What You Mourn Died Twenty Years Ago

And you didn’t even notice it was gone:

I call myself a “free agent.” And to be sure, I like the sound of
it. Free. Agent. The kind of person I had always wanted to be.
Self-reliant. Self-directed. And I’m intrigued by what may come.

Yet there is a sense of loss, and not only for my own situation. I
wonder what will happen if we end up in a media universe of free
agents. I see more clearly what the journalists who come behind me
might miss. Many won’t be able to experience the benefits of being part
of an organization with a mission much larger than their own, with a
history and traditions.

Yes, many companies today may be suffocatingly slow to adapt to
changing times. But for those who want to be part of telling the story
of their era, there’s nothing quite like being able to work with other
talented people with the kind of backing you don’t need to think twice
about.

Good journalism does require an independence of mind and spirit. But
it’s also made possible by the help of others, whether colleagues to
elevate the quality of the work or companies to provide the support to
do the digging and the reach to give it impact. Of course the
journalists of tomorrow will find new ways to collaborate with others.
But time spent with a group building a common culture can lead to
unexpectedly beautiful things.

I grew up in the West, at a time when being able to stand on your
own two feet was seen as a virtue. I wanted to be the kind of person
who needed no one else to help carve his fate. Now fate has placed me
in a position where I may well have to do just that.

Perhaps there are new organizations to build. I hope so. To be
honest, I genuinely miss being part of a larger entity with a purpose.
I am an organization man— and I’m not embarrassed to say it.

You know how people always say the worst loneliness is being lonely WITH someone? Plenty of newspapers continue to publish for years after the camaraderie and joyous collaboration that once ruled their newsrooms died a death of cutbacks and backbiting. There are plenty of organizations in American media right now where you’d be hard-pressed to find a sense of purpose, beyond “let’s win the morning and the afternoon.” Having a group is no guarantee of having a good group, and frankly this:

I see more clearly what the journalists who come behind me
might miss. Many won’t be able to experience the benefits of being part
of an organization with a mission much larger than their own, with a
history and traditions.

History and tradition don’t mean shit to the owners of papers who are currently raping their properties for any pennies there might be in the pockets of their coats, so spare me the romanticizing. I’ve worked at lots of places that claimed a sense of mission. In some cases it was absolute bullshit, a piece of paper that fell apart at the first tough trial. A sense of mission doesn’t come from a large organization, it comes from the people running it.

A.

3 thoughts on “What You Mourn Died Twenty Years Ago

  1. Dan says:

    Hi A. Slightly off topic butthis is why I’m glad I never link to AP and preface all my posts to that effect. They really are the worst of a bad bunch.

  2. virgotex says:

    He sounds like a nice guy, but it’s a shame someone who thinks of himself as introspective is mourning, as you point out, a construct. Constructs are made to change and if you tie yourself to them, you’re going to find yourself at sea when they change.
    I want to ask this guy what his own principles are, what are his values? Which of those could he pass on to the next generation, the people he assumes will be left as bereft as he feels right now?

  3. paul says:

    The sense of mission may come from the people, but gosh working for even a troubled organization can lift so much petty crap off your desk. Don’t have to worry about the heat, the phone, pens and pencils, subscriptions to stuff that’s not on the web, getting on press-release lists, getting into events (for the most part) and so forth.

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