The question came as a surprise.
Not that I hadn’t asked myself the same thing many, many times.
But I was supposed to be the one posing the questions, not fielding them.
So when Ward 6 City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff started our conversation about a month back by saying she was looking for a new chief aide and asking, “Would you ever consider not being a reporter?” I was speechless, if only for a few seconds.
In those seconds, I thought of how many times I’d wondered what I’d do if not writing for newspapers.
I considered the dearth of other pursuits that provide the same sense of being on the inside of important doings, that offer access to influential people and present the opportunity to make things better.
“Yes, I would,” I answered.
She asked me to think about it a while, and we left it at that.
For the next week I wrestled with the idea of leaving a profession and a newspaper that I love for a new career that pushes many of those same buttons.
I got into this game because it struck a college kid as the surest way to earn a regular paycheck by writing.
Being a reporter seemed like a better idea than being a waiter who claimed to be a poet.
Once I started earning that (paltry) cub reporter’s salary, I promised myself I’d stick with it for five years before becoming a real writer.
But my vocation quickly became my calling.
From hanging out at crime scenes to interviewing presidents, newspapering provides a charge that’s hard to find in other jobs.
In what other business can a guy fly with Air Force search-and-rescue crews, train with combat-bound troops, go on stakeouts with detectives, travel the country with a presidential hopeful, and – regrettably – witness the execution of a serial killer?
Reporters enjoy the Fourth Estate oversight of the men and women who run our cities, towns, states, nation and pretty much every other institution, using our ink-and-newsprint pulpit to keep them focused.
Then there’s the pleasure of getting to know “regular” folks, such as those who saved the planet from tyranny in World War II, those who won the Cold War and those who put their lives on the line today in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The news business took me from Tucson to Michigan, where the circulation and the paychecks got bigger.
But I never shed my fidelity to this desert burg.
Sunshine and warm air had something to do with it.
So did mountain vistas and saguaro forests.
Mostly, though, it was a sense of belonging.
Roots and family.
When the Citizen offered me the chance to take a pay cut and come home in the fall of 1996, I didn’t hesitate.
It was the best career move I ever made.
Not only did this scrappy afternoon paper allow me to do all the most memorable stories of my 22 years in newspapering, it introduced me to my wife and ultimately gave me the chance to voice my opinions on what’s good and not so good about Tucson.
And, for the record, the pay got better.
When I started writing this column less than 15 months ago, I promised to be a thorn in the side of public servants who forget to serve the public.
I took my shots at City Hall on several occasions, writing about at-risk children being used as campaign pawns, the downside of citywide elections and trash fees.
I also wrote about the opportunity for Democrats to get things done with a new majority after the 2006 elections.
The city’s pact with Cox Communications and the on-going effort to redevelop downtown Tucson have been themes here more than once.
As chief of staff in Ward 6, there is an opportunity to do more than write about these things, although there’s no trivializing the importance of doing that.
When I introduced myself as a metro columnist on Oct. 17, 2005, I promised to show Citizen readers that I give a damn about Tucson.
As I say goodbye today, rest assured that I still do.