After six years at the Observer, Nick Friedman is moving on.
My teacher friends like to joke that those who can’t do, teach. OK, I don’t actually have many teacher friends. But if I did, I imagine they might make that joke.
Journalists could similarly crack wise, if they were so inclined (or had no better material):
What we can't do — we write.
The life of a reporter is not an easy one. As my executive editor likes to say: The hours are long. The pay is crap. But on the other hand, everybody hates you.
We’re a masochistic bunch.
But as journalists, we have that rare opportunity. And it far outweighs any of the industry’s myriad hair-whitening aspects.
This is my final week at the Observer. And in my six years here, this weekly community newspaper has opened my world, allowing me to explore countless topics in which my lack of knowledge knows no bounds.
Or knew, anyway.
I can now say I know what the North Trail looks like from the rear seat of a WWII-era fighter plane. I know just how far a Huffy will bounce in a bicycle-tossing competition. I know what a 12th Judicial Circuit Judge wears on his final days before retirement (light blue Chuck Taylors, if you were wondering).
After a brief stint in government writing, I can even fake my way through a conversation about Longboat Key groins without giggling.
If the juvenile humor hasn’t already betrayed me, the brevity of my time on that beat might reveal just how solidly my flag is planted in Camp Right Brain.
Imagine my delight, then, when in 2013, the Observer acquired ThisWeekinSarasota.com, a digital weekly arts and entertainment publication, and named me editor. It was a tall order. But in taking over TWIS, I found myself becoming (more) acquainted with local beer bars; Sarasota bands slowly began to dominate my Spotify most-played list; my long work hours took place not in an office, but at block parties and restaurant openings.
I felt I had hit my stride.
When the Observer decided in 2015 to combine ThisWeekinSarasota.com’s digital arts and entertainment coverage with its traditional print coverage of Sarasota’s fine arts organizations, I faced another challenge: provide comprehensive A+E coverage — high-brow, low-brow, medium-brow and everything between.
After all, as our rebranded motto reminded readers: There’s something for everyone.
And it was a challenge. Ballet? Opera? Theater?
I’m more at home in the lawn seat than the balcony seat.
But again, what I couldn’t do, I wrote.
I wrote about the logistical labyrinth that is coordinating 103 guards, soldiers, bystanders, dancers and trumpeters onstage in the Sarasota Opera’s staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida.” About John Ringling’s culinary prowess (he was known to make a wicked Spanish omelette). About a choral arts director’s second life as a globe-trotting mountaineer.
And in my writing, Sarasota’s arts scene came to be my journalistic home. I came to know and love it. And perhaps my biggest takeaway was the people. This is an arts community frequently touted as the cultural capital of the state. And in this writer’s opinion, it’s because it’s just that. A community.
The artists, directors, staff, volunteers and patrons that compose this beat I’ve called home for the past four years are passionate, talented and full of incredible stories.
And it’s been my privilege to tell those stories.
As I take the next step in my career, I’ll miss this beat. But the arts community is in good hands with my successor, Niki Kottmann. Previously our Black Tie reporter, she’s a talented, ambitious storyteller.
And in Sarasota, great arts stories are in no short supply.