I am a multi-award-winning writer, editor, public relations and marketing professional, with almost a quarter century of experience.
I currently live in Seattle with my wonderful wife and work as chief content producer and manager, and public and media relations manager for a construction software company. I am also a bit of amateur chef, an urban gardener and a compulsively obsessed New York Mets baseball fan.
The earth moved when I discovered my love of writing—quite literally.
It was October 17, 1989. A baseball-obsessed kid, just a couple of months from my 14th birthday, I had settled into the couch at our home in Las Vegas to watch game three of the 1989 World Series between the Giants and Athletics. The announcers were into their pregame discussions and highlights of the previous games when suddenly the telecast stopped and I think it was the great Al Michael’s voice that could be heard saying, “I think we’re having an earthquake!”
Indeed, one of the worst earthquakes in recent memory struck the Bay Area that early evening. Houses were reduced to rubble, freeways toppled, and dozens of people lost their lives. I was immediately captivated by the ongoing news cycle. For weeks, I recorded and watched every newscast about the earthquake and the stories surrounding it that I could. I read every news article I could find and bought every subsequent magazine I could get my hands on. I became a news junkie.
One thing that struck me was how well reporters, writers, editors, broadcasters told the stories. How a full picture of tragedy, hope, desperation, kindness, weakness, humor was captured and put into perspective for those of us that were not there, that did not experience what Northern Californians had been going through.
For me, it was the eighth grade. I was going into high school soon, and I now knew what I wanted to do—I wanted to write. I wanted to tell those stories in ways that made it interesting, relevant and poignant to others.
In high school, I took every English, literature and writing class I could. I also played baseball and worked in a drug store at night as a stock clerk and cashier. But it was writing that steered my ship.
I wrote essays and papers on subjects that weren’t even assigned. I wrote short stories and poetry. I kept a journal with newspaper clippings of local, regional and world events and in my spare time, re-wrote these articles. When I was finally able to take high school journalism, I jumped at the chance to be a part of my high school’s newspaper, The Rampage, and took every assignment I could—probably to the chagrin of some of my classmates and paper colleagues.
My writing, coupled with enthusiasm and a yearning to learn, earned me my first award, Most Valuable Staffer in the annual citywide contest for school newspapers. I also took home an honorable mention for Best Editorial.
In college, I made journalism a priority and was part of an effort to revive a school newspaper that had been scuttled by the school’s previous administration. The school had been without a publication for a few years and our successful reboot of the school paper got us noticed by the local media. It also played a role in my getting offered a paid internship at the Las Vegas Sun, one of two daily newspapers in the city. Shortly thereafter, I was also offered a job as a part-time reporter for the Pahrump Valley Gazette, a much smaller weekly newspaper in a town of about 35,000 people, located about 70 miles northwest of Las Vegas. I jumped at both opportunities—working at the Sun during the week and for the Gazette on weekends.
At the Sun, I learned from some of the very best writers and editors. These mentors took the time to mentor me, teaching me what worked and what didn’t. They grilled me on double-checking facts and verifying sources. They sat with me and explained edits to my writing and why they made changes. They enabled me to write tighter and to find my voice.
Then came two nearly simultaneous shakeups. A new management team was brought in at the Sun and changes were going to me made—changes that many staffers and mentors of mine there didn’t agree with. Soon many of the folks I had learned from were gone, as were the other two interns. I was spared, as I had shifted to covering local politics. Meanwhile, at the Gazette, more staffing changes happened and suddenly my bosses and mentors were gone and I was being offered a huge opportunity—take over as managing editor and lead reporter. Being a member of the Sun’s staff brought a certain level of prestige and experience I really could not have found anywhere else, but the chance to essentially plow my own field and determine the direction of an entire newspaper was just as intriguing. With both opportunities requiring full-time attention, however, it seemed I had to make a choice.
I sought the wisdom of my assistant city editor at the Sun, and I’ll never forget his response to my sudden dilemma. “You’ve proven you can handle the heat, why not take a shot at the managing editor role and see what kind of a personal stamp you can leave.”
I made my decision the next morning to take the managing editor/lead reporter role.
The pay was terrible. I had to cover my own expenses. I had to drive roughly 140 miles each day from my home in Las Vegas to Pahrump and back again, and more than a few times a month, I had to drive hundreds of miles more (the county seat, where the politics and government beats required my presence, was more than 200 miles away from Las Vegas). I had to write a whole lot more than I ever had. I barely slept. Yet, this was probably the very best job in terms of building my character, experience and writing style.
