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I didn't think today would get to me...

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Dedo, Feb 8, 2008.

  1. Dedo

    Dedo Member

    ...but it did. It was the last day at my newspaper for a 24-year veteran of the shop. He received an offer from a national website and, after much deliberation, decided to accept it. It was the right move for him and his family, and there's no doubt he deserves the opportunity. Yet the send-off brought on a profound sense of sadness I never anticipated, and still can't shake.

    I've witnessed some all-too-early retirements and I've seen angry, clean-out-your-desk-after-the-buyout departures, but this one was different. In a strange, unsettling way, it personified something about the whole newspaper-to-online shift that most of us long ago accepted but don't truly comprehend until it smacks us in the face. And boy, was I smacked.

    This was a guy who, more than anyone I've ever known, loved what he did for a living. He started breaking stories when I was in grade school, helped win a city newspaper war, adapted to every technological and philosophical change, and missed many a family function because he didn't want to get beat. And what did he get on his way out? A pat on the back, a piece of goddamn cake, and the halfhearted attention -- if that -- of certain co-workers who couldn't bother to pull themselves away from their oh-so-important exposes on strip clubs and puppy adoptions long enough to listen to a departing colleague tearfully talk about leaving a place that meant more to him than almost anything in his life.

    When he walked out that door, he took more with him than just a quarter-century of institutional knowledge. He took 24 years of earning the public trust, of enriching the community, of by-god getting it right the first time and not relying on fixing the online version later. And he left behind a group of people who will be diminished by his absence, including one hack who wouldn't be there if the old guy hadn't helped him get a job he probably didn't deserve out of college nine years ago.

    Now, I'm not saying our outgoing friend deserves any sympathy. He is, as they say at funerals, in a better place. But he didn't want to leave. In fact, he was looking for reasons to stay, before he finally realized he would've been a fool to stick with an industry that couldn't guarantee his family's well-being. So he made the right choice, although I can't help but think about how he'll never again awake to find his previous day's work on his driveway, or write for an audience he knows as well as anyone, an audience who knows him just as well. He'll never again be able to take a seat at his favorite lunch spot, and catch the diner in the corner booth reading his front-page story, and then anxiously wait to see if his lede was good enough to make the guy turn to the jump page. Oh, he'll have more readers, more hits, more exposure than he'd ever imagined, but I wonder if it'll compare to the old days.

    After he left today, I wandered into the office of one of his longtime compatriots, and neither of us said anything for what felt like an eternity. I suspect it was because both of us were too proud to let the other hear our voice crack. We finally made a couple of bad jokes about our now-former colleague's glory days, and spouted a few cliches about how times change, and began to speculate about who might be next before thinking better of it. Then I let him get back to work.

    He did, after all, have a paper to put out.
  2. Flash

    Flash Guest

    Thanks for sharing that story, Dedo. It's a harsh statement on the business and where it's headed.

    I don't miss the business. I do miss some of the people I worked with. But only some of them.
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Nice post, Dedo.

    Journalism isn't dying, though. Just changing platforms. Not like he's going to work selling insurance.

    Sucks that your friend didn't get more of a gala sendoff from the gang in the caboose.
  4. lono

    lono Active Member

    I suspect he'll get over all that pretty quickly when he realizes he can put his kids through school, pay off his mortgage and someday retire without having to eat cat food bought with food stamps.

    And, oh by the way, if you've never worked in the cyber world, you might be shocked to learn how strong and direct the connection between writer and reader can be.
  5. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    it's the same in every business, my friend. when you're out, you're out. the wheel keeps turning.

    no different at any place, any biz when a 24-year vet leaves or retires. just a circle of life thing.

    not to say this is a good biz for any youngsters hoping for a loooong career in newspapers. but nobody has ever received a glorious, sentimental sendoff.

    heck, i was at my first shop for 18 years. good thing i wasn't waiting for a goodbye party or anything. 12 years later, i'd still be waiting.
  6. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    I've noticed how the lack of institutional knowledge impacts local coverage. Every couple of years you see the same type of stories and focus on certain issues, and rather than continuing the story, they are portrayed as something "new" and "newsworthy." Considering the average newspaper reader has a longer relationship with a newspaper than any employee would have, this can be deemed insulting.
  7. ArnoldBabar

    ArnoldBabar Active Member

    Thanks for the heartfelt post, Dedo.

    If anyone is unfamiliar with Ben Folds' "Fred Jones. Pt. 2," This is required listening/viewing:

    It's about a newspaper lifer being shown the door, and time marching on. "I'm sorry, Mr. Jones. It's time." We'll all find it familiar. Just about brings me to tears every time.
  8. Pete Incaviglia

    Pete Incaviglia Active Member

    I hope the guy who left read your post.

    Awesome stuff.

    I agree with whoever said it: The platform is changing.

    However, I have no interest in the new platform.

    God I need out.
  9. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Like Flash, I really miss the people (most of them).
    The wheel does keep turning. The T-D has come out every day - EVERY DAY - since I left. Hell, I thought I was a key player!
  10. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    i think you're wrong, shockey.
  11. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    That is an awesome song.
  12. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    If you write your stories the way you wrote this post, I think you certainly deserved your job straight out of college.

    That day was definitely bittersweet. It was good for your colleague to find something resembling certainty and stability in these uncertain, unstable times. It really is unfortunate that someone who has developed a relationship with the paper and with his audience has to step away from that because of the direction the paper profession is heading in.

    I know the day will come when I finally do walk out of my current shop for the last time. I don't know if that future holds a beat writing position, a columnist gig or time on the desk. At this stage, I don't even know if a bigger paycheck is in the works. But I do know this: I'll miss those mornings when I could make the short drive to the office and see the tangible results of the previous days' labor so readily. I'll miss those "eureka! Someone out there reads us!" moments. I'll miss the sense that the paper's in a better place than it was before I got there.

    Nice post, Dedo. It sounds like your colleague meant a lot to you. Now go do him proud.
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