Called the Toronto Star today with a kick-ass idea, wanting to pitch it to the new foreign editor, whoever it was these days. Used to be a woman I worked with in Toronto at the Globe and Mail. “It’s Colin McKenzie,” the operator told me. “Of course it is,” I said. “Can you please connect me?”
And there was my city editor from my very first days in journalism, back when I was hired at a national newspaper without one minute’s experience at any newspaper and was quite terrified of Colin, a funny, tough, fast-talking proto-journo. How lovely and how unlikely, as almost all the newspaper people we know are being fired or bought out or sitting around scared shitless it’s about to happen to them, too, that we’re working together again.
We caught up, commiserated over health issues and the tattered remains of the Globe, a paper we both once loved a lot and where he most recently was one of its top editors — then negotiated a news story I’ll cover for them this weekend (and blog here, of course once it’s up.) Thank heaven Toronto still has four viable newspapers, which is three more than many American cities these days (OK, one, The National Post is in deep trouble right now.) Many of my newsroom colleagues from 20 years ago there still have jobs. The New York Times will bump 100 people within the next month.
It’s one reason many journos feel so deeply ill at the current chaos of our business. People inside journalism get it and those outside it think we’re a little nuts, clinging to the shards of splintered wood that still float amidst the icy waters — aka our careers in newspapers and the people with whom we’ve broken national stories. One of the reasons I stick around, still thrilling when I can write for a real, dead-trees paper to the adrenaline rush of writing and filing to deadline, is the equally intense pleasure of working with people I’ve known, worked with and appreciated for decades. And vice versa.
Will the new(est) generation of journos, the ones in J-school now piling up mega-debt to join what’s left of our ranks, be as collegial with all their peers after 10, 20 or 30 years? What will their tribe look like? I suspect by then, we’ll get our news directly through embedded brain-chips wired to pre-selected channels, reported and “written” and “edited” by robots — no vacation! no overtime! no pee breaks!
Will today’s junior journo’s enjoy this specific pleasure of long, deep association with smart, demanding bosses? I wonder. Whatever the medium, we all need a Colin who scares the hell out of us while pushing us to standards we didn’t even know were possible.
I am Stegosaurus. Hear me roar. (Colin gets to be T. Rex)