I'm Off to Oxford . . . but I'll Be Back

By John Kelly
Thursday, July 19, 2007

In April, I went with my family to visit Oxford, England. In August, we'll be moving there for a year.

I've contemplated starting a column called "John Kelly's Oxford" -- i.e., Can you believe how people drive on the A4142 ring road?! -- but I think that would have pretty limited appeal in the pages of The Washington Post. So in two weeks my column will go into cryogenic storage, to be resuscitated in a year like those astronauts in "Alien" -- but I hope with less dire consequences.

The relationship between a newspaper columnist and his or her readers is an interesting combination of the intimate and the anonymous. I share details of my life in print from the safety of a keyboard. Some of my readers share the details of their lives from the same remove.

In the 3 1/2 years that I've written this column, I've enjoyed venting and allowing you to vent. I've enjoyed answering questions about the curious and inscrutable things we all encounter in this area. I've enjoyed proclaiming that Washington isn't all filibusters and cloture votes. Actual people live here. I have an affection for actual people.

Which is why, as I said (or as the governor of California said), "I'll be back."

I won't be replaced in the interim. My bosses tell me I'm irreplaceable, but I suspect they're eyeing my patch of newsprint the way the British eyed Mesopotamia during World War I.

Just because I'll be gone from the paper for a while doesn't mean The Post is abandoning its commitment to the community. Two of the signature elements of the column will remain. This winter, my colleagues will raise money for Children's Hospital. Next summer, they'll raise money for Send a Kid to Camp.

As for what I'll be doing in the land of warm beer and cold flats, I'm going to be a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, a foundation connected to Oxford University's Green College. I'm going to be exploring something called citizen journalism, which one white paper described as non-journalists "collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information." It's a movement that aims to put me out of my job, or at the very least change the way I do it.

With my industry in a state of flux -- flux (fluhks) n. the tizzy journalists get into when the very landscape around them shifts uncomfortably-- it seemed like a good time to step back and think deeply without the distraction of a daily deadline.

Plus, I wanted my daughters to learn another language.

They're excited about this adventure, if a little apprehensive. They're leaving their friends behind and entering new schools. Just as our oldest has gotten her learner's permit we're taking her to a country where they drive on the left. Not that she will. We won't have a car.

We will have our dog, though. At least we will if we've successfully completed the devilishly complicated blood work and paperwork that will allow him to avoid quarantine. It's easier to bring a live smallpox sample into the U.K. than a Labrador retriever.

Which sounds like a good subject for a column. I can't easily shut off this faucet of words I've spent the past few years gushing out. And the subject matter I'll be studying -- the implication of technology that allows practically anyone, practically anywhere, to become a media mini-mogul -- has inspired me to start my own Web site: http://www.voxford.com.

Check it out, and please feel free to drop me a line, especially if you know anything about Oxford. I'm hoping that the conversation we've had here for the past few years won't end, just that its accent will change.

Send a Kid to Camp

My column won't go on hiatus until we've finished our fund drive for Camp Moss Hollow. We made real progress this week, reaching $354,392.90. With a week left, that's $120,607.10 short of our $475,000 goal. With your help we can reach it. Here's how:

Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.

To contribute online, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

To donate by MasterCard or Visa by phone, call 202-334-5100.

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