I just don’t feel like leaving. I should, because if there was ever a time to be updating one’s resume and exploring one’s options, this is one of them. So why am I standing pat?
I’ve been a newspaperman for the past 20 years and I’ve always faced the same issue: Most towns have one newspaper that pays a living wage. If you want to stay in the newspaper biz, you either decide the town is nice enough to make up for the paper’s failings, or the paper’s nice enough to make up for the town’s failings.
See, chasing news trains us to be finders of fault. We’re always shaking loose the shortcomings, whether it’s our cats or our corporate overlords. Glass half-empty people, that’s us.
So it’s no small consequence to find yourself believing you’ve found a nice paper in a nice town. That’s what happened to me in the summer of ’99. I took a job at the San Jose Mercury News because it had a solid reputation and I wanted to see the tech boom up close. Since then I’ve taken a liking to both the town and the paper.
So the news comes in this morning that Knight Ridder, our parent company, is being sold to a company that plans to sell the Merc and 11 other KR papers, and a friend asks how this will affect me.
It’s like this: I have no earthly idea how it’ll shake out, and what’s more, I don’t care. I mean that: if some corporate raider buys our paper, cuts our staff, nullifies our union contract and makes our life a living hell, I’ll deal with it then. There could be a stampede for the Merc’s exits, and who’d want to get trampled? And after so many have bailed, couldn’t there be more goodies left for the rest of us?
Maybe, or maybe not. It’s the future, it can’t be seen, only experienced in the present tense.
I was fortunate to be one of those kids in journalism school who was too shy to ask pushy questions of people who didn’t want to answer them. I found a niche on the copy desk, writing headlines, editing stories, laying out pages, figuring out computer systems, making my deadlines. I never got any bylines, never got any credit for breaking big stories, but I never had to ask any mothers how it felt now that their son had just shot up a high school. A fair trade-off.
And it turns out that regardless of the woes afflicting the newspaper business, people like me are still in demand, still getting nice jobs in nice towns. So long as news exists, somebody willl have to prepare it for public consumption, so I’ll always be able to find work. If they outsource all the copy editing to India, I figure what the heck, I always wanted to see the Taj Mahal, and I’m used to being polite in the company of cattle (Thank you East Bay Regional Park District).
Though the news biz trains us to find fault, it also trains us to be flexible. What seems like the top news of the day at 4 p.m. ends up on an inside page if a plane crash intervenes.
So I’m planning to just ride it out and see what happens. If I end up in Toledo in six months, so be it. It could be a nice town with a nice paper, for all I know.