In 1999, I found a new job as Director of New Media for a youth journalism nonprofit, Children’s Express (CE). The Pulitzer Prize-nominated organization had been around for 25 years and had bureaus in the U.S., the U.K. and Japan. It gave youth ages eight to eighteen the opportunity to report and edit syndicated news stories about topics of the day.
Youth reported on everything from national elections to youth homelessness to date rape. Their stories were included in The New York Times news service and published in print, broadcast and online media across the U.S.
I loved working with young journalists and helping them get their stories online. In addition to my expected job duties, I also formed youth “Internet Councils” at the DC and NYC bureaus. I wanted to build the direct engagement of CE youth in the planning of CE’s online presence.
Like other staff members, however, I worried about the change in organizational climate after CE hired a new executive director. He seemed more focused on expanding the size of his office, hiring his own support staff, and working on pet projects than on listening to the suggestions or concerns of the more racially diverse editorial staff and youth journalists.
Unsettled with what I recognized as financial mismanagement and an increasing divide between executive staff and those on the front lines, I reached out to higher ups and the board — and they ignored me. When I quit soon afterwards, I was not alone; many other staff members decided to leave the organization as well.
Sadly, by the time the board took notice, it was too late. A year after I left, and after 25 years in operation, the nonprofit went bankrupt. I leaked the story to the Chronicle of Philanthropy (you can find the story in the Aug. 9, 2001 issue), hoping other nonprofit boards would not make the same mistakes.