I have been writing a weekly column in the Triad since 2001, when Jeri Rowe hired me to cover nightlife for Triad Style, a long-defunct publication put out by the News & Record of the type that we altweekly snobs used to refer to as a “faux alt.”
When Triad Style became GoTriad in 2002 or 2003, I kept the column until I was hired as the editor for Yes Weekly in 2005. There I started a more traditional metro column called Crashing the Gate, so named because, it seemed to me, I was always getting tossed out of places where other local journalists were welcomed.
I filed more than 450 columns during my tenure there, missing only a single week in 2012 because I was in jail.
I missed another three months of weekly filing after I got fired in November 2013, and resumed in short order with this column, the Editor’s Notebook. Shorter by 500 words than its previous incarnation and placed in the front of the book instead of the back, it was meant to be a short note about the current issue, or some inside-journalism talk about the challenges of starting up a new media outlet, or, sometimes, a personal rant.
The column saw my kids grow into adulthood, my staff turn over again and again, my role morph from two-fisted editor into reluctant publisher. It also carried me through a decade of political despair, my sobriety, my own thwarted ambitions and the death of my father last year, which is still so fresh in my mind.
I got into journalism to become a columnist, you know. Jimmy Breslin, Jim Dwyer, Lolis Eric Elie, Damon Runyon, Mike Royko and even Erma Bombeck informed my writing style and subject matter, which veered wildly from barroom scenes to alt-parenting tips to political commentary to reported, feature-esque pieces that sometimes ran a couple thousand words. And sometimes, back when I was drinking pretty good, I would pull something straight out of my ass.
I could write all day in the beginning. It was all I wanted to do, and I had so much to say. Writing is harder for me now, though I believe the end result is better today than it was in years past. And in the roughly 1,000 or so dispatches I’ve filed since I started more than 20 years ago, I have exorcised so many of those words that were burning to get out of me that I don’t have all that much left to say in the first-person voice.
In other words, my ass is practically empty.
We’re restructuring some things here at Triad City Beat, so we decided it was time to hand the reins of the Editor’s Notebook to the actual editor of the paper, which is not me. Sayaka Matsuoka will pick it up starting next week while I concentrate on higher functions, like making sure everyone gets paid.
There was a time when the prospect of losing my column would send me into an emotional tailspin — or maybe a three-day bender. My byline, my words, sometimes felt like the only tangible proof in this world that I existed.
It’s not like that anymore.
I’ll still be writing the editorial every week — an important function of journalism — and I’ll be doing more feature writing, which was how I earned my living before they saddled me at the editor’s desk.
I’m so thankful that I have had this opportunity to add my personal voice to these newspapers over the years. I appreciate all who have read my columns — whether they loved them or hated them made little difference to me, as long as they read to the end. And I’m happy that I have a successor who will almost certainly be better at this than me, as she is just about every other aspect of newspapering.
Thanks for humoring me, everyone. Rest assured, I will miss you more than you will miss me.
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Always my favorite read of the week. From snarky political insight to extremely moving personal accounting of what life is. Love, loss, pride in family, growing up personally and ushering children thru life, the bare emotions shine in every word. I loved your book and know that your sincere love of family and community is unmatched. I owe you a hug sir.
Thank you, my friend. I will collect the next time I see you.