The new office looks a lot like the old one, only smaller.
It happened a few weeks ago: After years — years! — of sitting alone in an empty office, I moved a couple desks, our archives, our files, our reference books, various pieces of technology and some art into the space across the hall. It’s roughly half the size of the former space, where we’ve been housed since our inception in 2014, with no windows and a door that swings shut so I’ve already locked myself out a few times.
I brought up the subject at an editorial meeting, and got some pushback from staff, but not much.
“Who here plans on working in the office at any point this year?” I asked. Silence in the Zoom, a few askance looks, but no takers.
A lot has happened in that office, where Triad City Beat was born and nurtured: debates, decisions, bargains, no small measure of despair. It’s not like that anymore. The walls, festooned with seven years of covers, original sketches before they were digitized, faded and curled awards, have the feel of a museum that nobody goes to.
Truth is we don’t need all that space, and have not for some time. Everybody cleared out in late summer 2020, when one of our staffers got COVID, and we never really got back into it. We made our Monday meeting virtual, which has greatly increased attendance. We learned to do production remotely and started keeping our important files on the cloud. If it weren’t for our artifacts — old issues, props from photoshoots, artwork, newspaper boxes, weird office detritus that gathers over the years — we might not need office space at all.
Even though I use it just a few days a week, I like having an office, which I suppose makes me a relic.
I prefer having a real mailing address as opposed to a PO Box; I like mingling with the other workers in the building; I need some separation between my professional life and my personal one. No one else on my young staff — by which I mean younger than me — shares these concerns.
Likewise, I’m the only one with trepidations about what’s not happening in the office: the bustle of a working newsroom, the inside jokes, the stories that develop over conversations between reporters, the physical sense of community that comes from proximity to each other.
This, too, I recognize, marks me as a dinosaur. Who’s to say that the magic can happen only when we’re all sitting in the same room, inhaling each other’s droplets all day?
Soon it will seem strange, how so many of us worked that way for so long. Grooming. Commuting. Meeting. Luncheoning. To a lot of us, it already does.
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