A few days ago, I declared the exclusive dead. It wasn’t a long post, but it was long enough. Now, in the wake of the at-the-time-false-declaration-that-Joe-Paterno-is-dead-story, I wish I had simply written this:
A couple days after I left the News & Record, I asked this question on Facebook: At what point, when talking about the newspaper, do I switch pronouns from “we” to “they”?
The answers came quickly and in abundance. They were all over the place, ranging from now to never. Some classics:
Dan Conover: From my experience, when the paper does something you like, it’s “we.” When the paper does something you don’t like, it’s “they.” When it’s something that makes you want to to grab a flame thrower and go torch the place, it’s “the media.”
Mike Orren: After the last piece of copy you touched runs.
Robyn Tomlin: Being a journalist is like being an alcoholic. You can be “in recovery,” but you live with the disease for the rest of you life, even if you never take another drink (or write another story). You will always be part of the collective — whether you like it or not.
And Teresa Prout, who is currently interim editor, left my favorite: It should always be “we,” John. You’re grandfathered in.
I think it will be “we” as long as I can’t pass an open rack of newspapers at the Harris Teeter without making sure it is filled. As long as I feel a pang of regret when I pass a house at 11 a.m. and see the paper still in the driveway. As long as I defend the paper when an ignoramus takes a cheap shot at it having a liberal bias. As long as I see a blog post that is so insightful that I want to call the writer and congratulate him or her.
It will be “we” so long as I read a story that I wish never ends, see a photo that takes my breath away or get dazzled by a design that makes me proud to be a subscriber. Given who is there now, I think it will be “we” for a long time.