I'm still here
Otherwise meaningless dates become important to journalists when they can be written about as anniversaries of meaningful dates. If you doubt this, we’ll let you respond to the complaints if we omit to publish something about Pearl Harbor in a Dec. 7 edition.
It was on this date, Sept. 2, 1986, that I started work on the copy desk at The Sun, which shared newsroom quarters with The Evening Sun in an amiable truce. The paper was preparing to celebrate in 1987 its 150th anniversary. Circulation was at a peak — within the year we hit half a million on Sundays — before the long slide began.
I now serve under my fourth editor and seventh publisher. I’ve been through three major redesigns of the paper, as well as a series of minor revisions, all of which were met with a chorus of objection from readers. I’ve been through a strike and eight or more buyouts (they begin to blur).
My various masters have seen fit to leave me in charge of the copy desk for 13 years, during which time I have hired 44 copy editors. Some of them are even still here.
Two years ago, when my wife, Kathleen, baked a memorable cake to bring in to the office to mark my 20th anniversary, she wrote on it, “20 to life.” Whether that works out depends on both the newspaper’s span and mine; but despite the prevalent pessimism about the newspaper business, I do not expect to be the survivor. I would be an idiot to deny that the difficulties afflicting American newspapers are serious. We have only the staff and space to produce the news that the advertising will support, and the sharp decline in advertising has left us in grim circumstances indeed.
But that is not the whole picture.
The Web site is vigorous, getting tens and hundreds of thousands of page views a day, steadily increasing readership. This blog is one of more than 40. And they are not all about sports. Elizabeth Large has built up a devoted following. Read Street has found a way to expand coverage of books beyond what is possible in the print edition. And even this humble offering, on a subject that would never have been granted even the most miserly space in the print edition, has drawn your attention. (Keep coming back.)
The print edition continues to offer you articles that you will not find elsewhere — except later in the news cycle on broadcast or in other publications.
Whether you prefer the new design of the paper edition or not, we have accomplished it with a reduced diminished staff on a demanding timetable. The Baltimore Sun continues to employ a staff that can bring off serious projects.
And on the copy desk — despite the recent departure of some of our veterans, including Andy Faith, who hired me 22 years ago and proved to be a stalwart colleague and valued friend — we also serve who sit and edit. Every working day for the past 22 years, I’ve been able to sign off knowing that The Sun has been more accurate, clearer, better for the work my colleagues and I have done. We edit seriously, and the paper benefits from it. We’re still here.
When I moved to Baltimore at the end of the summer of 1986 and walked into the building on Calvert Street, I felt that I had arrived at the big time. It’s still the big time.