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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022 2 weeks ago

An introduction from the Observer's new A+E Editor

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Spencer Fordin, the Observer's new Arts + Entertainment editor, comes with two decades of experience in journalism but not much skill at all at singing and dancing.
by: Spencer Fordin A+E Editor

I think there’s one thing we can all agree on before you even meet me.

Nobody wants to hear me sing.

My name is Spencer Fordin, and it’s my pleasure to introduce myself as the Observer's new Arts + Entertainment editor.

If I may borrow a theater metaphor for a moment, I know my role.

I’m not a frustrated artist or a chop shop critic; I’m here to help the art and the artists speak directly to the consumer.

And I think I may have the best job on the planet.

Truth be told, I come to you from a pretty nontraditional path. I’ve known I wanted to be a journalist since I was 9 years old, chiefly because I was a voracious and precocious reader but also because I had seen the movie "Fletch." Early on, it seemed like the best job in the world. You’re digging in the weeds to tell people stories they may not otherwise read, and because you’re the one writing them, you know what’s in the newspaper before it even arrives.

You know what I've found? That’s exactly the way it is in real life.

I’ve been all over the eastern seaboard as a journalist, starting at the University of Florida and winding through two stints in Manhattan. I worked in Toronto and Baltimore during my 15-year tenure with MLB.com, and then I even worked for three years in the Cayman Islands. Everywhere I’ve been — and every topic I’ve covered — the job is still the same.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a chess grandmaster or a Caribbean head of state.

Your job is to connect with people, to listen, to ask smart questions and to capture their voice so perfectly that their audience can hear them speak off the printed page.

When I got into this business, I was terrible!

My editor at the Independent Florida Alligator — a refinery of past, present and future greats in journalism — called me Cliche Boy for a whole semester. But then I learned to get out of the way; being a good journalist wasn’t dependent on me hitting a home run with every paragraph. It was about me doing my homework, talking to enough sources and letting the story tell itself.

I think the same thing was true when I covered baseball. 

I have more than 1,500 ballgames on my odometer, and most of the people who read my stories had already watched the game. They didn't want me to be Charles Dickens as much as they wanted me to be their guy on the scene. They wanted me to ask the questions they would ask if they were on the scene, and they wanted me to flesh out the picture they couldn't see from home.

The job is simple: Talk to the people who play the games, earn their trust and tell their story as best you can. That’s exactly what I hope to do here in Sarasota. I hope to earn the trust of both my sources and my audience one sentence, one paragraph and one story at a time.

I am bringing to you no obnoxious attitudes and no arguments from authority.

My lone performance credit came as a member of the chorus in an elementary school production of "The Mikado." I do not have much or any history playing a musical instrument, and bar mitzvah tapes will clearly show that I cannot dance.

But here’s what I do have: An intense curiosity and a deep appreciation for the arts. I’m moved by painting and sculpture and theater and dance, and sometimes I don’t have the vocabulary to articulate what it is that stirs within me.

Reader, I’m here to learn. I’m here to be on the front lines, behind the scenes and wherever the pursuit of knowledge will take me.

I’m here to be your Fletch, but without putting on any costumes or breaking and entering. I’m here to find out what’s interesting and do my best to play it back for you note-for-note.

And if I'm doing my job well, the artists will hear themselves in my stories.

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