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The Washington Independent

It’s the Optimism

I’m Mary Kane, and you might be surprised to find someone like me here. I started in journalism straight out of school, in 1983, at United Press

Thomas Dixon
News
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Dec 14, 2007

I’m Mary Kane, and you might be surprised to find someone like me here.

I started in journalism straight out of school, in 1983, at United Press International, where the antiquated message wire used to communicate among the bureaus was considered high technology. When UPI, perpetually strapped, closed down its Mississippi bureau, I moved on by working for afternoon newspapers with rapidly aging readerships; the papers soon whittled to nothing or closed down entirely. When The Cincinnati Post stops the presses soon, my record will be complete.

Still, I got a close-up view of the economics of the newspaper business, and, more importantly, I learned the basics of news reporting and writing. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything; they’re the foundation of what I do.

In Pittsburgh, I saw the aftermath of the steel industry’s collapse on the Monongahela Valley and chronicled people there trying to reinvent their lives. Later, when I came to Newhouse News Service here in Washington, I spent years covering fringe banking: Subprime mortgages and rogue mortgage brokers, back when no one knew much about them; high-rate credit cards, bankruptcy, payday lenders, and pawnshops. I also dealt regularly with the effect changes in the economy had on people’s lives.

I’ve continued to cover the mortgage mess and other stories as a freelancer, with my work appearing in Salon, The Washington Post, Southern Exposure Magazine and elsewhere. And I’ve never left behind the notion that nothing totally replaces old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting.

So why would I end up here, especially considering, as a friend pointed out, that I once possessed the computer skills of a 90-year-old?

It’s the optimism. I’m not used to it anymore in journalism, and one of the first things you’ll pick up on this site is a sense of going forward, and of being excited about pursuing a way to combine the best of the new and the old, including the resources of the Internet and the basics of news reporting. We’ll both cover stories and provide perspective on what they mean. It’s a model that might be the future of journalism and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

I’m also looking forward to what I’ll write about: Middle class finance. It’s something that perfectly fits this site, in that I’ll combine coverage of policy decisions and economic developments with a look at how they play out in the real world, using the resources and the community of the Internet.

You’ll see from my blog postings that I won’t be recounting what I had for breakfast, or, God forbid, something my children just did. Much of what I’ll draw from is my own long experience of interviewing people on the front lines. I’ll tackle the debate over the subprime mortgage rate freeze plan by showing the complexities of the market you’d find if you had shopped for a subprime loan. I’ll be looking at our obsession with credit and debt by telling you about a company that wants you to put your mortgage debt on their credit card. That’s some fine financial planning! And speaking of credit cards, why is it that Congress continues to insist it will tackle credit card reform – and doesn’t – while our interest rates keep arbitrarily going up?

I’d also like to hear from you. That’s the other thing that drew me to this site: The back and forth with online readers that just doesn’t happen under the old model.

I’m pretty lucky to have soaked up the best of journalism’s past, even if it was a bumpy ride sometimes, and I’m fortunate to be experimenting with its future. I hope you’re joining me; it doesn’t get any better than this.

Thomas Dixon | He creates the ideal marketing experience by connecting online brands with their target audiences. He recently completed a research paper on consumer conversion and took part in a community project on SEO optimization. Thomas is working on his Bachelor of Arts in Communications and plans to intern in an online marketing department soon.

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