The picture attached to this blog post symbolizes something that is troubling to me on at least two levels: one of them is personal, the other speaks to a broader phenomenon.
It came to me today from a friend who is visiting Amarillo with her husband on a family matter. Hubby snapped the picture. I want to call your attention to the graffiti on the second floor of the structure.
The building used to house the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years as editorial page editor. I left the business in late August 2012. The corporate ownership changed hands a few years later and then the new owners vacated the building. They moved what was left of the newspaper operation into an office suite in a downtown bank tower.
What you see here is the rotting hulk of what used to house a once-proud community institution.
The personal impact on me is obvious. I went to the Texas Panhandle in January 1995 full of pi** and vinegar and ready to slay some dragons in my new surroundings. The newspaper had a proud tradition. It won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service — which is journalism’s highest award. I was proud to be part of that legacy. We didn’t win any more Pulitzer prizes during my time there, but I developed a lot of close friendships with colleagues and managed to eke out a modestly successful tenure during my time there.
None of us got into the business of chronicling a community’s story to make lots of money. We did it because of our commitment to the craft we pursued.
I had a lot of fun there and managed to embark on many fascinating assignments during my time.
So when I see this picture, my heart breaks on a deeply personal level. The property is up for sale. It’s been on the block for quite some time. I do not know how you repurpose an office building that once served as a newspaper office; the building next to it on the same block once housed the paper’s presses and distribution complex. Good luck with peddling that structure, too.
The picture symbolizes what has become of print journalism in communities all across the nation. Once-vibrant community institutions are being relegated to empty shells. They become targets of graffiti “artists” intent on making some sort of statement about … whatever.
Newspaper staffs are slashed. The paper charges whoever is left to cover a community with virtually no one available to actually do the work of reporting on and then writing what they learn.
Those who once depended on newspapers are turning to other media. I cannot vouch for the veracity of what is being disseminated. Some of it is valid. Some of it, well, is just crap.
I am happy to report that I have moved on, as have so many of my former colleagues. I am in a much better place now. I hope they are, too. The remains of the Amarillo Globe-News? The future for the building and the medium it once housed — to my way of thinking — look decidedly less promising.
I am saddened beyond measure.