Work & Purpose

Meet Our New Editorial & Content Director

Why Shayla Stern says Next Avenue was the perfect place for her to land

As a senior in high school and editor of our school paper, I made the unilateral decision that our class motto in our annual “graduation issue” be the famous T.S. Eliot line from his poem, Little Gidding:

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

(If memory serves, my decision was later overruled by the yearbook editor who preferred a Pink Floyd lyric, which I’m sure was equally profound and appropriate.)

A few years ago, I started to feel a pull back to the faster pace of my early dot com media days and decided to make a career pivot.

What T.S. Eliot Had in Mind

In starting my work as the new Editorial & Content Director for Next Avenue, I find myself thinking about what Eliot had in mind. Back then, I was a music geek who loved the idea of becoming an old-school newspaper reporter (or an MTV VJ), and couldn’t wait to escape small-town Iowa to begin my exploration. After earning my journalism degree, I headed to Washington, D.C., and because I had experience using email and AOL, I wound up going as new school as one could at that point in media history. I was an intern on the team that published The Chronicle of Higher Education to the World Wide Web (and to Gopher, which might ring some bells with tech-savvy readers from the early ‘90s).

Soon after, I became an online content producer at The Washington Post and was on the team that launched the Post on the Web in 1996. l also created and edited our digital-only local music section, as well as a consumer advice blog for twentysomethings.

I can’t believe that was 20 years ago.

Journalist, Teacher, Rocker, Mom

In the middle years, I moved between digital journalism and marketing (Edmunds.com, Cars.com, Fast Horse and even a defunct artificial intelligence start-up called Recommender). I lived in Virginia, D.C., Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota. I played bass in a rock band. I started a family. I also went to graduate school and then spent many years as a journalism professor, publishing extensively about my research on new media, gender and youth, including two books about girls, From the Dance Hall to Facebook and Instant Identity. I taught courses on digital media and culture, editing and more, too.

A few years ago, I started to feel a pull back to the faster pace of my early dot com media days and decided to make a career pivot  — something Next Avenue writes about frequently. And here I am.

My consistent love for journalism (in print, broadcast or digital form) has remained, but I’ve returned to the newsroom with so much more than when I left it.

What I’ve Brought With Me

Now, I have a wealth of of knowledge in audience studies, social media and content strategy; an understanding of the grant-writing process (that’ll come in very handy here; Next Avenue’s existence partly depends on grants) and a whole lot of real-world experience.

In other words, Next Avenue has been the perfect place to land after all my exploring.

I’m a passionate supporter of public media (Next Avenue, again), and I feel a strong connection to our mission of helping people 50+. Most in that demo are boomers, but as a Gen X’er, I hope to represent my generation, too. I am so lucky to collaborate with an amazing staff dedicated to turning out high-quality journalism daily, engaging across platforms.

Although you might notice a few subtle changes in the coming year or so, I plan to do my part to maintain our commitment to compelling, service-oriented content while leading Next Avenue into our next stage. Dear audience, I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Feel free to contact me with your comments at [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @shayla_stern.

By Shayla Thiel Stern
Shayla is the former Director of Editorial and Content for Next Avenue at Twin Cities PBS.@shayla_stern

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