- SOURCE: Wikipedia
For those of you who may not know, I was with the Dayton Daily News from 1998-2002. It was perhaps the most meaningful period of my life, in which I learned how to write objectively, think independently, treasure really, really talented people around me, learned how to change the world with little more than a thought and a pen, to learn patience, compassion and humility from greater human beings and learned how to find meaning in a job where I was paid almost nothing and expected to accomplish almost everything. I loved every heartache of the 4 1/2 years I spent there.
Yesterday, I visited the DDN building on Ludlow Ave in downtown Dayton. They were having a public sale where furniture, computer equipment, etc was being sold for whatever they could get. I went to walk the halls for one last time, to hear my friends, colleagues and mentors in my head one last time, to reclaim the same excitement I felt coming into the old newspaper building every morning. I was not disappointed.
Some building have souls. The DDN “bank building” is one such place. The way the elevators and stairs only go up to the 4th floor on one side, the twists and turns of the hallways as the three buildings were forced together when the newspaper grew and merged. The fifth-floor artists space where the “deadman” chalk line was placed, the corner nook where MB Hopkins, the most talented artist I have ever known, hand-drew her illustrations, the old chair in Ted Pitts‘ office, where I spent many afternoons talking when my shift was over and I didn’t want to leave. The drafting table on the third floor where I spent 9/11/2001 updating the DDN web site because nobody else in the building knew how. Jeff Adams‘ office where we spent many afternoons talking about ethics, objectivity and America’s place in the world (Jeff passed away Sept, 2004 at only age 50…) Derek Ali’s desk, the most enthusiast, optimistic reporter I have ever worked with. (Derek was shot dead the same week as Jeff died)
The tunnel in the wall where the paper bundles flew down from the press to the dock, inches from my ear every afternoon. It was silenced in the Fall of 1999 when the PTC opened in Franklin. The smell of paper, the mess of ink. The damp smell of water dripping in from somewhere. The unevenly lit floors, the offices crammed into spaces where there were no walls, no logical cohesion to the rest of the floor.
The only floor where you could tell who had authority was the sixth floor (C-Suite) Everywhere else, editors would work next to reporters, sometimes project coordinators had larger offices than their directors. Privacy was a luxury that nobody seemed to need. But nobody seemed to care; it was all about the work, the passion of creating this newspaper that had meaning, that made us somehow a little bit better for having survived and reported another day.
There are times in a career where you feel that you are the very best at who you are and you are playing on the very best team around. 2000-2001 was that season for me. I was working with the best reporters, the best thought leaders, the best illustrators, the best photojournalists and my director, Sandy Eichhorn-Hilt, was the best NIE visionary there ever will be.
Yet, the DDN has managed to destroy the newspaper’s soul. They first started by moving printing to the PTC and the presses went silent. Then, last year, they moved out of the old bank building and into a newly renovated, very modern building away from downtown Dayton. All the chairs match, all the desks are modular…. the building has no soul. It could be any corporation in America, but it will never again be a newspaper. And the final blow is the public sale where they let anyone in to rape the building like a common street walker. Small business owners looking for cheap furniture, kids looking for cheap mic stands, geeks looking for some mismatched computer parts.
I sat in the third floor newsroom and watched them all. I hated them at that moment. But most of all, I fought back tears as I watched a rich, vibrant, talented, lusty soul being brought to her knees in despair.