New Year’s Resolutions Or New Year’s Revolution?

Ten years ago, I met Atul Singh on LinkedIn when I published an article countering his thoughts on religion. Last year, I met Rod Berger in more amiable circumstances. Both are now colleagues at Fair Observer and we look forward to expanding our conversation in 2024.

January 24, 2024 10:57 EDT
Dear FO° Reader,

Few years start as dramatically as 2024, both in the world globally, but also here within the Fair Observer family. We see this as a year of growth, though not everyone sees that growth as positive. For our team, January is full of excitement. The team is expanding, now with the addition of an editor who brings a new dimension to our media presence. And our journalistic activity is about to reach out in a new direction, both culturally and linguistically, with the launch of a French-speaking extension of our signature crowdsourced model.

The latter development became official, at least on paper, at the end of 2023. FrancoFOnie, a French non-profit, now exists, and we will be tooling up and going online in the coming months. This is a project we’ve been planning for some time but which has come to fruition thanks to the collaboration of a good friend of mine, Pierre Morlière, whom I’ve known and occasionally collaborated with for 30 years. We are lining up talents from a variety of francophone countries that will, if nothing else, add some spice to the international dialogue Fair Observer has sought to foster from the get-go twelve years ago.

Throughout 2023, we’ve been actively building our expanding pool of editors as we continue to bring on board a host of young talents, spread over at least three continents, who are both learning the ropes of journalism and pushing us forward with new energy and original ideas.

This new year is proving even more special. We are proud to announce the addition to our team of a powerful voice, a seasoned media personality, Rod Berger. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Rod has years of experience as a globe-trotting US journalist, podcaster and corporate strategist. He is a gifted storyteller who knows how to promote storytelling. He will be collaborating regularly with our team as Editor-at-Large.

Two unexpected encounters in an unexpected place

It was ten years ago that LinkedIn provided the platform for a private discussion group I decided to join as an Oxford alumnus. At the time, LinkedIn allowed expansive discussions with no particular — or at least visible — limit on the number of characters one might use in the effort to communicate one’s thoughts to others in the context of a group dialogue. In those heady days, before the Twitter model influenced LinkedIn, one could develop one’s thoughts in their full complexity and share them with others, something I have always enjoyed doing. What more stimulating context than a group of former Oxonians to develop our conversations about what is going on in the world?

There was another person in the group, a certain Atul Singh, who was far less prolix in his communication with the group. There was a reason for his restraint. He had his own professional tool for expression. It was called Fair Observer. Instead of developing complex theses to share with the group, he referred us to the occasional FO° article, hoping we might react and comment. Though I didn’t quite understand at the time his role as founder and Editor-in-Chief of the journal, I took the trouble to look at some of the articles.

On the occasion of an article about religion, I posted to the group and dared to critique one of Atul’s assertions. He surprised the hell out of me by suggesting that I build my reflections into an article that he promised he would publish on Fair Observer. I had my doubts but he allayed them and I set about crafting my piece. The pump was primed. As respectfully and politely as I could manage, I challenged his characterization of the role of religion in human societies. I provided some kind of anodyne title. Imagine my surprise when the article was published, not with my inoffensive title but as “No, Atul, Religion is More Than Morality Tales for Grown-Ups.”

That was my very first article for Fair Observer. I began contributing fairly regularly, and not only did I join the team in 2017, but I also proposed launching the Daily Devil’s Dictionary, which ran five days a week for more than four years. It continues now on a weekly basis, every Wednesday. (You can read today’s edition here.)

While I met Atul on LinkedIn, both of us stopped visiting this platform over time. Both of us have got too busy, and neither of us finds much time for social media. Yet I continue to frequent LinkedIn and find it a useful platform to meet new people. And so, last year, I happened upon a post by Rod Berger, who then reached out to me. We got along well and began making our plans. 

So, just as Atul and I clicked ten years ago, so did Rod and I in 2023. We talked some more, Rod began getting together with the various members of the team, and here we are, ready to build a new chapter of collaboration, discussion and dialogue within our Fair Observer ecosystem that is rapidly becoming multilingual with the addition of a French crowdsourced journal and a Hindi YouTube channel.

If you are reading this and want to join our team, then you can write to Atul, Roberta or me. We need fresh talent to expand the global conversation in 2024.

Fondly yours,

Peter Isackson
Chief Strategy Officer
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