Sunday, July 31, 2011

page one revisited

During my tenure at a large daily New Jersey newspaper, I was fond of watching the presses roll. The owners had installed the huge machines behind a glass wall which loomed above the common area.

High drama.

It was dej√† vu all over again. (OK, I couldn’t resist a Yogi-ism, so sue me.) As I watched the film Page One: inside the New York Times, there was a definite frisson at the establishing shots of those impressive presses.

I stumbled into journalism in my mid-30s, raw and untrained. It was as close to a calling as I’ve ever found. I’m not claiming everyday was a joy, but it was both my longest job and most fulfilling work.

My longing washed over me today in the tiny dark theater. The film focused on how the paper both covered and dealt with the change in the media landscape, as one after another newspaper was devoured by internet pixels.

Frankly, I was less interested with stirring the pain in the collapse of journalism as a profession, as in revisiting it. While I do know several former colleagues who went on to work at the Times, I have never made it through the doors –until this afternoon.

I was mesmerized by the sheer physical space. My newsroom, the size of a football field, was dwarfed by that of the times. The place actually had a polish to it. I swear, I’m not jokin’.

Being the proverbial fly on the wall for news meetings was a joy. The familiarity of a reporter’s frustration when a source refuses to go on the record still cut deep—even after all these years. I couldn’t get enough of the backstory--editors agonizing over what to go with and how, flashbacks to the glory days…I confess to a passing stab of jealousy when reporter/columnist David Carr remarks that he’ll need another week of reporting (for a total of 3 weeks) and then a week to write. Such luxury!

I came to journalism too late, yet I am among the lucky who’ve had the good fortune to experience the rush of nailing a story and the comradeship of the newsroom.

And in related news: The Star-ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper announced large scale buyouts and layoffs.

I learned about it on facebook, naturally.