This is the one spot in the world — that I know of, at least — where three of my worlds collide. And, strangely enough, I’m pretty much the only person who takes notice of such a significant location. Everybody else just hurries past because they have Things To Do. But not me. Well, I usually do have Things To Do, but whenever I’m here at this spot, I always stop and consider that I have at one time worked and/or am currently working for all of these newspapers. I just think that’s … well, I’m not sure what I think about it. Only that these three papers represent a huge chunk of what I do and who I am and, as different as they are from each other, it’s sort of jarring, I guess, to see them all lined up. It’s the majority of my working life, lurking outside of Jack’s in Iuka, Miss. And then, of course, I get to thinking about newspapers (see “the demise of “) and friends & talented journalists who are moving on before they get moved and the painfully irretrievable loss that is. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. On the other hand, each of these papers serves its community brilliantly, and I’m honored to be a tiny part of that success. (Also: They all have “Daily” in the title although one of them is lying.)
Every time I see this sign — on the side of a building in downtown Pensacola, Fla., — I always think it’s talking about my chosen-and-now-part-time field of journalism and how truly it is “citizen journalism” because reporters don’t have to earn specialized degrees or procure official certifications or register anywhere for anything. Can you write clearly, accurately, entertainingly and well? Good. You’re hired. Do you make things up, ignore the facts and don’t understand the difference between “you’re” and “your”? Sorry. Nice try. On the other hand, as journalism jobs disappear and the journalism landscape shifts almost daily, training and professionalism are key. Another thought: This obviously is my morning to ramble. Perhaps I should get ready to go to work? And kudos to the registered professional COURT reporters at Hitchcock & Associates in Pensacola. Love your sign.
I am such a geeky nerd. Or is it a nerdy geek? I’m not sure, but It’s whatever you are when the communications department chairman at the university where you somehow were asked to teach a media-writing class cleans out his office and leaves a big box of used books in the lobby with a “Free to good homes” sign and it’s like a mega sale at T.J. Maxx — you are THAT excited. So you pull the box over to a nearby chair and ignore the student chatter around you and delve into the treasures: “Ethics in Media Communications”! “Communicating for Results — A Guide for Business and the Professions”! “Media Flight Plan III”! Was there ever a greater collection of (used and possibly outdated) media textbooks? Strangely, I seemed to have been the only person interested in this unexpected bounty, and the department chairman walked by and whispered approvingly that I could ignore the two-to-a-customer posted limit. I cannot wait to browse through these and revel in the grownup luxury of getting to read textbooks without having to study them — and that right there, I believe, is what marks me as a nerd. And THEN, to make this day even better, my newspaper-editor husband brought home a couple of Junior League cookbooks from the food editor’s giveaway stash. Both were published in 1977, when only single women got to use their real names and everybody else got to hide behind their husbands’. The golf-themed cookbook from Augusta, Ga., is in green, of course, and features adorable golf illustrations. The hardback cookbook from Nashville is rather more posh — as Nashville believes it is — and starts with a formal-dinner menu that starts with caviar soup, which I don’t think I’ll be making but it sure is fun reading about.
You know that we are a newspaper family. My husband is the sports editor at the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss., and even though I’m a former practitioner of
an escapee from daily-newspaper writing, I still love it when he needs my help. He’ll say, “Sweetie, what are you doing on such-and-such a day? I really could use an extra hand,” which I’m pretty sure is not how he makes assignments to DailyJournal sportswriters. But I’ll take it. Some of the things I help him with are 10K runs, such as the annual Coca-Cola Classic Corinth 10K. Even the most organized runs — which the Coke Classic is — tend toward managed chaos at the finish line. This is especially true for sports reporters as they try to identify and interview winners whose top priority is to find shade and a shower and why-are-these-folks-following-me-and-sticking-cameras-in-my-face-when-I-really-can’t-breathe? Very tricky stuff. So when my husband covers one of these races, he hires me as his assistant. And while secretly I consider it my job to keep an eye on him as he interviews attractive young women as he runs around in the Mississippi heat and humidity, at the Coke Classic he wanted me to 1) photograph winners as they crossed the finish line and 2) keep up with where they were in the finish-line crowd so he could get quotes. For this past Saturday’s Coke Classic I managed the second assignment perfectly and helped my husband get a good story. The first, as you can see, not so much.
