Five plus years on from my career spent in newsrooms, I mostly don’t miss it, except when I do.
The great joy of a newsroom was the intensity of being in the midst of All the Things. A newsroom, at least the ones I worked in, was a boisterous place, with chatter about whatever the thing is that we were working on. Those things were, by construction, “important”, else why would we be working on them?
The accelerating buzz as 6 p.m. deadlines approached, the chatter quieted, the tensing stares at computer screens as deadline approached, was a blast. I hated it the first time I really lived through it those deadline moments, as a young intern at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner back in the 1980s. And yet I stuck around newsrooms for the next thirty years.
They were a cauldron of stress, something I only fully grasped when I finally walked away from it. It’s hard to describe the calm that settled over me, quite literally the day I walked out for the last time. I’d carefully constructed my departure to leave open a chance that I might return to a newsroom after I finished the book I’d left to write. But as the peace of the next morning settled over me, sitting quietly in my university office to work on my book, the thought of return to a newsroom never crossed my mind, and has not done since.
And yet I pined today when my old newsroom friend Astrid Galvan mentioned election night pizza. Everyone worked election night, and we’d gather around 6-ish for a meeting to go over all the assignments and then eat pizza. Early in my career I was one of the foot soldiers of journalism dispatched to some gawd-awful hotel ballroom to chase candidate quotes, trying to get a word with the loser in State House District Umpty. Later, I spent evenings in the newsroom crunching numbers for the many vote tables we’d publish in the Wednesday morning paper, shuttling back and forth to the reporters writing on deadline, pushing up against wave after wave of deadline through the evening until sometime well after midnight we’d push out the final edition.
By the time I left journalism five years ago, I was getting old for that game. I don’t miss the stress. But I do miss the pizza, the urgency of deadline, and the sense of shared purpose.