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Godspeed, Alan Boyle: GeekWire’s science editor winds down d…

Alan Boyle at the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch in 2018

From the depths of the ocean floor to the launch pads of Cape Canaveral, Alan Boyle has entertained, inspired and informed GeekWire’s geekiest readers in unexpected and surprising ways.

Now, after a distinguished career in daily journalism, including five years as GeekWire’s aerospace and science editor, Alan is stepping back from day-to-day work as of this week. However, we’re pleased to report that he plans to continue to report for GeekWire periodically as a freelance contributing editor, after taking some time off for personal projects and travels.

When Alan first discussed his retirement plans with us about a year ago, we couldn’t believe it was true. As anyone has worked with Alan knows, it’s difficult to imagine him retiring. When the GeekWire team gathered on a video call for Alan’s send-off this week, he thanked everyone for their well-wishes, spent a few moments reflecting on his career and his time at GeekWire — and then pitched us on the stories and events that he plans to cover in the future.

Alan Boyle speaks with Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos at the Museum of Flight’s Annual Pathfinder Awards in 2016.

Alan is a machine, but not some AI-programmed sci-fi robot reporter. He’s a true journalist who knows how to dig, probe and get to the truth, no matter how complex the subject matter.  He does it with speed and a folksy Iowa charm that endears him to sources worldwide, possibly even intergalactically. There’s a reason other space and science reporters respect and admire Alan — he’s truly one of the best.

It’s an achievement in this day and age for any journalist to retire voluntarily from day-to-day work, said Charlie Tillinghast, the CEO of Seattle breaking-news startup Factal. Tillinghast previously worked with Alan as the president and publisher of MSNBC.com, and made the email introduction five years ago that ultimately led to Alan joining GeekWire.

Tillinghast joined us for the virtual send-off this week, congratulating Alan on behalf of his hundreds of former MSNBC.com and nbcnews.com colleagues. Tillinghast said Alan has been an innovator throughout his career, pointing as an example to Cosmic Log, an early news blog that Alan will continue to update.

“You became your own franchise, and you just took that franchise with you wherever you went,” Tillinghast told Alan during the call. “You’re a great role model for how to do a career — just keep looking ahead, and keep trying new things, and great things will happen from that.”

Alan Boyle in Cyclops submersible

GeekWire’s Alan Boyle takes notes as he looks out the window of OceanGate’s Cyclops submersible. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

GeekWire photographer and developer Kevin Lisota, who tagged along with Alan on many of his adventures and space oddities, described him as “relentless” and “super passionate about his craft.”

“You have to tell him to stop reporting, and then he still reports anyways,” Kevin said.

That endless reporting energy and curiosity resulted in more than 3,450 bylines while at GeekWire.  If bylines were base hits, Alan would be an All-Star alongside Derek Jeter (3,465 hits), Carl Yastrzemski (3,419 hits) and Paul Molitor (3,319 hits).

We know that one of the reasons Alan joined GeekWire was the opportunity to become part of a team in the Seattle region, where he lives, and we’re glad that we were able to provide that camaraderie over the years. We’re grateful to him for his many journalistic contributions, but even more for serving as a role model for our entire team.

Here’s a note that Alan recently shared with the rest of the team.

I’m grateful to Todd, John and the rest of the GeekWire gang for taking me on board and giving me a great ride over the past five years, with hardly a break in the action.

My first freelance story for GeekWire, about Stephen Hawking and the search for E.T., was published only three days after my last story for NBCNews.com, where I had just ended a 19-year run. Things went well enough that I was taken on as the full-time aerospace and science editor in January 2016.

Since then, there have been lots of highlights, but my most memorable experiences have involved getting out and about.

I’ll never forget the trips to Mojave to see Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch monster airplane and Virgin Galactic’s first 50-mile-high spaceflight … the opportunity to chat on stage with Jeff Bezos at space conferences in Colorado and Los Angeles … my sojourn to Mexico to hear Elon Musk’s plans for Mars … and my travels with Kevin Lisota to see Blue Origin’s rocket ship in Colorado, witness the Falcon Heavy launch in Florida and dive to the bottom of Puget Sound in OceanGate’s Cyclops.

I also appreciated being able to go to Switzerland and the Middle East last year – an extracurricular science journalism trip that yielded what may well have been GeekWire’s farthest-flung datelines, from Jerusalem and Jordan. (I’ll admit that Taylor Soper’s dispatches from Beijing and Shanghai come mighty close.)

In 2017, GeekWire became the only media organization to host one of the participants in the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program, which focuses on women in aerospace. I’m proud to see how well our “Brookie,” Chelsey Ballarte, has gotten on since then at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Flight Facility and most recently at Johnson Space Center.

Now I’m at an age when it looks as if I can actually take a break from the action and devote more thought to the big picture. Who knows what’ll come next? Once the pandemic settles down, I just might find a book project or a social issue to sink my teeth into. But I also suspect I’ll be checking in every so often to pitch a story or two – and cheer you on to new successes.


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