To keep pace with the changing economics of newspapers, Hearn turned the San Diego Union-Tribune’s investigative unit she led into a nonprofit
We obsessed over the future of journalism in 1994. It was technology’s fault. E-mail was mainstream, and it even was possible—with time, patience and a dial-up connection—to view the Mona Lisa on the Louvre’s website. My Nieman class anguished over our relevance.
Like many Fellows, I entered Harvard and Lippmann House tired, spent from what felt like half-a-life of deadlines, long hours and cutthroat competition. I intended to reignite the passion and to find answers to big questions that dogged me in the maelstrom of dailies. But the Nieman year gave me a gift that was totally unexpected, a series of conversations, encounters and contemplations that converged to change the course of my career.
The wise counsel of both those who came to visit and those who were in my Nieman class led me slowly to the realization that I had done all I could do with my byline. Horror of horrors, I needed to be an … editor—the kind of editor I sought out: tough, encouraging, ethical, demanding, a team builder.
I became that editor. My Nieman year energized me through 13 years as a legal affairs editor and then metro editor. It propelled me through coverage of city scandals, San Diego’s near bankruptcy, two massive wildfires, and a corrupt congressman whose behavior helped the newspaper win a Pulitzer Prize. It propelled me through hiring, promoting and building a staff to be proud of and then having to lay them off. It gave me the confidence to leave traditional journalism to be part of the future of journalism. I founded and run inewsource, an investigative journalism nonprofit in San Diego. I still anguish over the future of journalism, but now I’m helping to build it.