I’ve never been a big fan of the farewell column. It seems altogether too self-involved. It takes a fair amount of self-regard to think other people will want to read what you write in the first place. It takes a huge amount more if you then decide the most interesting possible topic in the universe is yourself.
Unfortunately, writing is about the only thing I can do even half decently. And I have been advised by certain people here, not least among them my boss, that I need to write a farewell column.
So this is it.
I’ve been at The Times-Dispatch 25 years now: longer than I’ve done anything else, longer than I’ve ever been anywhere else. It’s long enough. I have sometimes wondered, when I read or listen to venerable media personalities, why they don’t move on and make room for some eager young person who deserves a shot. I hope my leaving will soon fulfill a young person’s hope for a shot at the newspapering game.
You might ask why I’m leaving. There’s no single, overriding reason. The long, slow decline of the newspaper industry is part of it. So is turning 50 and realizing that the career paths at this age start to narrow. There is a bit of ennui; you can get fired up to write about school boards and state budgets only so many times. And there are other reasons. No need to exhaust your patience with them all.
I will indulge your patience, though, by thanking my boss, publisher Tom Silvestri, for his unstinting support and encouragement. You will not find a more dogged, determined, and dedicated newspaperman anywhere. I don’t know how many other company presidents will spend half an hour on the phone with an angry customer — or three hours at night, after an already taxing day, collaborating on how to make their city a better place. Not many, is my guess.
The other members of the Editorial Department — Op/Ed Editor Cindy Paris, Commentary Editor Bob Rayner, and Associate Editor Robin Beres — share Tom’s determination and dedication, and they show it by cheerfully grinding through the countless little details that are required to put out even one page of newsprint. They work long hours trying to put together a diverse and compelling collection of opinions every day. Go easy on them.
Go easy on everybody here at the newspaper, for that matter. They’re all doing their damnedest. The result is usually above average, and sometimes it rises to the extraordinary. But everyone has an off day now and then; even the great Babe Ruth struck out nearly twice as often as he hit a home run. Think of the times you’ve stepped up to the plate and whiffed, and how awful it felt to let everybody down. The fans in the bleachers booing about it didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. So if you see a typo or a factual mistake or even what you consider a lapse in judgment, remember what a wise fellow said: We are all the same person — just on different days.
And if you see something you like, send a quick attaboy. Nobody should expect awards simply for doing their job, but a pat on the back now and then makes a difference.
It’s been an honor and a privilege to have worked here with so many great people, and to have had a platform to share my thoughts — too often banal and cranky and just plain ridiculous, now that I look back — with so many others. Thanks very much for reading, despite my many strikeouts, and for putting up with me for so long. Someone better will be stepping up to the plate shortly. I look forward to reading what that person has to say, and I hope you do, too.