What can you say about them?
They work hard. Crazy hours (see, especially, “sports” or “election night”). Weekends. Holidays. Regardless of the weather and, sometimes, because of the weather.
They care about the truth. They comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. They uphold democracy by holding government accountable.
What they can’t do with numbers, they more than make up for with words. Writing. Editing. And designing. With news judgment.
They are under-appreciated, sometimes disliked, often criticized, and their pay is disproportional to what is a fair amount of power they hold.
They are also, in my humble but accurate opinion, the best people. Not because, looking at the field of journalism more broadly, they are better people than TV or radio journalists. Those are fine people, too. Newspaper people are my people and some of my favorites because of what I learned from beginning my career as one.
I learned not to take anybody, including myself, too seriously. I learned to take nothing at face value. I learned there is a whole community of people, like me, to whom words really matter. I learned to be comfortable working under pressure, in a din of ringing phones and shouting, swearing voices.
I learned to take criticism with a thick skin and with the understanding that the goal was getting the best work onto the page.
I learned to write better, faster, and according to three rules: 1. Accuracy. 2. Accuracy. 3. Accuracy.
I’m not a newspaper person anymore and, because of the tumult the business is in, neither are many of the newspaper people who used to be my colleagues. But I like to believe all of them are still my friends.
And on Saturday night, I had a wonderful time visiting, laughing, noshing and catching up with about 20 of them. All women. At what has for years been called “Knoxville News Sentinel Ladies Night,” and which happens much less often these days than it did years ago when a lot of us still worked together.
It did my heart and soul good to spend the evening with a sorority, of sorts, of women who almost assuredly were too independent–OK, maybe even cynical–as college journalism majors to have been members of an actual sorority.
Of the 21 of us who brought potluck yumminess to share, only one remains currently a working, professional journalist, and back in the day, all but one or two of us worked together at the same time.
A couple of us moved on for new opportunities. Several had retired. The rest–except for Kristi, who continues to cover health and medicine–had been laid off from their newspaper jobs.
Jan, the kind, patient and talented editor who was my very first supervisor, now is mostly retired and a freelance copy editor.
Betsy has a handful of freelance gigs, takes care of her 90+ year-old mother, and sells Mary Kay products.
Margaret went back to school and now works as an occupational therapy assistant, but she still shoots photos professionally.
Jennifer works in communications at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. Christina works in marketing for an IT company.
Lisa is director of development for the local Sertoma Center. Chrystal manages a chiropractor office. Cathy starts a new job at Radio Systems on Monday. Rebecca is enjoying being retired, as is Susan, who I think is still plotting her next move. Idonna, who used to run the office/newsroom, is now helping manage her husband’s business. Marti enjoys spending a lot of time with her grandchildren.
Vivian, our co-host, is greatly enjoying–thank you, very much–the retirement she took a few months earlier than planned.
Georgiana, our co-host who invited us all into her home, has been retired for a while but hasn’t slowed down–she’s been a political columnist, an adjunct college instructor, a board member of the East Tennessee Society for Professional Journalists (she was also once national SPJ president), and is a devoted grandmother.
We were fortunate to get a brief cameo by George’s granddaughter Kylie–about whom I remember the excited announcement in the newsroom of her birth–who is now a college freshman.
I looked forward to last night for weeks and I relished the time we had together. Lisa’s comment in her Facebook post was dead on: “…amazing, resilient women…a treasure.”
And as another, very clever comment put it: “The Mohicans.”
I sure hope they/we aren’t the last. But I do think they’re the best. 😉