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The Terminal: Ten Years Later

03.14.2017 by André Natta · → Leave a comment

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Vulcan in Railroad Park, 2015.

I still enjoy a view of Vulcan from my desk at home (at least, for most of the year and not the one you see above). Discussions about the heart of Jones Valley being of “perpetual promise” still occur. There are still efforts underway to fill gaps in our local media ecosystem.

Some things have not changed in ten years.

That said, new residential and commercial projects are springing up across our metro area with increasing frequency. Outside news organizations focus an ever-sharper light on Birmingham and its people. In the midst of this progress, there’s still a need to focus on the day-to-day events of the state’s largest city.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in March 2007. It helped not to set too many goals back then. Of course, now there’s still a website answering to this URL where you find yourself (although it’s in desperate need of a refresh – it’s coming).

Ten years ago I looked at Pegasus News in Dallas, Gapers Block in Chicago, and Gothamist in New York admirably. I wondered if The Terminal could ever be mentioned in the same breath. I also wondered if we could meet the same need or more. It met at least the first goal, and I’ve gotten a chance to meet (and in GB’s case, know) the founders of those three trailblazers. Mike’s consulting. Jake just sold to DNAInfo. I just had dinner with Andrew while I was in Chicago in November talking about what happens next.

I’m the last of the four that are independently owned, with some level of continued operation. It’s a little scary. Our Twitter account remains active. (It still lays claim to hosting the first Twitter chat focused on discussing current events in a city.) I have a few stories saved as drafts on this site’s backend. I’ve resisted the urge to write commentary, despite having a lot of thoughts on a lot of issues. There are sheets of butcher paper with Post-It notes on the wall of my home office. They outline exactly what came out of that conversation with Andrew and others.

I’ve spent most of the sixteen months trying to recover from a stretch of anxiety attacks. They were so crippling I couldn’t take more than four steps before feeling like I wasn’t going to make it. I’m still not completely recovered, but I’ve learned much from the experience. This includes how easy it can be to beat oneself up about a lack of accomplishments.

This website enabled me to maintain a monthly column for a city magazine. I filled in for one of my favorite media columns at Poynter four years ago. Last year I was asked to co-author one of my own. (It returns next week.) I have the honor of spearheading the return of the Carnival of Journalism. I’ve been a part of the #wjchat crew for seven years now. I even interviewed as a finalist for a Nieman fellowship. I’ve been able to say and do more than I ever thought professionally possible. The friendships that have developed and endured as a result of all of these things and more are treasured – including those made during a Terminally Happy Hour or sitting in an area coffee house or bar just talking about Birmingham.

Plus, there’s still this place on the web. I’m still having conversations about what happens next. I mean, the domain’s paid up for the next year…

The level of change occurring in metro Birmingham is pretty incredible:

  • What part of that change do you need to know about?
  • How do you need to know about it?
  • What frequency do you need to know about it?

Despite the significance of the day, I have no grand pronouncements to make. If you can find the time to respond to any or all of those questions posed, that’d be helpful.  Knowing there’s still interest makes it easier to continue those discussions.

Those who’ve continued to check in on this site and me not just recently, but throughout the last decade, “Thank you!”.

Now’ I’ve got to go find some pi(e) and continue to dream great dreams…

André Natta is the stationmaster for The Terminal. He’s also digital media producer for WBHM-FM; a columnist for; and lead organizer of the Carnival of Journalism.

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