Twenty-six years ago this month, I left college with a communications degree and vague thoughts of “man, it would be cool to write for a newspaper.”
Within weeks of graduation, I somehow found myself working as a sports reporter at the Hickory (N.C.) Daily Record. As I wrote back in January, it was a job I wasn’t sure I wanted in an industry that intimidated me. (It also only paid $12,000 a year, which is still kind of hard to believe.)
But I worked hard and learned a lot, and my fears faded as my skills sharpened.
After Hickory, I became the sports editor at a small daily, then a copy editor at a midsize daily, and, in 2000, I landed what’s truly been a dream job — multiplatform editor at USA TODAY.
It’s been a thrill immersing myself in the constantly evolving news business at one of the world’s biggest media organizations. I diversified my skills, won awards for headlines and even started writing again.
However, at some point in the recent past, it stopped being fun.
The Web’s non-stop news cycle can get your adrenaline going, but it also can feel like you’re screaming into a tornado, as one colleague so aptly put it. The secular decline of the newspaper industry, which has meant stagnant wages and waves of punishing layoffs, hasn’t helped.
So it’s with equal measures of reluctance and relief that I’m saying farewell to newspapers. I’m starting a new job as a magazine editor at a business-to-business publishing firm that covers the door, window and glass industries.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but this new position is a great match for my skills — and it also touches me on a personal level. My father is going on 50 years in the architectural glass business. That means the fenestration industry I’ll be covering has fed me, kept a roof over my head, put me through college and given me walking-around money when I needed it.
Beyond that, this niche of publishing feels stable and secure, which is more than anybody can say about the news business these days.
As I count down my final hours at USA TODAY, I’d like to leave you with a few words:
To my current colleagues who’ve survived the tumult and still consider journalism a noble calling, I salute you. To my former colleagues who’ve been dumped overboard by the industry’s cruel economics, I mourn you.
And to the colleagues I’ll never know except in spirit, I urge you to ignore what I wrote above and give journalism a chance, at least for a while.
There’s really no place on Earth like a newsroom.
Thanks all, and God bless.