After thirty-three years in newspapers, I bailed out in January. I’d had a good run, reporting events as varied as the 1981 air traffic controllers strike, mine fires in Pennsylvania, and the handover of the Panama Canal. As an editor, I had a front row seat on three wars, the impeachment of a president, and the 9/11 terror attacks. The coming of Rupert Murdoch was just too much, however, and I left the Journal for a policy post at the International Broadcasting Bureau, the agency that oversees the Voice of America, Radio Marti, and other government broadcasters. Yes, there is life after newspapers.
Examples die hard, though. My daughter is studying photography in college and hopes to land a job as a shooter on at least a medium-sized paper when she graduates. She’s pretty good, too, and just might do it. But I warned her not to make a career of it. That’s the advice I’d offer others as well. If you’re interested in journalism, even now, give it a shot. It’s a great way to learn about the world, develop communication and analytical skills, and provide a public service. But over the long haul, there’s more stability and better money to be made panhandling.
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.