJ approached me last year about joining its graphics team, I jumped at the chance. A permanent contract and a hefty pay rise to work in one of the world’s most reputable newsrooms? Sign me up.

I did my due diligence and was happy with everything I heard. And presumably WSJ's visuals leadership team researched me. Presumably they were excited about hiring a journalist comfortable with medium and long-term deadlines. A journalist that had never been trained in dealing with daily graphics or covering breaking news.

Apparently not.

Within two months, I was churning out same-day charts at breakneck speed and covering breaking news. I made mistakes in this new workflow, but no more than the next person. Who doesn't make mistakes?

Most of my days involved copying and pasting data into a charting tool and adding a few labels. That’s not why I spent thousands of dollars going to journalism school. It's not why I sacrificed relationships with family and friends for two years to study for the GRE and save enough money to make the move to the U.S.

But the way the leadership team deployed me was like a baseball team signing a basketball player, telling them they’re starting at shortstop and then getting angry when the ball went through their legs. What did they expect would happen?

There were also many days where I worked more than 12 hours straight and got Slack messages and emails at 10 p.m. or later telling me to make edits. What was the point of having a capable team on multiple U.S. timezones? I was never really off duty.

Anyway, that wasn’t even what caused me the most stress and anxiety…

Hello Daniel, Standards Here

On September 1, I launched the paywall for Inside The Newsroom. I did so to pay students and early-career journalists like Sophie, Mirela, Saksha and others $15 an hour to help me maintain our thousands of job board listings, and also for them to get some clips and experience along the way. It was a really positive day after three years to get to that point.

That was interrupted a month later when WSJ's standards team told me they had an issue with the newsletter. Specifically, the problem wasn’t that I was getting paid, but that I could see who was paying me, which opened me up to influence. I totally understood. We agreed that if I could anonymize who was paying me, I could continue. Disclaimer: all I’m able to see is the email address y'all sign up with.

I spent the next three weekends finding a way to anonymize the subscription process and, in turn, save this newsletter. I found a way. But turns out it didn’t matter.

I told Standards I’d done what they’d asked of me, but I never heard back. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they were slammed with election coverage. But they did find time to email me every 4-6 weeks to tell me I had to shut the newsletter down. Each time, I asked for another meeting to discuss the anonymization of the payments, but all of my requests were ignored.

This went on for five months and I can’t tell you how much stress this gave me. I woke up literally every morning expecting an ultimatum email waiting for me in my inbox.

That email came in late-March. A disciplinary hearing for violating company policy and making mistakes. Both true. But both lacking any ounce of context.

After a few days of mulling my options, I concluded that I didn’t need this shit in my life. So I decided to attend the disciplinary, remove myself from the situation and resign. No member of the standards team even bothered attending.

So What’s Next?

Well, thanks to each and every one of you, I’ve been able to get by for the past few weeks. But I can't lie, it’s squeaky bum time in terms of making this newsletter work financially.

Right now we have more than 2,000 jobs and internships listed in the U.S., UK and Canada. Each time one of you emails to tell me you found a job or have an interview because of ITN, it warms my little heart.

Now that the shackles are off, I want to list even more jobs in even more countries. Especially in those who need journalism more than ever. And I want to share more of my experiences to hopefully help the industry improve.

I can only do this with your support. I'll detail more of my plans next week, but in the meantime please please please subscribe and tell your friends and colleagues so we can keep this boat sailing.


Thanks for reading and see you Monday for another jobs board update. 👋