Working at Jalopnik has been an ambition of mine since I started reading the site and commenting way back in the early days. And now, after almost two years here working with old friends and new, I’ve taken another job, with some other friends at RM Sotheby’s.
If you’ve left a job you love before, you know there are a lot of different reasons to make that decision. Overall, I had a great time here working with some of my favorite writers on the best site in the world. But between Autoweek and here, I’ve been doing more or less the same great job for a decade now and I need to try something new.
It’s no exaggeration to say that reading Jalopnik altered the course of my life. For the first time, I felt like I knew what I wanted to do. I read every post and commented way too much. It felt like my home. When Spin made his departure post, I was a wreck. Every departure after that hurt a little. The site changed, but it continued to grow, getting bigger and more important in every iteration. Great writers and editors made it their own and became the Daveys, Jonnys, and Murilees that had readers checking the site several times a day.
Last week, a couple of the guys who encouraged me to take this job – writers who are unquestionably among the best this site has ever seen – made a move that had been in the works for a long time. Because the site is in excellent shape, because we have a great staff who are more than capable of maintaining Jalopnik’s place at the top of its competitive set and growing it from there, we were all able to send them off without concern for the site’s future.
I know that felt like a blow to a lot of readers. It was. But on behalf of the staff, let me just say that this is a car website. It is the world’s greatest car website, and it’s been a home for me and a lot of other people who never really felt quite as at home anywhere else. But it is also just a car website. If it doesn’t look the way you want it, or if your favorite writer leaves, take a breath.
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Over the course of my time here, I have talked with a number of readers who offered thoughtful criticism of the site, and made changes where I could. The next person will no doubt do the same. But try to remember that for reasons that might not be apparent to you, things change. Things break. Ideally they get fixed. If the site no longer suits you, that’s ok. Comments about “if so and so leaves, I’m never reading the site again” have been being made for as long as I’ve been a commenter, which is the whole history of the site. And some readers really do stop reading. Writers come and go, readers and commenters come and go for any number of reasons.
Since I came on in 2020, the staff has roughly doubled in size. David, Raph and I hired all of those excellent people. We looked for people who we could tell cared about Jalopnik, and who we thought would be good stewards of the site.
We hired people who we thought could build readerships of their own and they will. Some day, a passionate fan will declare to the whole comment section (or the ones who bothered to click 30 times to read all the comments) that they’re done reading Jalopnik because someone is quitting to go run the 23 person space-toilet desk at the Autopian.
I’m not going to ask you to read the site. The staff of Jalopnik is more than capable of getting people to read the site. I will ask that if you stick around, you try to keep a level head, and keep your criticisms constructive.
Now that I’ve said all that, I’m going to say some nice things about the site.
Jalopnik, in the car business, the media business and elsewhere is not well understood. I have been reading the site since it started. I’ve worked in automotive media for a decade and been good friends with a lot of the people who have worked here. When it came time to jump on board and lead the site I had no earthly idea how it worked. There were a lot of “Several People Are Typing” moments, some cringey posts. Kristen took hours of her own time to explain things to me. Patrick did, too.
Eventually, Andrew, David, Jason, Erik, Justin, Raph, and Erin patiently showed me the almost always counterintuitive path to the top of the car website heap. We made a few changes, we hired some excellent staffers, and we brought the site to a place of growth and relative stability without ever really being in the same room. Norman Mayersohn even came out of retirement to help out for a while.
The experience was not without its frustrations. I have a running tally of missteps, regrets and missed opportunities. But working with this group of people and getting to know them was massively rewarding. Being a part of Jalopnik, and being here when the site needed someone who would keep it weird but true was something I’ll be eternally grateful for.
At the end of today, I’ll go back to being a commenter and a Jalopnik fan. I’m looking forward to seeing what the site becomes without me.