Monday, November 4, 2013

My stormy life in journalism

Twilight near Old Stone Bridge, Tiverton, R.I.

The truck tires dig in the sand and come to a stop near the curiosity that is Old Stone Bridge.

Once a mighty fortress, all that remains are two stone sections still attached to land, one on the Tiverton side, the other on the opposite shore in Portsmouth.

During the onslaught of the 1938 Hurricane, one of the worst to ever breach these shores, hurricane-force winds and waves damaged the bridge. Repaired, it was a mainstay until Hurricane Carol in 1954 inflicted the fatal blow.

It is twilight, and I am tired. I have come to the water to RUMInate.

During the past year, I have held down two jobs, working about 50 hours a week.  

According to Rumi, the thirteenth-century founder of Sufi mysticism and one of the most widely read poets in the U.S., I have been “Tending Two Shops.”

“You own two shops, / and you run back and forth. / Try to close the one that’s a fearful trap, / getting always smaller. Checkmate, / this way. Checkmate, that. / Keep open the shop where you’re not selling fish-hooks anymore. / You are the free-swimming fish.”

Throughout my 30-year journalism career, I have worked for 15 newspapers and magazines.

I began as a freelance piloting my own row boat in calm seas. Then I boarded bigger vessels, jumping ship and climbing the ladder.

Sometimes I lost a foothold as I yearned to soar from the crow’s nest.

But a new digital era was dawning, and from my perch I watched the winds of change batter my profession.

Three times I went down with the ship, when two of the magazines folded and one of the newspapers went bankrupt.

Through the years I clung to the rocks, while advertising dollars and circulation plummeted and services outsourced.

I prayed to the Lord to quiet the raging seas, but the powers that be were unrepentant.

And the skeleton crew kept rowing upriver against the tide...

Hanging on for dear life, I went from full-time plus overtime to a handful of hours with no benefits, while I took another job as a business manager in the safe harbor of health care to pay the bills.

A few days ago I walked the plank in the company of some of my shipmates, including my captain who had welcomed me aboard more than a decade ago.

Panting, I floated in with the tide, landing on this beach in the shadow of Old Stone Bridge.

Rescued, I realize I am now a free-swimming fish no longer hooked to a dying industry.

Tomorrow I will tend one shop.

1 comment:

  1. Love your weekly articles. Sorry to hear of your new challenge