Showing the heart of the city

Two years ago, I started my tenure as managing editor of Soapbox. Today marks my last issue with that title, an announcement I share with a mix of gratitude and excitement.

As I start my work as a contributing editor at WCPO digital focusing on environmental stories, I hope to remain connected to many in this powerful Soapbox family. Thank you all for making my time on this site so full of learning and inspiration.

And, just so you know, I’ll still be contributing to at least one more series of stories this summer as we launch an initiative that challenges us all to demand better in and from our city. You’ll hear more about that next week.

But since I can, I decided to use this last column to offer a brief history of the little online publication that could -- i.e., SoapboxMedia.

First off, Soapbox has never had a full-time employee. Ever. Still, founding editor Jeff Syroney set the bar for weekly content focused on innovation, creativity and progress in the region. His passion for the arts and creativity put the publication on the map. Next up, ME Sean Rhiney added his passions for historic preservation and policy into an ever-expanding mix of stories that started conversations and, I like to think, opened minds. 

That’s where I come in. As a full-time journalism professor at the University of Cincinnati, I had admired Soapbox’s ability to surprise and often delight me with insights about a city I thought I knew well. I took on the ME position determined to share some piece of my almost hometown (I was born and raised in Norwood) that would illuminate, inspire and every so often make our audience uncomfortable. 

Two years later, I’ve learned more than I thought possible about people and organizations dedicated to making Cincinnati their homes or dropping important knowledge as they pass through. 

We’ve lost some because of what we couldn’t offer and gained others thanks to chances we are willing to take. 

Back when I started as ME, I wrote about how Cincinnatians often take our city’s treasures for granted. Here are a few of my favorites:

• My first feature story published as ME, which was about urban beekeepers whose creativity and determination expanded my thinking about urban gardening and local advocates passionate about their hives.

A story introducing Sarah Corlett, who moved to town to launch SpringBoard Cincinnati, a business development program that has reshaped the landscape of local small businesses and artisan-run enterprises already and manages to keep shaking up the entrepreneurial ecosystem every year.

A Q-and-A with Venture for America founder Andrew Yang, who chose Cincinnati as one of the first-round cities for his innovative program matching all-star college grads with cities hungry for their talents.

A profile of Kate Zaidan in Findlay Market, who followed her heart and her family back to Cincinnati and epitomizes the spirit of family and community that inspires so much passion about the historic market.

• Our “Women to Watch” and "Young and Black in Cincinnati" series. Each installation offered glimpses into challenges and opportunities faced by some remarkable Cincinnatians, native and transplanted, often struggling to gain a foothold here.

• Stories about new business owners at Collective Espresso and Queen City Cookies, brave souls with rare talents and complicated paths who still manage to make doing good look easy.

• Pieces that tapped into unexpected talents like Johnny Wirick (aka Johnny Walker) and Keith Neltner.

• Stories that connected me to behind-the-scenes city-shapers like the leaders of City Studios and Kolar Design.

• A review of the little-known efforts by Cincinnati Parks to innovate and create more sustainable and efficient spaces for residents to play, work and live.

• And last but not least, these two Q-and-As with Emery Theatre/Requiem Project co-founders Tara Lindsey Gordon and Tina Manchise, passionate leaders whose dedication to restoring an amazing piece of local architecture, despite the challenges and frustrations, is one of the most inspiring stories I know. 

It's been a great couple of years, and life won't be the same without my weekly dose of photographer extraordinaire Scott Beseler, powerhouse Dacia Snider and instigator-in-chief Eric Avner. But, I have to admit, I'm looking forward to being surprised when I open my Soapbox newsletter each week. 

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