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Editor Lee Chilcote stepping down, Fresh Water launches search for new editor


Big news at Fresh Water Cleveland: Managing editor Lee Chilcote is stepping down to focus on his new startup organization Lit Cleveland and other writing projects. The publication is launching a search for a new managing editor. Current innovation editor Karin Connelly is now serving as interim managing editor. Below, Lee shares some reflections on five years of working for Fresh Water.

Five years ago, I started writing for a brand-new publication called Fresh Water Cleveland just as Northeast Ohio was emerging from the recession. No one knew who we were, but they were excited to get our newsletter in their email inboxes each week. Quickly, word spread that we were writing about the city in a new, different way.

Each week, we ran stories about feisty, game-changing startups; new community development projects, from greening vacant lots to chef-driven restaurants; and changes taking place in Cleveland, such as new apartments being built downtown and efforts to create more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.

The tweets and Facebook posts went viral. News media outlets in town were suddenly covering our stories. We couldn't scoop them on the big stuff, but when it came to covering grassroots entrepreneurs, we were often the first to write about them. People were reading. People were watching.

Now look how far Cleveland has come in the last five years. Not a month goes by that our city doesn't land on another Top 10 list. Getting so much outside attention is a sign we're doing something right.

A year ago, when I took over as editor, I prompted a shift in how Fresh Water was covering news. We love stories about the latest beer-and-tater-tot joint, of course, but that's not all there is. We began paying attention to different neighborhoods, switching up our coverage. We wanted to cover the nonprofit organization helping to put low-income folks to work as well as the next hipster pinball hall.

All along, we've done it with a wonderful team of writers and photographers, especially Erin O'Brien (development), Karin Connelly (innovation) and Bob Perkoski (photographer extraordinaire). Our publisher, Fran DiDonato, has been a particularly amazing partner.
 
Now my life is undergoing a major change, too. A year ago, I launched an effort to create more community-based programs for writers in Cleveland, which was a gap in the local literary landscape. The idea quickly took hold and people became jazzed about it. With a committee of volunteers, I helped organize a free writers conference called the Cleveland Inkubator on Saturday, Aug. 1st at the downtown library.

And people came ... hundreds of them, in fact. It revealed the hunger for writing programs in our community. Suddenly, instead of writing about entrepreneurs, I was one.

Out of this came Literary Cleveland, a fledgling new organization whose vision is to create a strong community of writers and readers in Cleveland through classes, workshops, readings and other events. Friends, colleagues and strangers have jumped in and helped. We've raised nearly $10,000 from 150+ founding members, and our classes and events are filling up. It's been an amazing ride so far.
 
In a few short months, Lit Cleveland has grown to the point that it now requires more of my attention, as do other writing projects. I'm stepping down from Fresh Water to pursue my goal of helping grow Cleveland's literary community. Karin Connelly, a highly-skilled and experienced writer, is taking over as interim editor as Issue Media Group launches a search for a new managing editor.

Thank you for the opportunity to cover this community over the past five years. I'm looking forward to watching what Fresh Water does next.
 
Yours Sincerely,
 
Lee Chilcote

Read more articles by Lee Chilcote.

Lee Chilcote is a journalist, essayist and poet whose work has appeared in many regional and national publications. He is Managing Editor of Fresh Water Cleveland and Editorial Director of Issue Media Group. He has earned Master's degrees in English/Creative Writing and Public Administration from Cleveland State University. Originally from Cleveland Heights, he lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood with his family.
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