A Note on How I Choose My Assignments

Hello! Thank you for your recent suggestions about what I should cover/what direction I should go in my career.

First off, I really mean it. Thank you. Without the help and guidance of people in the communities I’ve covered over the years, I would be nowhere and my shit would suck ass. I know I owe my career and insight to my sources, my readers, and to the communities that have allowed me to learn about their lives and values. I’ve done this as an outsider, and the tremendous respect and warmth people have demonstrated, meeting my needs and ethical concerns over the years, is literally humbling.

But for every story I take on, there are many I don’t.

Let me explain a few things about that. First off, there is one of me. I try to work roughly full time, but frankly, I’m not even good at long jags of full time work before I tire out a bit. Sometimes I work a lot more than full time, but usually I burn out rather badly after I do, and end up working much less for a while. I have learned/am learning to pace myself, and if your story has come up during a time when I need to recharge my batteries or go play with my daughter, I’m sorry, the world just has to turn without me for a while. Don’t bother to tell me a story is more important than my time with my daughter — she’s why I do this in the first place.

No matter how good your idea is, you don’t get editorial input on what I choose to write about, or how I write it. Honestly, publications would probably pay me a lot more if I would write about what they wanted when they wanted me to, and I’ve chosen to make much less to maintain my independence. I appreciate suggestions, and am super grateful for help, but my independence is important enough to me that I’m willing to stay poor to keep it. (I wouldn’t mind not staying poor, but you know…)

I have my own agenda and ethics. I see my work building towards a cohesive whole, a larger story, and I’m loyal to that story. I think in long time scales, and about a long and specific story I’m telling over my career. Not everything that should be told is part of that story — again, there is just one of me. If your suggestion is totally awesomely awesome and deserves attention, but I don’t want to cover it, this is why.

I see my readers as people picking stuff up right now, but I also see them as people in 100 or 200 years, trying to understand how this period affected the world they live in. I don’t know whether those people will read me specifically, but I do believe I affect a narrative that will come down to them. I feel responsible to them to get stuff right over time, and to tell a insightful and constructive story.

I do get terrible suggestions, but things I thought were terrible suggestions turned out to be great stories I misjudged and passed on. I spend a lot of time being wrong, which is just part and parcel of spending a lot of time in unknown territory. I’m not likely to tell you if I think your suggestion is terrible. Not because I’m buttering you up, because I’ve been wrong enough to not really trust my opinion in that. I’ve chased plenty of stories that ended up stupid and passed on others that turned out brilliant. It’s taught me that these things are hard to judge.

My answer is to choose stories based on my desire to understand and explain how the technology of this age is changing what it means to be human, not whether or not I think it’s a good story. Whether a particular event/op/tip/etc. fits into the metastory I’m telling is something only I can decide. And if I figure it out late, I’m late to the story, but I’m ok with that. I’m not a news automaton, I’m not even a story telling automaton. I’m a person whose stories are shaped by my values, ethics, and dreams for the future. You have helped build that, but only I can steer it.

But all that said, please keep ‘em coming, I’d be lost without suggestions. I <3 you all.

P.S. If you’re a PR person trying to get me cover your product, it’s probably not going to happen. And honestly if you knew my work, I’m not sure you’d want it to. Might want to save us both the trouble there. Also, despite being named Quinn, I’m not a man.