You’re under pressure. I empathize. But listen: I nearly drowned in chaos my first day as a reporter for The Post-Standard (in Syracuse, New York) twenty-eight years ago. We were struggling to make sense of new technology, fighting small-town, tin-pot dictators, and trying to cover a tidal wave of news with far too few reporters and editors. But the day ended, a new one was dawning, and we had put the news at the fingertips of our readers. I was dog-tired, joyful, and proud.
My last day there was exactly the same. Take heart in that symmetry. (I accepted a buyout from The Post-Standard in May 2007. I’m teaching journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.)
Advice for the newly minted journalist? Read Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley, but don’t despair. Ponder what life would be like if no one cared enough to recite the day’s list of human failings for those within earshot. Now, that would be dismal. Without journalism, there is no hope for progress. Believe that every person should be treated with respect and act on it. If you don’t believe that, please find another profession.
And give a damn, will you? I’ll be watching for your bylines.
The steady drip of layoffs and buyouts, slowly desiccating once-vibrant newsrooms around the country, has also produced a reservoir of anger, sadness, fear, uncertainty—even some cautious optimism here and there—among reporters and editors who invested years, decades in some cases, of their lives to print journalism. We’ve asked anyone so inclined to channel these emotions, not into rant—although there will be a bit of that—but rather into reflection on what went wrong, and where we might go from here. We will publish one per day, under the headline “Parting Thoughts.” All of the letters we publish will be collected here.