Monday, December 29, 2008
Writing This Column Was A Privilege
By Gene Grant
For the Journal
And so it goes, a very wise woman in the business of news once quipped. In my case, the end of days as a columnist for the Journal with today my final entry. A small story in the historic and difficult choices newspaper owners and editors are facing. It's tough out there.
No complaints. This is reality. No one is immune from it. Yours truly included. In fact, my prediction is that not too many weeks from now, we'll all be reading about a paper somewhere in the nation shuttering their print press doors for good.
Now, all that said, what in fact bodes for this business going forward? The challenges are enormous. Let's be honest here, as traditional and special the idea of an opinion column is, the simple fact is opinion is not exactly hard to come by these days in other places.
No, a blog is not the same. Not even close. I've been there. Yes, it's fun to a point, but you can't ever beat a column in a paper. There's just something about being inside the ecosystem of a newspaper that make the words work better and the writing more fun.
Annoying opinion is one thing, hard reporting another story completely. What happens when seasoned reporters hit the streets? I do not feed my family and pay a mortgage from writing a column. That can't be said for a lot of folks in the news business. I consider myself lucky. There's a bounce for the culture in that loss of talent and not a positive one.
But I do see some rays of hope in the burgeoning idea of blending the power of the Web with the tradition of newsprint. It's starting. I personally think it's doable. Someone is going to crack the code on this. These are smart people who have survived a lot of challenges.
Let me finish precisely where I started, with an observation from my first column here on October 28, 2007, when I stated: "this space will be dedicated to the ins and outs of our rapidly evolving state of being, which to my mind is one of the great urban dramas in the country. I honestly believe we are on the cusp of something extraordinary."
I still believe that, even in the face of the political and cultural mayhem showing itself recently. All irrelevant. I mentioned in that inaugural column that it's the people of this city who endure brilliantly no matter what. That's what this "great urban drama" is all about to me. Scandals, economic downturns, politicians; they all come and go. We carry on.
I'm dazzled about what you and I discussed over the last year and some. The e-mails we've swapped on the positions I've taken that were vigorously challenged or supported. It all meant something. I learned so much. This is a very privileged position in that regard. You cannot do what I do and not be in awe with the intellectual capitol of this city.
I believe what we are entering is a new era of how those intellectual muscles are being flexed. There's a palpable change in the emotional relationship with power, and specifically government. The old ways no longer romanticized. It's building and the ascent is rapid. Demands will be made. You can feel the impatience in your bones.
As newspapers and what we do as watchdogs contracts, or at the least recalibrates its own relationship with power, the timing of a popular rising to pick up that slack could not be better.
So, onward to another challenge. That's not a bad thing on my planet. Neither is the privilege to write for a great newspaper.
Gene Grant is a writer, actor, former congressional staffer and father of two. He can be reached by e-mail to email@example.com.