Why I Won’t Try to Publish as I Move Towards Tenure

I believe in science, but I spend almost no time reading the academic literature where the science of my craft (journalism) has traditionally been published. I spend even less time trying to craft research that would get published in those outlets.

For most normal human beings, this is not a controversial stance. As a tenure-track professor, this cuts against the grain of how you are normally told to proceed. In the Academy, professors traditionally are expected to do research and then publish that research in one of a number of peer-reviewed journals.

A growing number of faculty, including myself, have begun to reject that road to tenure.

The reason: the academic publishing system is built around a 1-2 year publishing process that requires the best and brightest minds to turn over all of their intellectual property without any compensation for that work.

Before I came to the Academy, I was a digital journalist. I worked briefly for Wired before moving to Wired.com, where I first made my name. Eventually I left and helped places like Yahoo! Games and Variety launch their blogs while I finished my first book. My last job before becoming a professor was running MIT’s Technology Review‘s online operation.

I loved each of those jobs, but I would never have worked for any of those places had they not paid me for my work. Now that I’m a professor, I have yet to see a compelling reason to publish in academic journals that neither compensate me for my work, nor give me the right to keep and control the distribution of that work.

Outside the obvious ethical issues I have with this business model, the closed business of academic publishing stands against everything that science represents. At best this system makes it very difficult to parse through data, find relevant science and information, and drive innovation. At worst it works directly against these three.

This has prompted me to finally make concrete what I have danced around for several years:

In my last pre-tenure year as a professor, I’ve decided to see how serious the Academy is about re-evaluating how we disseminate information to our colleagues, our students, and the beyond.And I’m interested to see how other faculty respond to a junior faculty member who decides to explore new, emerging ways to distribute creative scholarship and leave behind the notion of publishing in closed academic journals.

The Academic Journal Cartel

Professors have long been at the mercy of big academic publishers. The tenure system, rightly built on the idea that scholars must add to the collective knowledge of their discipline in order to demonstrate their worth, demands that academic publish results of their research so that others might evaluate it.

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“White Like Me”

When I first read Black Like Me in high school, I was sick to my stomach for two reason:

  • This was the first time I experienced a hopeless despair about humanity. I wasn’t reading history (although it was set twenty years before); I was reading the now; and
  • It felt oddly strange that it took a white author to bring this home to me.

I bring this up because my mentor from Cal-Berkeley just posted a trailer for this documentary on Facebook, and it seems like a film that addresses those feelings I had (and have) lingering today.

You can purchase the film for $4.99 at Vimeo.

For years, Tim Wise’s bestselling books and spellbinding lectures have challenged some of our most basic assumptions about race in America. WHITE LIKE ME brings the full range of his work to the screen, showing how white privilege has perpetuated racial inequality and race-driven political resentments in ways most white people simply aren’t aware of.

White Like Me Trailer from MEF Digital on Vimeo.

What Writing Looks Like: Home Den Addition

2013-06-12 15.33.28People have this romantic notion of what it must be like to be a writer. More often than not, it looks like this. Of note:

  • the giant coffee mug,
  • the beard,
  • the sleeveless undershirt
  • the clipboard,
  • and the look of utter disdain at having a creative palette that consists of the worst tools known to man, “words.”

And since you have smooth hands and no farmer’s tan, few people suspect that after 9 hours of doing this you are so tired that the idea of speaking to another human being is beyond comprehension.


On days like this, Bec King has to make sure that I put my clothes on right-side out when we leave the house. I lose all perspective on the real world when I spend my day submerged in a world of words.

I can’t tell you how many times we have been at CrossFit or out to dinner before she’s realized that my shirt was on inside-out or backwards. (I’ve even gone out with my shorts on inside-out on two occasions.)

I wish I was lying.

On Race, On Gender, On Life as Artist

I spent 30 minutes watching this discussion between Kerry Washington and Don Cheadle this morning, and when it ended I couldn’t believe how quickly the time had gone by.

In general, I avoid listening to people analyze large conceptual ideas (gender in Hollywood) because too many people fall back on well-worn cliches and show little original thought.

That is not the case here.Washington and Cheadle talk about their individual experiences as actors, and more importantly, their experiences in historical contexts. (Bonus: Cheadle uses drops a sine waves reference so you may end up at Google during the interview.)

What comes out of the interview is a wonderful portait of these two actors, and a road map of sorts for those who want to follow in their footsteps.

