People who know me through the work I did for nearly four decades ask me the same question, albeit a bit differently, all the time.
“Do you miss it?” they ask. “It” is my career in print journalism. It was my craft for nearly 37 years. It was my identity in three communities where I worked: first in Oregon City, Ore., and then in Beaumont and Amarillo, both in Texas. People who said they “knew” me actually only knew my work. My picture appeared in newspapers alongside my columns; my name appeared on editorial page mastheads.
Did they “know” me? Not really.
But the craft I enjoyed so much is changing rapidly. Newspapers no longer distribute as many copies each day. Publishers say they’re committed to what they call “the print product,” but many of us believe differently.
The changing times have claimed many talented print journalists. One of them recently called it a career. He walked away from a job at a major metro daily newspaper to take a job with a public television station.
The bad news is that the newspaper has lost an astonishing talent. The good news is that this young man is going to continue a new form of journalism, which he will meld into TV production.
His story will end up well, no matter where his life’s journey takes him. He’s got a long way to go before it’s finished.
But as I grow older and am farther removed from the career I enjoyed for so many years, the less connected I feel toward those who still practice this noble craft. Sure, they remain friends. I have many of them scattered throughout the country.
However, as I count the number of people with whom I have shared this craft — and this includes men and women who are much younger than I am — the list of former print journalists is outpacing those who are still hard at it.
I remain proud of the career I pursued. I also am proud of those who continue to fight through the amazing change that is occurring within the craft.
They still are answering a noble calling, which is to report the news fairly and without bias. Whether they report for a newspaper, or for a public TV station, or for an online “publication,” they are performing a priceless public service to a public that still relies on them for information in its purest form.
Do I miss working in that environment? Yes — even though I spent the bulk of my career writing opinion. Do I miss the media tumult that broke out just a few years before my career came to its sudden end? Not in the least.
Those who are still hitting it hard have earned my respect and admiration.
Those who have gone on to — as they say on occasion — “pursue other interest” have my best wishes.
My own future lies with this blog.