Support Project Optimist this Leap Day

"It's been more than three months now since I started, and I have to say I'm excited to get up and get to work every day," writes managing editor Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten.

Support Project Optimist this Leap Day
Project Optimist managing editor Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)

For the past week or so, you've hopefully seen mention of our fundraising campaign.

Whether you've already given (thank you!) or you're still on the fence, I appreciate you being here and subscribing to this newsletter.

In this special bonus edition, I thought I'd give you some insight as to why I joined Project Optimist and what I appreciate about this job.

I've been a professional journalist for almost 13 years. The bulk of my career was spent working for two corporate news organizations, where I covered education and later worked as an editor.

I learned a lot, and I'm thankful for the newsroom mentors who helped me along the way.

Here's a recap of 2023 and a look ahead: How Project Optimist grew in 2023

Through my career so far, I've seen a lot of change. I witnessed too many layoffs to count. I listened to numerous readers complain about the state of the news industry. I felt the mental toll that comes with covering difficult subjects.

Project Optimist founder Nora Hertel and I have mutual friends, so I was intrigued in 2021 when she launched this organization. I subscribed to the newsletter and followed Project Optimist, then called The Optimist, on social media.

When I saw the job posting for a managing editor in 2023, I didn't hesitate to apply.

I reported solutions journalism in a previous job, and honestly, I missed it. I also knew I wanted to be part of Project Optimist after watching the progress Nora made and seeing the stories she and our contributors reported.

It's been more than three months now since I started, and I have to say I'm excited to get up and get to work every day. The projects we're working on are ambitious, tackling topics ranging from the shortage of rural doctors and a deep dive into common security measures to the intersection of art and nature in everyday life.

We're continuing to build connections with news organizations throughout the state to republish our work. We're brainstorming collaborations with them, too.

We're organizing and hosting dialogue events that cut through polarization and remind us that we're all human. The events will be featured in the first season of a podcast we're launching later this year.

We're helping students learn about journalism, and we're publishing their work.

We're offering media consulting for businesses and nonprofit organizations, and we're available to train media organizations in a variety of areas, as well.

We've been fortunate to receive several grants to help fund our work, most recently a grant from Arts Midwest to launch Biophilia.

Learn more about our Leap Day fundraiser:

Help Project Optimist raise $5,000 for Leap Day! | The Optimist
Project Optimist, formerly The Optimist, is ready to take the leap! We’ve got some serious momentum.…

But grants can only take us so far, which is why we started this Leap Day fundraiser. We need your support to keep the momentum going.

All contributions from this campaign will support our operational expenses, namely the staff, freelancers, and artists who make our organization special.

Consider a gift today, and help Project Optimist take the leap into this new phase!

If you aren't able to give financially, please give us a follow on social media — we're on Facebook and Instagram — or tell a friend about us.

And thank you for being here! Your support means so much.

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