Alumni Newsletter

On top of their day jobs, DO alumni explore outside passions with digital side projects

Courtesy of Caitlin Dewey, Jared Diamond, Jesse Dougherty and Sam Fortier

Clockwise from left: Caitlin Dewey ('11), Jared Diamond ('10), Jesse Dougherty ('16) and Sam Fortier ('18).

As interns on the West Coast this summer, Jesse Dougherty and Sam Fortier would often find themselves alone on Gchat while their east coast counterparts were fast asleep.

The two spent nights trading messages back and forth, eventually developing the concept for a new website. In September, Hundreds of Words was born.

The site’s hallmark is digestible pieces with a caveat. Each article must hit an exact word count: 100, 200, 300, 400 — you get it. Each month gets a theme. October’s “Hundreds of Words about My First Car,” follows that of last month, “Hundreds of Words about Location.” The site gives contributors a platform on which to tell narratives about everything from baseball in the winter to first-car memories to dancing in new places.

“A low-stress place where people can turn to for poetry, anything,” Dougherty said. “A wheelhouse for the first-person personal essay.”

Fortier, an intern at The Ringer in Los Angeles, spent his summer contributing to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer series on everyday people, like a homeless street poet he met outside of a coffee shop. From “Seattle stories,” he learned he wanted to have an outlet where anyone could write about everyday people, encounters and events. Hundreds of Words fits the bill.

Both Dougherty (‘16) and Fortier (‘18) say they have “zero resume plans” for the project. It’s solely for fun.

Such side projects are growing in popularity. Several Daily Orange alumni have created newsletters and websites to give them an outlet for their passions, on top of their full-time jobs. Some may start as fun personal projects; many grow and garner a significant following.

Caitlin Dewey (‘11) has penned her newsletter “Links I Would Gchat You if We Were Friends” for three years, putting her “ahead of the curve” as blogs and newsletters have taken off. Each weekly newsletter includes links to articles, videos and other blogs from around the web.

“It’s so easy to start one,” Dewey said of newsletters. “There’s no overhead. It’s a pretty good business model; you have nothing to lose.”

Dewey now balances her full-time job as The Washington Post’s digital culture critic with a newsletter that’s nearing 10,000 subscribers. In both of her roles, Dewey adopts a casual tone that is somewhat unusual for a legacy newspaper.

“I definitely swear more and make more inappropriate jokes then I would ever be allowed by a copy desk,” she said. “But I’m at a digital-first organization where I write with similar tone. It’s a natural fit.”
Though it started as a hobby, Dewey’s newsletter has helped her career. She has gotten sources, freelance gigs and story ideas from her subscribers. She has even received job offers. She counts an editor at Cosmopolitan magazine and a Twitter founder among her subscribers.

Jared Diamond (‘10), a sports reporter at The Wall Street Journal, launched a newsletter with a friend this summer called The -30-. With a target audience of aspiring media professionals and working journalists alike, Diamond hopes to show “how the sausage is made.”

The newsletter features everything from Q&As with journalists, go-to spots for bites to eat in New York City and links to articles. Daily Orange alumni Conor Orr (‘10) of NFL.com and the Los Angeles Times’ Andy McCullough (‘09) have already appeared among a star-studded lineup of interviews.

The newsletter, run by Diamond and journalist Mike Vorkunov, is up to 600 subscribers. Many of those readers were drawn by something as simple as a link to it on Twitter. They hope to eventually reach 100,000 readers.

Said Diamond: “It’s pretty good considering we started with nothing.”

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