For those students who are considering a life in the arts or who hope to engage in creative works, this is a must-watch interview with two intelligent actors.

How It Ends…How It Always Should End…

The scariest thing for a recovering addict to do is return to his life of crime. Seven years ago, I stepped away from writing. Five years ago, I stepped away from just about everything else.

Thanks to some amazing friends and support from people who believe in So Far Appalachia, I guess it’s time to get back to it.

I Was Playing to Win

Day 15 of the So Far Appalachia Kickstarter project, and funding has stalled at the 40% mark.

The math is starting to work against the project.

I don’t like to live in negative spaces. Until recently, I never considered what my life would be without writing. Now, I contemplate it every day.

The truth is I can’t really conceptualize what that might look like. I can’t imagine putting this project aside, and laying down my pen for the last time. My mind doesn’t yet accept the possibility (and my wife continually tells me “I chose hope.”) even as I know that reality may come to pass.

As I struggle to sleep through the night, and worry about how I might convince another 120 people to contribute to my project, I wake up every day thinking about this:

I watch this, I laugh, and I get back to trying to move the mountain for another 15 days.

The 52 in 365 Challenge: The Year of Thank You

The 90-in-90 writing challenges I’ve posted have sometimes taken on a life on their own. Other times they’ve taken on my life. And other times still they have simply faded away.

Fortunately, I’m way more into process than product so the outcome of my personal missions is rarely the point.

For this challenge, though, the product is more important than the process. Let me explain:

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Day 52: As School Approaches…

While I don’t write about writing much anymore, I’ve been writing a ton every day. Unfortunately, none of the writing is on my writing projects. I’ve nearly finished my research proposal for graduate school (which involves writing a short novella), I’ve written scores of pages for my online classes, explaining the details of my assignments, and I’m constantly writing grants for projects I’m aiming to accomplish.

In fact, I just turned in the last batch of work for 2 chapters I’ve written for a textbook on magazine journalism. (This is – I swear – the last thing I’m writing for a traditional publisher unless I’ve negotiated the contract.) Also: I sent out a note today that said between now and August 20 my answer to every query not related to school is: I can’t help you.

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Day 10: Popping tires, lighting fires

There are no days off in 90-in-90s.

While The Girl and I planned on doing an 18-mile bike trip this AM, Broad Ripple CrossFit yesterday broke our wills. There was no 7:15 wake-up. Instead, we slept until 8:30 and then hobbled around the house.

We finally took out the bikes, and headed to MoJoes for a day of writing. I got quite a bit accomplished, which was a nice change.

Unfortunately, I blew a tire heading home. Thankfully, my gorgeous fiancee is also a whiz with the bike-thingies. After a quick change, we headed home.

Maxx hit the dog park for 30 minutes, but mostly he laid around until it was time for training. While The Girl handled that, I ran to REI to replenish the bike supplies I used up (tire, 3 CO2 cartridges) and get my savior a new water bottle.

Just moments before I blew out my tire turning on New York Street

Week 1: Maxx + the Summer Heat

Maxx and I hit the Monon on Thursday for a 6.1 mile run, his longest by more than a mile. Unfortunately, it got much hotter much quicker than I’d hoped. (Apparently I read the weather report incorrectly.) My boy was a gamer, though. He willingly stopped at every water stop, and for 3.5 miles he chugged along quite well. We stopped for a 5-minute rest and water session on the way back and again at the 5.1 mile mark.

It’s weird being the owner of a running dog. When I get hot, I can tell my running partners I need a break. Maxx, the dog, however, will just keep running until he’s overheated. Since I’m new to this game, I’m sure we stop more than other dog owners but it’s just not that important to me that we set land-speed records. 

When he sits down, I keep my hand on his skin. If he’s hot, we stay there until he cools off (and if it’s not hot, I know he’s just being a pain in the ass and I give him a minute or so to compose himself before we go).

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Day 3: The Dog is Sad

Maxx, the dog spent most of yesterday clinging to me and sleeping at my feet. (He spent the night cuddled up on the bed as well.) This generally means he’s really, really tired. Instead of running with him, I decided to bike to Mo’Joe Coffee House.

I haven’t gotten my writing done yet, but I’ve knocked some work off my to do list. Tonight, I write.


90-in-90: Running + Writing

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.


I spend my school year with one eye on the summer, the elusive beast that I imagine will somehow be filled with time of my own that I can fill with reading and writing. Seven years into my academic career I can tell you this: the beast does not exist.

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