Category Personal

Today it’s been one year.

This is a personal post on the occasion of the first anniversary of a good friend’s death.

Today it’s been one year.

One year since a colleague walked into our newsroom with a look of incredulity on her face when I was just getting into the office and showed me a Facebook post on her phone: “Chris Hondros has died.”

It turned out to be the start of an hour-long struggle for actual facts. The message was premature at the time, posted by someone on the ground in Misrata (who was either overly eager to break the news or who might have just misinterpreted what he saw or heard – it doesn’t really matter anymore). But as the day went on reality caught up. Chris Hondros had died. He died, together with Tim Hetherington, from injuries they sustained in a mortar attack while they were covering the siege of Misrata in Libya.


I am not just very good at compartmentalizing, I also have a tendency to check things off and move on if it’s clear that I can’t do anything about a given situation. That has served me very well over the years but I knew that this particular behavioral pattern also put me at risk to quickly forget and just get back to my routine. And I wanted to make sure I didn’t.

Actually, I want to make sure I don’t forget (present tense). Justin Sullivan had made stickers with the initials “CH” that now grace a lot of our photographers’ computers, including my own. My laptop’s desktop picture shows one of Chris’ many iconic shots, taken just a few days before his death. And since I’ve named my computers after cities for the past 15 years or so, last year’s new MacBook Air is no exception: If you see a machine identifying as MISRATA in your network, that might be mine.

They might seem silly but it’s these little things that make me pause and remember. They make me think of Chris’ laughter and his mischievous grin. (For those who knew him, I’m sure you understand why I found both very inspiring.) I am happy to say that I’ve accomplished both: not letting myself get caught up in questions of “what does it mean” but also not forgetting and simply moving on.

Now I’m looking forward and asking myself: Where do I go from here? How can I do my part to ensure that what Chris has done and what he worked and stood for will not stop?

And that’s obviously a lot harder to do than to say. For one thing, it’s really hard to define what “that” even is. Chris touched individuals’ lives. He helped people, directly and indirectly. He told their stories and showed others like you and me what we couldn’t see for ourselves, as photojournalists do.

I never was, nor will I ever become, as good a photographer as he was. So that’s a non-starter.

As an editor, I offer advice, support and sometimes shape coverage. That’s an option and I’ve been working in that part of our industry for a number of years. (Although today, I hope to empower the editors on my team to do this more than I do it myself.)

As a business person and an editorial technologist, I see myself as an enabler. One of the guys in the background, in the best possible sense. I provide frameworks for others to work within. Lay foundations for others to stand on and improve upon. Make sure the workflows, servers, databases, data models — and business models! — are set up to support telling the important stories of our time.

Is that enough? I don’t know. Time will tell, I guess.


The new toy.

My new The New iPad iPad 3 is on its way.

The usual suspects have already written very eloquently about which kind to get and what it looks and feels like, but let me add my own thoughts to the conversation.

I skipped the iPad 2 because I buy these things with my own money and did not use my original iPad quite as much as my iPhone or my MacBook Air — so I decided to save a few $$$ for once.

But now is the time to upgrade. If you remember the difference between the screens of the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4, you’ll understand that when Phil Schiller announced the (or rather: confirmed the long-rumored) Retina display on the new iPad, my decision was made.

I pre-ordered my original iPad back in 2010 for delivery on the first day of availability but because this was a very new class of devices I wanted to be prudent and went with the most basic configuration: 16GB Wi-Fi. I can safely say that this taught me one thing over the last two years: get as much memory as Apple offers (or you can afford). Having to decide how to scale down your music and video library and which apps to install (or not to delete) for each trip sucks. Especially if you travel a lot.

Consequently, my iPad 3 is the maxed-out version and I went with built-in LTE this time, too. I haven’t taken my original iPad with me on a number of occasions because I knew Wi-Fi wouldn’t be available (and tethering via iPhone is still a pain). This time, I want to try out how this additional freedom will change my behavior (or not).

Seeing how the newly optimized apps for the Retina display weigh in in terms of size (after all, doubling the resolution means 4x as many pixels), I still think Apple should have offered a 128GB option. I seriously expect that to be the limiting factor for my new toy, despite the fact that I got the largest one available.

So which apps am I going to put on it when it arrives?

My must-haves: Tweetbot, iA Writer, Things, Instapaper, the NY Times and of course The Guardian’s Eyewitness.

Additional no-brainers: Agenda, 1Password, iBooks, Soulver, Netflix, Prompt, Snapseed and, to keep up with news from home, tagesschau and the F.A.S.

Anything important I missed?    

Something a little different…

Today, instead of hastily finishing one of my own posts in the drafts folder, I want to point you elsewhere. To Greg Campbell’s blog and his latest post, Breaking on through. (Greg is an author and many of you know the movie Blood Diamond, which was based on one of his books.)

I like these personal accounts and reminders of my friend Chris Hondros, precisely because they’re filling in blanks for me as I did not have the chance to know him from way back when…