As a long-time journalist, it hurts whenever there’s another loss in the business.
I left the profession in what many are now calling the “golden years”, so I know all about good incomes and benefits, big budgets, and, more critically, the freedom to write.
I was fortunate that my newspaper allowed me the freedom, as a political reporter-then-foreign correspondent, to pursue stories that weren’t always part of the daily grind. I was always grateful to get front pages, weekend covers, or other good play for issues that demanded public attention but were ignored or downplayed by other, more corporate-minded media.
Always, I was helped by many professionals at the home office. Copy editors, especially, made me a better writer. (One lamented for years that I could not understand a simple, grammatical point: He always fixed it. He always explained its origins and necessity, with extraordinary patience. I kept mixing it up.)
Librarians and switchboard operators — the most resourceful people in the world — helped me find resources all over the planet before the Internet swallowed their jobs. (Most Star journalists have stories about finding some mob boss hiding out in the Caribbean, or some wayward politician or crooked financier gone AWOL, who were astonished to pick up the phone in their particular hideout and learn The Star had found them. I can still recall that gasp of astonishment from an alleged criminal who fled the country, only to be discovered on a tiny island by one of the Star’s “wonder women.”)
The collective knowledge of these experts is not easily replicated. Technology cannot replace their wisdom or fine-tuned instincts.
As a reluctant editor (the paper was desperate for women in management then), I could not have done any part of my job without backup.
Some of the greats with whom I worked have retired; a few, sadly, have died. (I’m often mindful of my last conversation with Archie Williamson — we were in separate hospital beds, at opposite ends of the country. I will always be grateful for the honor of working with such a legend.)
A few former editors are thriving as writers, literary agents, journalism profs, and documentary film makers. One is a remarkable artist. (With gratitude to Katie Gillmor Ellis, who always made the newsroom a better place for thinkers.)
As an Arts and Entertainment Editor — the only one, I was told, who had no TV — my job was eased every single day by the art department. Artists and designers elevated all of us with award-winning covers, for five blockbuster sections each week.
One of these talented artists is slated to lose her job in a sweep of 55 professionals in my former newsroom.
Today, I’m thinking of her with gratitude, and remembering all the effort she made to help our work shine. I’m thinking of her patience, while dealing with an artless editor, and her humor in dealing with art-challenged journalists.
I’m especially grateful for her courage in standing up for ideas and, yes, ideals, that weren’t embraced by non-artistic managers.
Such passion cannot be manufactured.
I’m thinking of all the professionals it takes to produce a newspaper that has been grinding out 364 days a year, for 111 years. Readers see the bylines of writers and photographers, and the online contacts for various editors and department heads; they cannot fully appreciate the dozens of people producing their daily news.
I’m thinking of all the professionals who always made me proud to be a journalist, who had the patience and kindness to teach and guide me, through decades of toil and adventure.
I am celebrating their commitment, and thinking of their work, with deep gratitude.
I hope that everyone who learns of the pending layoffs reaches out to each professional, and celebrates their expertise. I hope everyone remembers why these experts have been so valuable in our careers, and honors their precious contributions to the largest newspaper in Canada.
I hope sorrow won’t overshadow all that they have done for us — and for journalism.
TOMORROW: No time for elegies