I remember my first digital pitch: "Let's air a segment about how people are reacting to this online."
I also remember the response from one of the news elders after it aired: "Next time, why don't you report on what people have written on the bathroom wall?"
That was 2007, and I was working in my first TV newsroom. I felt like a stupid kid.
Things changes fast.
Five years later I found myself on vacation and in the damage path of a tornado outbreak. Producers pulled photos and video of the damage from my Facebook page, broadcasting it on TV faster than than many of the network feeds could.
I would have loved to have watched the coverage live on my phone that night, but even in 2011 that wasn't a widespread option.
Now, my phone is where I watch most newscasts. Yep, I'm a cord cutter.
Streaming is also the way most people first watched "The Triangle" (aka my "dream project" that is luring me off daily TV newscasts... more on that later).
“The Triangle” launched exclusively online on a Friday night in February with just a few social media posts. By Monday, our docu-series had 4 million clicks without ever airing on TV.
Everything about this pilot project for Tegna was an experiment.
What would happen when a group of journalists was unchained from the clock of daily deadlines and given the freedom to investigate a topic without following any traditional TV news rules?
We kept the cameras rolling for about three months - finding interviews and recording our own process of investigation.
We were following an important story, but also sharing the story of how we found it.
Then, only after our docu-series launched online did we ever think about how it would look on TV.
About a week after we launched online, we started presenting updates about the series on TV.
Were we covering "writing on the bathroom wall" as that news elder snarked? Of course not.
On air, we reported on everything from town hall meetings that were sparked by our series to the President's visit to Atlanta to address the very subject we spent months researching. Eventually, we aired a one hour primetime special that drew a TV rating that rivaled "Dateline."
Our "digital first" experiment made news-worthy TV.
Now, it's time to experiment again!
We're launching a new series later this year.
I'll be leaving the TV airwaves to do it, which feels strange after a decade of daily reports.
However, this is one of those opportunities that's bigger than I could have dreamed for myself.
Here's why... I started in TV news as a scrappy, independent documentary filmmaker from New Orleans with an ache to do good.
I believed if I told the right story the right away, I could help make the world a little better. When I landed my first reporter job, my goal from the start was to merge the spirit of documentary activism with local news.
That's "The Triangle."
It's too soon to announce the topic of our next investigation, but there is a quote that will give you an idea of what we're aiming to do: “Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open."
Atticus Finch said that in "To Kill a Mockingbird."
And in that spirit, "Atticus" is the nickname of our new digital investigative unit - clearing the air by getting things out in the open, one episode at a time.
I will be back on TV... when the story is ready to share, and the next docu-series is already streaming live.
Jeremy Campbell is an ATLien, storyteller, traveler... & often all three at once.