“I am from Edinburgh, Scotland and left home at 19 to join the Navy. When I got out, I moved to Sweden and have been traveling ever since. I was always going to Europe, Australia and New Zealand when I was a kid. My dad lived in Australia and Europe was on my doorstep so traveling was easy. When I was 12, my mom took me to India. She always said traveling was the best education and I think it played a part in me becoming a journalist.
I did a story of human trafficking of kids to Europe to play soccer, but it was all a sham. They took the fee and travel money and then dumped the kids in Paris. Often the parents told them not to come back because they sold everything to give them that opportunity and couldn’t afford them to come home. They also knew the kids had a chance of a better life in Europe. I did that story in two months but it led to another story that took three years. There was a similar process in Qatar. They were going to Africa, getting the talented kids and taking them to the soccer camps. It was a real thing and they worked with the kids, but the angle of the story became this is another way of mining Africa for its precious entities, in this case talented kids, and Africa got nothing in return. It ran on the front page of the New York Times in 2014 for two days in a row. That was a big deal and I peaked early. A buddy and the Times helped me get over the finish line and they put it together in a way we never could and made it into a great story. It was very exciting and it looks good on the resume.
I attended Columbia journalism school and was working at a start up news organization in New York when a friend asked if I would be interested in moving to Alabama for a job at Al.com. I said yes and while we were working on the visa process for that job I was laid off after during the transition time. My Visa would have expired if this job hadn’t come along. For three months, I got to live the life I wanted in New York because I had severance and unemployment and more money than I had ever had. It was the best three months of my life with museums, parties and time with friends.
When I got to Mobile, Ben Raines took me out in the Delta and it was very wild but Mobile is much more metropolitan than people said it would be. You can work downtown and in five minutes be out in a beautiful wilderness and with eagles and alligators. I didn’t have a car when I moved here and walked from my apartment to Greers and back in the heat with a load of groceries and thought I may have to leave. I have never needed a car or a driver’s license because everywhere I lived had good public transportation but I had to get both to come here.
I am an investigative reporter for AL.com and cover defense. It is a struggle between content and writing beautiful stories. I am now on the Reckon team that does serious stories and I take readers’ questions and try to find answers. One of them was why is Alabama in the liquor selling business? The religious right didn’t want to privatize liquor sales because they didn’t want people drinking even more.
One of my weaknesses is getting heartbroken at dead ends or I think a story will win a Pulitzer and my editor shoots it down. Some stories run you into opposition or it comes up at parties. I have had to apologize and say it wasn’t personal I am just doing my job. An investigative story has to be in the public interest and I do think about all sides and who gets hurt from it.
I want to stay in Mobile for a while. I haven’t had the achievement and success yet and I would like to have a big series and produce better work. I look up to Dan Barry in the New York Times. His writing is so rich with color. I want to do work like him, but I might never get there. It is hard to find your voice. My editors keep asking who I am writing for. I just want to make the readers care.
The world is very connected now and Mobile is becoming an important part of it. The Amazon shipping center opening and they say soon many shipping containers will be coming here from China with Mobile, Alabama stamped on them. This is becoming a global destination but there seems to be a misunderstanding of Alabama once you get to Mobile. Birmingham is separate and far away and there really is a Gulf Coast nation. I would like to cover it as that.
I have a girlfriend now and she is helping me get out and enjoy life here. There is a lot more to Mobile than I expected.”