And, there was no shortage of stories.
Diving head-first into investigative journalism, I broke stories about misappropriation of tax dollars and government funds. I exposed crooked politicians, including a huge case where I helped blow the lid off the Public Administrator and his wife stealing from the estates of the deceased. I exposed medical professionals that deliberately covered up damage they had done to patients. I covered extremely contentious political races. With a scanner attached to my hip, I stayed on top of all the town’s crime and court proceedings. There was very little I didn’t do, including playing a key role in the newspaper’s business development.
In 1998, I was recognized by the Nevada Press Association for my work, becoming what was said to be the youngest person to win the state’s top award—Outstanding Journalist of the Year. I also took home four other awards, including two investigative journalism awards. The next year, I added six more awards.
In 2000, I decided I needed to be closer to home in Las Vegas and took a job as an assistant editor at a national trade publication, Casino Journal. Here, I traded awards for more experience and really cut my teeth on business reporting and in-depth feature writing—two areas I didn’t get the best opportunities with while working for a small-town newspaper.
I quickly moved up the ranks here and soon started writing for other publications within the magazine group as well, covering hospitality, international casino business, technology and more. In 2002, I was given more responsibilities and promoted to managing editor. The flagship magazine was sold and then we subsequently went through a couple of different corporate owners. I continued cranking out article after article and had taken the lead in putting each issue together—skills that were tested in September of 2005. Just three days before the September issue was scheduled to be distributed, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. With significant casino properties in both markets, we made the decision to completely tear up the finished magazine, which was at the printers, in favor of putting together a special issue covering the storm and its aftermath. For the next three days, I didn’t sleep, but we successfully chronicled the facts of the storm, the personal stories, measured the damage and forecasted the recovery. We even got our columnists to draft last-minute contributions. Essentially, we did—with a significantly smaller staff—what other magazines and even many daily newspapers and broadcast media could not. It still stands as one of my prouder moments.
I was promoted to Casino Journal’s Editor in Chief just a month or so later. For the next two and a half years, I guided the magazine’s path and helped it grow significantly as a publication—both in terms of respect in the industry and the bottom line.
In mid-2008, faced with a looming recession and staff cuts that resulted in my working around the clock to maintain the magazine’s quality, I made the decision to step away and try something new. I went to work as Vice President of Communications for Raving Consulting, a smaller, but impressively quirky and impactful marketing company based in Reno (though I maintained a home office in Las Vegas). Here, I was responsible for the company’s PR and media relations efforts. I also helped rebrand and write for the company’s extensive newsletter, helped organize and promote several events, edit books and manuals, and aided in redeveloping the company’s website. For clients, I played a key role in direct mail and client marketing initiatives.
After just more than a year there, the deepening economic recession and creative differences resulted in my first-ever layoff. This is something I never wish on anyone, but also strongly feel everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
I decided I had gotten all that I could out of Nevada and moved to Seattle in late-2009 to be near friends and look for work in either marketing or publications. Of course, I, like everyone else suddenly thrown into the job market, never realized just how competitive finding work would be. I spent more time than I wanted to out of full-time work, relying on freelancing here and there to get me by. Eventually, though, I found a new opportunity in early 2011 with the marketing department of Dexter + Chaney, a construction software company.
Having marketing experience both with publications and with a standalone marketing company, I was hired first as a part-time communications specialist. This was short-lived, however, when the company realized I could do a whole lot more, so I was offered a full-time role as Lead Development Coordinator. I primarily worked on direct marketing initiatives, analytics, lead and sales metrics and, of course, writing and editing opportunities. In 2014, I took an opportunity on the marketing department’s creative team and took the lead in creating the company’s corporate and product content, website content, and much more. In 2015, I assumed the company’s public relations and media relations responsibilities. In 2016, I also started playing a lead role in the company’s partner marketing efforts. Today, my official role is Dexter + Chaney’s Marketing Content and Public Relations Manager.
I am thankful for every opportunity I’ve had along the way. It’s been an often fun, sometimes crazy trip, but I’m not sure I would trade any career experience I’ve had for something different. Whether good or bad, these experiences have helped shape who I am today. There were times I felt like I could do anything, and other times where I wanted to give up, but the journey has been significant to me.
And to think, this all started with an earthquake.