A couple of years ago I wrote a column about some newspaper resolutions I had on one of those giddy — not to mention halcyon — reporting and editing days way, way back in 1990. In hindsight those were great days. Sure the Internet had emerged as something very real and was becoming a noticeable force to people beyond the tech world but newspapers didn’t think that would have much long-term impact (how silly of newspapers). The economy was growing. At the time it looked like journalism, especially in print, would still be around for a good long time.
Silly us, again.
So fast forward to 2016 where we find a newspaper world that had been in free fall toward a state of collapse for more than decade. The signs were there early this would happen, only, well, it’s a long story.
Anyway, I posted the column from January of 2016 below. I do so mainly because in retrospect I find it interesting where my life was at the time, especially when I consider that only eight months later I decided to leave the newspaper business on my own — before the corporation that owned my last newspaper stop in Burlington might make the decision that my salary had to go. I knew that day would probably come, maybe not in 2017 or even 2018, but eventually. Corporate consolidation of printing, publishers and other jobs was already going full blast. I had seen other editors bite the dust. I’ve seen a few bite it since I left. I was lucky.
So I think it’s obvious when reading this column I had already made my decision in January of 2016. I had no idea then the matter would be settled in my mind by August, when I turned in my notice but was asked to stay until November. When I wrote this column, I think my mind had been made up already.
A lot has changed since then. I now work as a writer for University Advancement at Elon University, if they decide to keep me. The anniversary of my first day on campus is next week (Jan. 9). I have a job evaluation coming up. But I can say I’m less stressed, more peaceful and far less agitated than when I was editor of a newspaper. I talk to very few babbling psychos these days, not to mention righteously angry people who may have a very legit beef with the company I work for. And today, as I type this, Elon is on a two-hour delay due to surprise overnight snowfall that I’m sure played hell with the production, delivery and safe travel of staff at the TImes-News Wednesday night. In 2016, this would have kept me up and worried all night.
So anyway, for those still paying attention, here’s the foreshadowing column from 2016. And as for resolutions I made for myself that year, I think I failed at them all. In fairness it was hard not to be depressed about the presidential race and folding a fitted sheet is next to impossible (although at the time I did get lots of advice). I can say that in 2017 while working at Elon I did get to meet a lot of interesting people and write about them. Score.
This year I resolve to stay off my phone. We’ll see.
Here’s the column, finally. And happy New Year, y’all. Make the most of it.
Years and years ago, back when I was a young editor with more idealism than Mike Krzyzewski’s got college basketball victories, I had the genius idea to write out a list of resolutions for the New Year. These weren’t resolutions for me, mind you, but for my fleet of seemingly eager reporters at the Jacksonville Daily News.
I worked on this self-imposed assignment for a week, developing it, polishing it, rewriting, deleting and adding. It was to be a keepsake document rivaling the Statement of Principles laid forth by fictional newspaper publisher Charles Foster Kane when he took over the San Francisco Examiner near the beginning of the movie, “Citizen Kane.” Once proffered I envisioned someone reading it and observing that “I think this is going to be very important someday.”
I, ahem, was going to change the face of journalism and improve the lives of those in my sphere of influence.
Of course, we all know what actually happened. I proudly gave out copies of these nicely typed set of reporting resolutions for (insert some year in the 1990s here). Each reporter dutifully accepted their copy, glanced at it sleepily, then tucked it away somewhere never to be seen again.
It was actually far worse than not getting a BB gun on Christmas Day. They shot my heart out.
What I learned is that it’s almost impossible to establish resolutions for others. This is because they’re already far too busy not following their own. Makes sense. I never adhered to many resolutions myself for more than a day or two.
Today, not one single copy of this incredibly important manifesto exists. I know because I looked through the myriad boxes in which I have stored the flotsam and jetsam of an uneven career in journalism. You collect a lot of paper in this line of work if you started in the 1970s. In the highly disorganized mind of a writer, though, some stuff makes it and other stuff simply doesn’t. And what does wind up being kept is organized so haphazardly it would make the experts on “Hoarders” scream into the night.
So this list of resolutions, which might have saved print journalism (it’s hard to argue otherwise with no contradicting evidence in sight), remains lost to time and the examination of future generations. Writers, by the way, always harbor a belief that something they’ve created that is gathering mold or silverfish in a deteriorating box somewhere will one day be considered brilliant upon reconsideration by thinkers of another more highly evolved era.
Anyway, there is one item I clearly remember from that long ago and lost list. I challenged my reporters back then to “Meet interesting people and write stories about them.”
So because I still believe this to be a worthy goal, I will establish it as one of my primary resolutions for 2016, because, well, I haven’t given up on resolutions even though my success rate rivals that of Lindsey Graham’s presidential aspirations. On the other hand, I no longer smoke and a few years ago I managed to lose more than 30 pounds. So I’m doing something right.
With that thought in mind, I have a few other goals for the year ahead, like, for example:
■ I resolve to spend time with my extended family this year. Too many years have passed since I’ve actually seen a few of my cousins, especially on my mother’s side. We all spent so many Christmases and other holidays together growing up, it seems impossible that I haven’t at least spoken to a handful of them since our grandfather died more than 20 years ago. We buried my cousin Reid on Saturday, which really drove the point home. Reid had a thorny personality and existed for many years on his wits alone — by choice. He lived life on his own terms, which seldom included even his brothers. He did as he pleased and if that meant living on the street, well, then it was OK. RIP Reid. In death you are probably bringing your cousins back together again.
■ And I resolve to avoid dwelling on what we don’t have and highlight the things we do. At home and at work it’s an embarrassment of riches.
■ Before I die I resolve to learn how to fold a fitted sheet. Not that important in the larger scheme of things but maddening all the same.
■ The presidential race is not going to depress me. The presidential race is not going to depress me. The presidential race is not going to depress me . . .
■ I resolve to remember that no one on social media is an expert on anything.
■ I’m going to laugh more if it kills me — but not before learning how to fold a fitted sheet.
■ I will definitely pursue a hobby of some kind this year. That may sound weird but I haven’t had a hobby — ever.
■ If there’s still time, I resolve to organize the previously mentioned flotsam and jetsam of an uneven journalism career so important documents won’t be lost to time, or be stored in such a mess that my spouse actually calls in the folks from “Hoarders.”
■ And I just may run that “meet interesting people and write about them” thing by a different set of eager reporters.
It can’t hurt to try.