Today is my husband’s last day at USA TODAY, a place where he has spent the past 14 years helping shape the nation’s news — through nights, through holidays, through buyouts and layoffs. Today is also his last day in journalism, just one month shy of his 26th anniversary in the business he fell in love with.
For Trey, journalism was a calling, a profession he believed in, a profession he was eager to praise. Over the past 15 years, as he watched the news industry shift, shake and stumble as it struggles to reinvent itself, he was equally quick to criticize it — and defend it. That flip-flop is part of the love affair with news, something only journalists would understand. Just as only journalists would understand how hard it is to ever consider leaving the newsroom.
I understood — and still do, which is why I’m writing this to him today.
Trey, I know how much you love journalism. I also know your talents are many and your versatility is without bounds. I know that you’ll be great in whatever you do after journalism. There is life after the newsroom. A big, beautiful life. Our gifted colleagues who have been bought out or laid off have shown us that time and again. There are so many of them, too many, but they live their lives well — as you will.
But if you’re ever feeling nostalgic for the newsroom, I want you to remember two things:
1) Journalism isn’t the same profession that you fell in love with — far from it. We only have to look as far as the most recent headlines to show us that. Newsrooms around the globe devoted a week to nauseating, ’round-the-clock reporting on Kim Kardashian’s ass, a collective effort that easily proves my point multiple times over.
2) The colleagues you loved most are long gone, ousted by the industry’s cruel economics. The newsroom is not what it once was because so many of the people who mattered most to you are not here.
Perhaps I’m the wrong person to write this. I’m much too eager to cheer when a colleague or former colleague makes a break for their newsroom’s nearest exit. I do not believe journalism is God’s work. I do not believe journalism is the only noble form of communication, and I don’t believe leaving it means throwing down ethics. And for now, news’ mission of truth tellers and watchdogs lives in some forms — but for how long? Although there are thousands of true believers out there fighting its corruption, we have to wonder at what cost — especially when people we love are on the front lines in the death battle for eyeballs, and their destinies look more uncertain with every quarter’s balance sheet.
That said, the future — your future — is far from bleak.
Communications is an art. There are endless ways to tell the world’s stories — and the truth. There will always be a need for well-crafted message that inspires and informs, shapes and reforms, deciphers and expounds. You’ve spent a rich career clarifying the muddiest of deadline-battered copy and writing pure poetry in headlines — all the while racing a merciless clock. Now it’s time to take those immense talents and use them well outside a newsroom. And as you go, I have zero doubt that you’ll craft many meaningful messages and tell many beautiful stories, no matter where you are.
Godspeed, my love.