Nov. 2, 1989, was a strange day for me. It was the last day the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner published. I did a summer at the HerEx back in 1985, as an intern, and I largely hated every minute of it. We were the scrappy second paper to the much larger Los Angeles Times, all “it bleeds, it leads” kind of journalism. I talked a lot that summer to the relatives of people who had just died in some horrible and unexpected ways. Did I mention that I hated every minute of it?
And yet I had lived within it, and I understood something that has come back over me in waves the last 24 hours with the news that the Albuquerque Tribune will likely close its doors before Halloween. The Trib is our hated competitor, and I have growled many mornings at a headline I didn’t like, or a story that had tread on turf I thought that I owned. But every morning of my working life these last 17 years, I have picked up the Tribune to see what they had to say. I have friends who work there, and its pages are filled with the work of people I respect.
But more than that, something ineffable. The Tribune is a newspaper, and a newspaper is a thing alive. I hated that summer working at the Herald Examiner, but the day it finally went under I cried. And then I got in my car and drove to downtown LA, to the loading dock in the back to buy a copy of the final edition.
A TV reporter approached me and asked me why I was buying a copy. I mumbled something that was largely incoherent, because he never bothered to turn on the camera. He was looking for someone buying them in the hope it would be a collectors item, that they could make money off of. I was buying it to get one last piece of something I thought was very, very important – a newspaper.