It’s been six months since I left the News & Record, and I have finally figured out the answer to that question. Now, people seem surprised when I answer “no” with absolutely no hesitation.
It took awhile for me to get there, to realize that there was little that I missed about being editor of the third largest newspaper in North Carolina. Of course, I do miss my friends there. As every journalist know, a newsroom is a special place filled with energy, excitement, creativity and humor. Oh, and I do miss the bi-weekly paycheck.
Obviously, I don’t miss all the things that ran me out of the business — the pain caused by the financial problems, the obsession with profit, the second guessing, the lack of vision from the industry, the sense of helplessness and inevitability in the decline.
Years ago, I asked the same question of a former editor who was teaching at the University of Georgia. He said he only missed being “in the know.” He missed being included in the embargoed and off-the-record conversations with movers and shakers. I actually tried to avoid those sessions whenever I could. They were useful for reporters. My attendance was only useful for the movers and shakers. So, there was no reason for me to be there.
Don’t get me wrong: the 13 years I was editor were a true gas. The good times far, far outnumbered the bad times. But it was time for me to go and let someone else take a run at it. As I thought about leaving, I worried that I would not have enough to do, that I’d become aimless, that I would miss it terribly. After all, it’s been in my blood for 37 years.
I did miss it for a little while. I quickly discovered that the things I loved — being a part of a creative process, hanging with interesting people, trying new things, making a difference in the world — are all easily replaceable. Some are in journalism — this blog, for instance, and teaching — and the others are just about joining a part of the world that my focus on my career didn’t permit me. (I never said “I want to spend more time with my family,” but that’s been a benefit, too.)
I have regrets, primarily about things I didn’t do. I have written about them here. But miss it? No. I left the newspaper; I didn’t leave journalism.
And there is an abundance of opportunity in journalism.