How the time does fly.
And interview last week with a reporter of The Telegraph — the paper where I wrote, shot photographs and did a column for 12 years — reminded me that it was 35 years ago that I left the paper in a town on the Mississippi River in Illinois and headed for Washington, DC.
Some 47 years have passed since I arrived in Alton after an overnight drive from Roanoke, Virginia, after five years there with The Roanoke Times.
More than half of a century passed since going to work as a 17-year-old reporter for The Times — fifty-two years of covering local news, statewide issues and national events with worldwide impact.
Where did the time go?
I head out this morning to cover the first session of Floyd’s new “drug court,” part of a statewide program aimed at diverting first-time offenders away from a substance that addicts and kills.
When one starts early in a career of choice and passion, he or she goes from bring told “you’re awfully young to be doing what you do” to “wow, you’ve been at this for a long time.”
My black hair and beard turned grey long ago. I walk with a limp from two many broken legs over the years — two instances in the last two years — and the memory ain’t what it used to be.
Dale Maharidge, a journalism professor at Columbia University, posed the question of “What happens to journalists when no one wants to print their word anymore?”
Maharidge wrote on Bill Moyer’s blog that “as newsrooms disappear, veteran older reporters are being forced from the profession. That’s bad for journalism — and democracy.”
He told of a former newspaperman who ended up as a bouncer and assistant manager for a strip-joint Hustler club.
Another out-of-work newsman said he is now homeless, wandering the country on a mountain bike:
I’m riding my mt. bike west, temporarily camped out in Kingman [Arizona], and I have lived under many a bush and in a few hostels along the way. I am a homeless transient without any money. Three college degrees to boot…. So here I sit, at the public library computer, typing out my stories and thinking about what to do.
Their stories, sadly, are multiplying in a time when social media patter and short, acerbic bits on partisan news web sites and satellite TV become the primary source of news for too many.
Los Angeles Times executive Nicco Mele predicts that a third to half of the 50 largest newspapers in America could go out of business over the next three years.
What’s left, Maharidge says, is not good:
Meanwhile, what remains of print journalism is shifting, morphing into a loose web of digital outfits populated by a corps of underpaid young freelancers and keyboard hustlers, Twitter fiends and social-media soothsayers. Gone are the packed newsrooms. And gone, in many cases, are the older journalists.
As an older journalist, I’m lucky to still be able to call myself a newspaperman. I’m a contract writer and photographer for The Floyd Press but I’m also a contributing videographer for cable TV news channels and a writer and photographer for other news operations.
I also own a political news web site and provide material — written and visual — for other Internet-based operations.
I’m lucky. Too many with far more talent and experience are on the street or in jobs they don’t like but help pay the bills.
Life, the old bromide says, “is not fair.”
It’s not — and that’s a damn shame.