Work History

I have been a reporter and editor since January 1982 (and even five years before that, if you want to count college publications and internships). I branched out a few times to cover general assignments and local government, but my principal beat all these years was the law: courts, crime, lawyers, judges, business (the legal side of it, at least) and legal policy. Though that broad topic was a constant, I took a circuitous career journey through:

  • hard-news daily reporting (at the Tribune-Chronicle in Warren, Ohio, and at The Houston Post);
  • weekly newspaper editing (managing editor, then editor, of the statewide Texas Lawyer)
  • business-side management (publisher of Texas Lawyer);
  • running an Internet startup (Counsel Connect, which begat Law News Network, which begat;
  • monthly magazine editing (The American Lawyer, as executive editor).

These jobs took me from from Ohio to Texas to New York City. In 2004, I decided to leave my job as executive editor of The American Lawyer to return to my native upstate New York and my roots in reporting and writing. But just as I was starting to develop that work, with a feature for Inc. magazine and some undercover consumer research for Money magazine, I got a full-time teaching gig at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. At the Newhouse School, my first three years featured a mix of my interests. I taught magazine editing, news reporting, and media law. And I started and ran the Carnegie Legal Reporting Program, with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation’s Journalism Initiative. In that program, I taught courses in legal reporting and law, politics, and the media, and I taught all Newhouse undergrad reporting students how to use court records and other public documents in their reporting. I ran numerous public lectures on campus, providing students with face to face contact with leading legal journalists. And I blogged about legal journalism at LawBeat.

In 2007, I jumped onto the tenure track in Newhouse’s magazine department. The department’s focus is right up my alley, emphasizing the teaching of professional skills while supporting my work as a journalist. To focus on that work, I handed off the legal reporting program in summer 2009. By 2011, however, I’d tired of the 160-mile round trip from home to campus, and yearned to focus more on long-form, deeply reported narratives — which is not a neat fit with a busy teaching job. So I decided to leave at the end of the 2011-12 academic year in order to work full time as a writer and editor.

Some of the stories I worked on shortly before and after leaving Syracuse University, about crime and victims, led me to my latest project: a Soros Justice Fellowship that supports my year-long work on a series of stories for Slate on crime victims.

Here’s my latest CV. Mark Obbie CV April2014

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A writer and editor on law, crime, and business