25 years at the newspaper, and still living the dream – San Bernardino Sun

Thursday marked 25 years for me at this newspaper group. What do they give you after 25 years in the same job? It ought to be something silver: a pocket watch, a stick pin, a flask.

But I’m not choosy about the color or the gift. As long as it’s not a pink slip!

Twenty-five years wasn’t a goal, and — a pause for me to knock wood — isn’t an end point either. I don’t know quite what to say about 25 years, other than that I think I’m going to like it here.

The time hasn’t flown by, certainly. That would require a level of obliviousness incompatible with 365 days of deadlines a year, multiplied by 25. The years do stack up, though, one after another. Ten years felt like a milestone, then 15. The 20th kind of glided past.

For my 25th, I invited the boss to lunch, on him. To his credit, he accepted graciously.

2022 is actually 35 years in journalism for me. I had a combined 10 years at four previous papers in Sonoma County and in Victorville before reporting for duty in Ontario on March 10, 1997 at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

My first beat was Fontana City Hall. All these years later, sometimes I still write about Fontana City Hall. In fact, the March 22 council meeting is on my calendar. So I haven’t progressed all that much.

Notepad on knee, David Allen interviews painter Robert Lyn Nelson on March 11 at the Chaffey Community Museum of Art in Ontario. (Courtesy Lena Castles)

But in most other respects, the newspaper, the industry and my job have changed enormously.

We were still largely a print operation 25 years ago, one that had a website only grudgingly, as our publisher thought giving our content away for free was nuts. Turns out he had good instincts.

We also had a newsroom full of people — almost as many characters as Twitter — to put out a full-service newspaper in-house. Ah, those were the days. None of us knew how good we had it, including you readers.

It’s been downhill from there, for all the reasons you’ve heard: tech giants stealing our content and our advertising, various missteps on our industry’s part, distant ownership, grown adults deciding they shouldn’t have to pay for news.

For a few years I was asked with irritating regularity by lapsed readers who remembered me, “Do you still write for the newspaper?” There was, briefly, a rumor that I had retired, also among lapsed readers. As I was still in the paper three times a week as always, I was beginning to wonder if anyone was still reading.

But you folks are reading, and thank you for that.

Our industry’s shrinkage is one reason I’m in your newspaper if your newspaper is not the Daily Bulletin. Eleven entities are owned by our Southern California News Group, and I’m in three of them on the regular — the Press-Enterprise, Sun and Bulletin — with semi-regular appearances in a few others.

I never would’ve seen that coming 25 years ago. We were all competitors. As a journalist friend kidded me last year, “You may be the only person benefiting from newspaper consolidation.”

It’s definitely a challenge trying to aim columns at the entire Inland Empire (wherever it is), but challenges keep life interesting, right?

Staying in one place has its pluses. I’ve gotten to know people and places in my corner of the region fairly well. There are stories I can tell that nobody else could, just by dint of history and connections. Defending the IE against the barbs of outsiders is a role I’m happy to take on — while of course reserving the right to aim barbs myself as an insider.

Admittedly, it’s not easy writing for a newspaper in 2022. It’s becoming an arcane trade, a niche product. “I don’t know when I last saw someone reading a newspaper,” a friendly stranger in his 30s said to me at a coffeehouse the other morning as I was doing just that. “I tell my daughter about newspapers and she says, ‘What’s that?’”

But my colleagues and I are still plugging away for print and online. There are a lot fewer of us, but we’re all committed to our mission.

Over the years I’ve worked with so many talented journalists, waves of them. At this point I know a lot more former journalists than working journalists because many have left the field, willingly or not.

There are times when I’ve worried that I’ve been left behind, as if I had refused to take the last plane out of Kabul before the fall.

From their lips to his ears, former mayor Ron Loveridge and current Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson talk about Riverside’s Civil Rights Walk of statues as David Allen jots notes in November 2021. (File photo by Terry Pierson, Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

One small change in how I perceive myself occurred about a decade ago. It was during lunch in Pasadena with four former newsroom colleagues, all women. All had long since moved on, and all were doing better than me.

The three in public relations claimed they missed journalism, although they didn’t seem too broken up about it. Only the high school teacher was honest or self-aware enough to say she didn’t miss it at all.

Meanwhile, I was still at the Daily Bulletin after what was then about 15 years.

“I think it’s so great you’re still there,” one said. Was she being patronizing, or was that me feeling defensive?

I said dryly, “I’m still living the dream.”

I worried a little that I was in stasis, like the college graduate who hangs on and becomes a townie. But as time has passed, I’ve leaned into that half-joking, half-defiant response of mine. It reminds me why I got into this business.

It was for freedom, fun, public service. Pursuing journalism was an idealistic dream out of college, and I wasn’t ready to give it up.

And I’m still not. Recently I bumped into a former colleague who’s now in a low-stress, better-paying job. She mentioned there’s an opening. I held up my palm and said, “Before you ask, I’m not interested.” She smiled and said, “I know you aren’t.”

Evidently it’s clear I’m a lifer, still excited to share stories, to inform and entertain you, ready to stick it out as long as they’ll let me.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *