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I would do it all over again

At the end of the movie The Day After Tomorrow — the pseudo-science catastrophe movie in which nature unleashes another ice age onto the planet in the matter of days — there’s a moment in which one of the young survivors contemplates her future. She’s a high school student who, up until the start of the movie, had been living toward the goal of going to a college that was now buried up to its ivy in ice.

“How am I supposed to adjust, Sam? Everything I’ve ever cared about, everything I’ve worked for has all been preparation for a future that no longer exists. I know you always thought I took the competition too seriously. You were right. It was all for nothing.”

I find myself at the moment sympathizing with her. Much of the last 15 years of my life has been spent in or leading to an enterprise that I may no longer be able to participate in. The newspaper I picked up from my doorstep this morning will be the last my employer prints. The last after almost 150 years. The newspaper industry is reeling. I am in the process of applying for a job outside of the industry, and even if I don’t get this job, odds are that the copy I edited last night will be the last I read that ever makes it onto newsprint.

I wouldn’t be human, I suppose, if I didn’t wonder where I would be, who I would be, if I had chosen a path different from newspaper journalism, if I had followed my father’s advice and gone into accounting or engineering or medicine. The thing I keep coming back to, though, is that I wouldn’t be where I am, who I am, without newspapers and no matter how much it hurts right now to see my newspaper close its doors I can say with honesty that given the chance to do things over, I wouldn’t change a single thing.

I would still join my high school newspaper, still spend endless hours working or goofing around in “the pub.”

I would still choose to major in English at Davidson College, where I absorbed all I could from professors who taught me new ways to love this language and love reading.

I would still work for college communications, where I wrote “hometowners” about fellow students, sometimes even getting a byline in the clippings parents would send back to the office and always laughing at the antics of my boss and mentor.

I would still go to the University of North Carolina for journalism school, where I met and grew to love the hilarious bunch of smart, snarky and jaded twenty-somethings who made up my master’s class and didn’t know half the time why they even went to J-school and where I met and grew to love the hilarious bunch of smart, snarky and marginally less jaded undergrads on the staff of The Daily Tar Heel who taught me everything I know about newspaper journalism and everything I love about it too.

I would still intern at the Palm Beach Post and the Chicago Tribune.

I would still go work for the Rocky Mountain News, where I met and fell in love my with dear hubby.

I would still go back to work for the Chicago Tribune, where I made some of my best and dearest friends in the business and got to see a legendary copy editor hang it up after 40 years in the business, where I got to be a tiny part of the legendary history of a grand newspaper city and drink beer and eat the world’s best burgers after deadline at the Billy Goat Tavern.

And I would still come back to the Rocky, where I got to cover a national nominating convention and the election of the first African-American president and where I got to save a columnist from an error on my very last day and cried tears when it was all over.

3 thoughts on “I would do it all over again

  1. Kristin (who should be reading)

    27 Feb on 2009 at 11:10 am

    I thought of you this morning, Alex . . . I’m sure it’s a very sad day in your house. 🙁

    This was a nice retrospective, though – I hope you enjoyed writing it.

  2. Janelle

    27 Feb on 2009 at 11:57 am

    The public will always need good journalists like you! It’s the end of this step, but not the end of your love of writing.

  3. Katie Schwing

    05 Mar on 2009 at 9:58 pm

    So, so sad. But I’m glad you have no regrets about it all. Hey, my life would be completely different, too, if you and Chris hadn’t hired me onto the copy desk my sophomore year. I more than likely wouldn’t have the job I have now. I thank you for all you taught me, and I’ll try to carry on in newspapering in your absence as long as I can. Good luck!

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