Time is a distinctly human invention. No other living thing that we know of measures time as we do. Its passage is celebrated and lamented, observed and forgotten, remembered and ignored.
From a universe that is arguably billions of years old, to a nanosecond, barely perceptible, time is revered and inescapable. We have come to accept it and its passage but rarely have we learned to love it. Whether there be too much or too little of it, time marches on.
I’ve been in publishing for 36 years now (more than 13,000 days, if you like) and measuring it that way seems appropriate to me. Nary has a day passed when I wasn’t thinking about, or acting upon, the things that we in this business do. In my case, that means everything from looking for story ideas, selling ads, fixing computers, assuaging upset readers, customers and sometimes employees. It includes installing racks, settling lawsuits, answering phones and washing windows. It has meant time away from family, too many hours on the highway and sleepless nights wondering how to, what if, and why not.
I’ve told new employees that there are easier ways to make a living and while that’s true, there’s also something magic about being close to history while it is being made. The miracle of invention, the shock of tragedy, the wonder of genius, we get to seek out, observe and report on those things that we think are interesting, compelling and stimulating. And sometimes, our readers enjoy the ride we take them on.
Writing is not only disseminating information, but trying to do so in an entertaining and memorable way. When we get it right, it’s one of the elements that make a civilized culture better.
Over the years I’ve had the honor to meet many interesting people and work with a lot of true professionals: Writers, editors, graphic designers, headline writers, advertising reps, receptionists, publishers and delivery drivers. I don’t forget that last group because if the paper doesn’t get out, all the other work is for naught.
When I got into this business, fax machines were not yet widely used, let alone personal computers or the internet. CNN was the first, and for a time. the only cable news option to the big three television networks. Daily newspapers still reigned as the official recorder of facts and were run by hard-nosed editors seeking to break stories that mattered to their readers. And sometimes they made a real difference in our society.
One of the pleasures of being in this line of work was having the ability to see an idea, a story or photo, an ad, spring from one’s mind onto the pages or website in short order and out into the community, where thousands of people could see, read and react to it. It was personal work done in public.
Since the turn of the century, we’ve seen a marked change in what is news and how it is disseminated. Professionally curated investigative news has been swamped by millions of citizen journalism, sponsored content, trolling ad messaging and nefarious entities interested in spreading disinformation. And the speed and sheer deluge of it is converting the public discussion into a shouting match where facts matter little and behavior has devolved into the unacceptable.
With so many sources presenting so many opinions, society as a whole has lost the ability and civility to agree on many things. And so now we find ourselves speaking largely with only those who we agree with and not with those with whom we disagree or seek to find a middle ground.
For some time I’ve ignored the wisdom of Gandhi, who stated that ‘There is more to life than increasing its speed.” I have sped along much too fast and missing so much. So now I’ve decided that I need to move on to what I’ve yet to do, slow down a bit, think and breathe deeply and focus on the simple things I hope to find in the future. It’s time.