“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”— J.K. RowlingBritish novelist, producer, screenwriterFrom, “Harry Potter and …
Losing the “Columnist/Reporter” category for the umpteenth year in a row — including 2018 when my jovial buddy claimed the coveted journalism crown for the third time — has riddled me with more bullets than Bonnie and Clyde.
At least, that’s what I told him … in so many words. I might have skipped the Bonnie and Clyde reference; that’s a little graphic for a community newspaper. I might not have even said I was going to pass. But I’m pretty sure I shook my head. And probably I sighed. These days I sigh a lot.
But, when I saw that photograph in the Sunday edition, I realized there was more to say that Joe might have missed in his eloquent “Cannon’s Corner” style published the same day.
“What photo?” you ask.
“That” photo, the one featuring Joe and me staring at one another … my elbow propped on his shoulder in disbelief. To our left was young Colby Denton, the young whippersnapper who took all the marbles in this year’s contest. Holding his colorful certificate at chest level, he wore a smile wider than the Grand Canyon while Joe and I pondered life and its meaning in the world of newspaper journalism.
While Joe was branding Colby a “young buck” who was playing with fire upon entering the ring with a pair of old bulls, I embellished with a few thoughts of my own. Few are printable, but that’s the beauty of “Best of the Best.”
We have a good time with it. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you lose again. And again. And … well, you get the idea.
It’s not so much about winning and losing; at least, in our category. It’s about enjoying the experience and riding victory — or defeat — every step of the way.
But there’s a deeper story here, one that lends itself to some homespun prophecy. As Joe mentioned last Sunday, young Colby is leaving our newspaper — not because he didn’t like it here. He’ll be the first to say he loved it. But his career called.
And at his young age, when the career speaks the wise will listen. Those of us who have been around the newspaper or communications industry for a few decades know this to be fact. We’ve been there. We’ve done that. We’ve traveled the same trail, one that winds and twists and throws more curves than a Major League pitcher.
We’ve had the same offers. We’ve made the same decisions, some of them tough, even heart-wrenching … others, not so much.
At this newspaper we’ve bid farewell to some of the best in young talent over the last few years. Joe named them, and I will borrow from his thunder: Saralyn Norkus, Patrick MacCoon, Delaney Walker, and now Colby. There are others, each of whom is now blazing a fearless trail, and making new memories, in states faraway and in lands those of us who are left behind probably will never see.
There is no good and no bad in coming and going, nor in arriving and leaving. In a newsroom, there is only hello and goodbye. We come on board. We work together. We succeed together. We fail together. We laugh together. And sometimes we cry together.
Whatever the result, we do it as one. It’s not an easy life. If it were, everyone would want it because there’s a thrill in a byline, a pride in a work well written, and a glow in the knowledge that we’ve made a difference … whether in the lives of the many, the few … or just the one.
Joe worded it best when he described these young folks as his “children” who one day would spread their wings and leave the nest, setting their sights on new heights with hopes of realizing dreams of their own.
I’ve been in the communications trade more than 42 years, and half of those have been spent newspapering. It has been both a thrill, and a disappointment, to see young folks come and go. But they must do what they must do. They must follow the heart, while quenching the thirst for something more, something new, something daring.
None can blame their quest. Nor should any try.
But those of us whose hair has turned silver, whose vision has dimmed and whose years left in a newsroom are numbered, if not few, know this truth: The future of our industry lies with those who believe in the power of the printed word … whether on paper, on a screen or on a device not yet invented.
Old writers cannot do it. The fate of our world lies with the young. It is they who will carry the torch. It is they who will bear the burden of truth, while defending it against the growing hordes of hate, deceit and intolerance.
It is they who one day will be “Best of the Best.”
(About the writer: Rick Norton is an associate editor at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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