Fighting through the blues about the news

This is a post I’ve resisted writing. I’ve been in a funk lately, one of the few true periods of melancholy I’ve had in this new stage of my career.

A couple of freelance writing opportunities that looked promising haven’t panned out, and they probably were never going to be as good as they initially sounded. It’s good to give people with ideas the benefit of the doubt, but I foolishly set aside my own ideas for too long waiting to find out.

I also spent too much time last week feuding with a curmudgeon – I really don’t like that word – convinced that there’s no hope for journalism on the Web. Not even 20 years of the Internet, and already it’s time to give up? Silly me, I tried to argue that the Web is in its infancy. There’s no way to counter an airtight, absolutist view, but I persisted to the point of frustration.

If that wasn’t dour enough, two appalling and deplorable stories emerged this week – in Chicago and Baltimore – that have me wondering about the morality of some of the people running the newspaper industry.

Is it not enough that they’ve run the industry into the ground? Must they also humiliate journalists and strip them of their dignity too?

One of the laid-off Sun staffers was too kind calling the machete-wielders mere “jackals.” I can think of quite a few other words but I’ll refrain.

I’m just glad Molly Ivins isn’t around to see this. Not long before she died, three years ago, she famously began a column this way:

“I don’t so much mind that newspapers are dying — it’s watching them commit suicide that pisses me off.”

If she were here, she might describe what’s been happening as mass murder-suicide. It’s hard to call it anything else.

Later today, more than 70 of my former newsroom colleagues are leaving my old paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for good. Just like I did eight months ago, with buyouts in hand. I’m happy for them, because it’s a great chance to enjoy life and recreate their careers. But I’m also sad and angry that a number of others were summarily laid off a couple weeks back.

A redesigned paper has been all the rage this week. I wish more was being said about the people leaving and all the work they’ve done. And what’s going to be missing after they’re gone.

The future does march on and my former paper and others like it are facing horrendous odds in securing it. It’s too easy to claim that they have no one but themselves to blame for failing to prepare for it, because many journalists are guilty of the same thing. We shouldn’t need the prodding of editors to gain digital fluency and better understand how our readers consume the news.

I’ve got a lot of work to do in that regard, and I’ve generally been excited and re-energized by many of the things I’ve undertaken since leaving my job.

But right now I’ve just got the blues about all this, and it’s going to take a little while to chase them away.


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