When my boss asked to meet me at a coffee shop a few days ago, I was surprised. She’s so busy at work she barely has time to drink coffee in the break-room, much less take an hour away from the office. I figured this had to be Something Big.
“I’m doing such a great job, she probably wants to give me more responsibilities,” I thought confidently. “Maybe a move up? Or probably the big bosses realize they’re underpaying me and finally are giving me that raise. Yeah, yeah, that’s it.”
But as we sat down with our coffee, she sighed and said, quickly, “I’m just going to say it: I’m sorry, but you’re fired.”
Gee, this sure wasn’t going how I expected.
And, OK, she didn’t say “you’re fired.” I think Donald Trump’s the only one who can say that. What she actually said was, “Things are tight. They’re cutting the budget and dropping some things, and one of those things is you. It’s about money, not you. And I’m so, so sorry.”
Because she’s my friend as well as my boss, I knew she meant that last part.
On the other hand, that first part sure sounded like “you’re fired” to me.
Now, I know times are bad. I know the economy’s weak and finances are rocky and folks have to tighten their belts. It’s just that nobody asked me if I wanted my own personal belt pulled in a few notches.
Because I was fine with it the way it was.
And here’s the thing: This was the first time I’ve ever been let go from a job. Ever. And this is what I learned: It’s a lousy no-good very bad feeling.
Family and friends told me to go with that feeling.
“Take time to grieve,” they said. “Rant. Rave. Cry. Vent. Get it out.”
It will be alright, they promised. After all, considering the devastation and destruction nature heaped on the South this past week, losing my job doesn’t rank anywhere near the end of anything significant.
But it is the end of something.
It’s the end of 15 years of writing my a column for the first newspaper I ever wrote a column for.
My job – the job getting the budget ax – was writing a weekly column as a freelancer for the TimesDaily newspaper in Florence, Alabama. So today is the last Friday that column appears in the TimesDaily print edition.
I’m still in the sad phase of The Three Steps of Grief in Losing Your Newspaper Job. (By the way, those phases are 1) “I’m Really Really Mad,” 2) “I’m Really Really Sad” and 3) “Can Some of You Young Whippersnappers Show Me How To Use the Twitters?”) Hanging out with readers every week for almost 15 years in the pages of the TimesDaily has been an honor, a privilege – and a blast. I’m going to miss it. Heck, I already do.
And if you’re here at my blog because you read about it my final TimesDaily column, welcome! So glad you’re here.
Let’s sit and reminisce for a minute.
We sure have had fun during these years, haven’t we? We’ve laughed and cried together, grieved and celebrated. You stuck with me through weddings, graduations and band-booster meetings. We went shoe shopping. You helped me raise two daughters and four cats. Most recently, you shared husband hints to help me train the man who finally succumbed to my feminine wiles after decades of bachelorhood.
Thank you for that.
Thank you for everything.
And since there are plenty of adventures ahead, I hope you’ll keep visiting here. You don’t have to sign up or register or pay for anything or be bombarded with ads for stuff you don’t want to buy, so pour a cup of coffee and let’s keep the conversation going.
You won’t believe what 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable said the other day!
You know how you open up the newspaper every morning (you do open up a newspaper every morning, don’t you???) and read it and then shake your head and complain, “There’s never any good news. Why don’t they print any good news?” You know news people say that this happens because “good” news isn’t news since good things happen all the time and we’re only startled by “bad” news that’s outside of the norm. But we all know that “good” news can be as rare as … well, say, a coffee shop owner remembering that he overcharged a customer on her previous business and so without asking gives her her favorite drink for free on her next visit. That just happened! To me. And I wrote about it in my weekly newspaper column. Just, you know, to sneak a little good news in.
Spring’s arrival means several things: 1) Horror as we peel off our wool socks and take a look at our feet for the first time in months — emergency pedicure! 2) All basketball all the time as March Madness takes over — although my bracket is sinking so low that it’s fallen off the listing at the online bracket-game I play. And 3) we start inexplicably hungering for such treats as fresh tender asparagus and juicy sweet strawberries. In my weekly newspaper food story, I found out when spring arrives at local farmers’ markets and previewed what to look for — and when — although we’re lucky here in northwest Alabama since we’ve got Jack O’Lantern Farms, a hydroponic farm which grows lovely fresh veggies year-round. I’ll bet there’s someplace close to you where you can get a taste of spring soon.