“Top This.”

(Every week I critique our paper, offering the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s the usual mix of “Stop running stupid headlines” and “Hey, we nailed that lead!” This week, instead, I sent what’s below. If you ever wonder why it is I haven’t gone to a think-tank to crunch numbers for 10 times what I make here or why I stay in a system that has people fleeing like rats off a sinking ship, I hope this explains it. I removed the kids’ names so just in case I accidentally do crack because I’m too drunk to avoid itor I make a racist tweet while riding a bus to Vegas, they don’t get tied into it. — Doc)

Critique for 12/5/13

FELINA: Last night’s paper didn’t end with a bang. It didn’t end with a whimper, either. It ended the way that each term tends to end: with a sense of finality and a sense that you have finished so much and yet there’s still a ton left to do.

Each term is different, much like the snowflakes that will soon surround us. Big news or no news, a strong presence in one section but a weak presence in another, more women in the newsroom or more men. No two are ever really the same, despite the relative level of similarities they might have.

The reason this term was different is because closing off this semester meant closing off an incredible set of careers at the paper. In December, we will have SIX editors/integral staffers graduating. They range from the top dog through the self-proclaimed “photo monkey.” In terms of positions held by these people, we are losing the following:

2 People who held the role of editor in chief

2 Managing editors

3 News editors

3 Assistant news editors

2 Photo editors

2 Multimedia/social media editors

1 Opinion editor

1 Sports editor

And that is just what my sleep-deprived brain can remember. It also doesn’t count all the stories, photos, graphics, headlines, layouts and more they poured in as they paid their dues as staffers. The sheer volume of good work, editorial experience and institutional memory walking across that stage next weekend is staggering.

They have done so much work for so little pay. They have sacrificed so much of themselves for such an ambivalent readership. They have weathered the strain of life beyond the newsroom, finding solace in the camaraderie our crappy concrete office provides them. I know that I would sit in that office for hours and listen to the fun, the jokes, the music and the laughter as it mixed with the frustration, the cursing and the fear and just smile. Inside, I giggled like a little kid, laughing because somewhere, somehow someone decided I should be paid money to have a job that was this much fun. I hope it was fun for them as well.

In doing all that they have done, they made this place a part of their lives and, as such, made their lives part of ours. Some names will live on, carved in a bat that sits with our plaques and trophies and other testaments to glory. Others will live on, etched in the memories of those who remain to tell the tales of “that one time when…” For their part, it is my great hope that the paper made an eternal impression on their hearts, knowing that whatever they did while they were here, it was time well spent.

(NAMES) They have done so much for this place and what they take with them is immeasurable. However, what they gave us is so much more valuable and important than anyone can possibly fathom.

They brought persistence, professionalism and a grim determination to a job that needed all they could muster and more. The built an award-winning paper that became the statewide benchmark for success and a national force that was often recognized for its greatness. They challenged themselves and each other through redesigns and through the “Big Issues” we put out each term. They helped us all grow as we all made this place nothing short of great.

They also brought laughter and joy to a newsroom that always felt more like a family home mixed with a sitcom than it did a job. Trying to explain what the newsroom is like or why it matters so much to those who call it home is like asking me why I love my wife. I can’t do it in any clear and scientific way, but I know that without her, I would be diminished to the point of ruin. Explaining why we find ourselves laughing to the point of crying, cheering over social disasters and sharing stupid videos at midnight is equally difficult. We are who we are and these six people helped shape who we are over the last four or five years. They helped define us as family.

Finally, they set the bar for what this place can be and they leave it for the staff members who remain and the staffs that are yet to come with but one simple instruction:

“Top this.”

I don’t know if it can be done, but it is imperative that we try. We owe them that and so much more.

As we bid them goodbye and prepare for our next stage of newsroom evolution, make sure you give each and everyone of them your heartfelt thanks. We all have been bettered for having lived and laughed with them. As for those who are moving on, know that once a staffer, always a staffer.

You may go away, but you’re always welcome to come back home.