A sadness in the newsroomby Mark B. Evans on May. 18, 2009, under Local, Special
I don’t like being sad.
I’m supposed to be happy. I have a job. Yet more than 50 of my former colleagues at the Tucson Citizen don’t, nor will they soon, judging by my recent efforts to find work.
This economy is brutal. I want it to get better quickly so my friends can find jobs.
But that’s pollyanna.
Today, Monday, I’m sitting in this huge newsroom capable of holding 80 or more journalists listening to the echo of my typing. There’s no buzz here to drown it out like before.
No laughing, no yelling, no banter, no fooling around, no police scanner, no click click clicking of dozens of reporters typing away.
Just silence, mostly.
And it’s sad. This isn’t a newsroom anymore. It’s a warehouse for desks and computers.
The Tucson Citizen held a wake Sunday night at a Fourth Avenue pub. Just about everyone who used to work here was there with their spouses, partners, friends and family. I went with my wife and felt like I was a skunk at the party.
No one made me feel that way, of course, everyone was congratulatory and a few were genuinely happy for me.
I didn’t know what to say. “I feel your pain” seemed trite and disingenuous. Saying “I’m sorry” got old fast, so did saying “I hope things work out for you soon.”
Good luck? I couldn’t bring myself to say that. What’s luck go to do with it?
None of this is their fault.
These were hard-working journalists who came here every day to gather and report the news. They worked 60 hour weeks – but only put 40 hours on their time sheets – so they could tell Tucsonans what’s going on in Tucson. Citizen reporters tried to give their fellow citizens the information they needed to make informed decisions about their lives.
They did it because they loved it, not because it was a job. Journalism is a passion more than a career. Those without a raging fire burnout fast and move on to PR or law school or something.
You either love this job or you do something else. There is no in between.
Standing in the corner of the Shanty Sunday I could see the fire was still roaring in most of them, valiantly flickering in others.
I want them to find jobs in journalism. Like it or not, there is no democracy without a free press. Our society, our culture our very lives depend on journalists to gather and report the news.
I know these are trying times for the news industry and much is in flux. But to allow these flames to extinguish is wrong. Tucson will be the worse for their absence.
It is my great hope that this new Tucson Citizen will rise to be the next big thing; a site that harnesses the power of community and directs that energy toward the betterment of Tucson through understanding, perspective and tolerance.
I hope that my former colleagues who still have the fire use it to jump into this new, deconstructed news industry – blogging the news, holding politicians feet to the fire, giving voice to the voiceless, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
And that in doing so, there will be a place for them here, their former home.
There might even be a way to make a buck in the process.
Perhaps that, too, is pollyanna.
Maybe. But I’ll work harder at this than I ever have at anything before to make sure it isn’t.
I will miss every one of you.