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It’s time to move on

September 4, 2011
By PAUL GIANNAMORE - Business editor , The Herald-Star

I have been at the Herald-Star for nearly 27 years, and spent more than 30 total as a local news reporter and editor.

And I'm tired.

I finally heeded that little voice that has been saying, louder and louder for the past couple of years, that I have something else to do.

And so, this is our last visit. I'm moving on to a new job at Anytime Fitness (in the Hollywood City Center near Huntington Bank. There. Shameless plug.)

In the past 28 years, the industry moved from newspaper-only word processing systems to PC's hooked to the Internet. This wonderful wired world allows us to gather information for a story by simply mastering the Google search. It's a part of the job anybody can do now, given intelligence and time and the ability to read and filter information.

The downside of technology is that getting a return phone call is unlikely in many cases, and all the texts and e-mail in the world doesn't give me tone of voice from my subject.

Besides, e-mail and text messaging can be ignored much easier than a harried executive secretary telling her boss that the guy from the newspaper is on the horn again.

Conditions have changed. Gone are the days of a 7 a.m. phone call to Congress that would result in a voice at the other end saying, "This is Doug Applegate." (Once, then-W.Va. Gov. Gaston Caperton answered the phone in the governor's mansion at 6 p.m. on a Saturday, and I was shocked enough to forget for a split second why I was calling him.)

Technology has increased coarseness and enables the drowning out of the voice of journalists who actually practice their craft with care.

Good reporters, national and local, who take the time to research and write what can be proven, not what they believe, are blasted for being in cahoots with government, advertisers, shadowy syndicates or some network of good old boys. After all, Johnny Blogger already said the real truth three days ago. Of course, Johnny Blogger's truth only included enough research to support his own views with about 50 pounds of opinion mixed in. He calls it truth and he's not going to be sued.

Courts haven't yet wanted to apply the journalistic norms of malice aforehand and intent to the crapola that gets spewed and stored for eternity with a single Internet posting. Thus, it just goes on, without end.

It becomes easy to roll around in this toxic info-stew. I wrote a couple years ago that a national columnist needed to be treated physically badly to straighten out her point of view. A person from my church dropped an e-mail stating I was way out of line, and probably a screaming idiot. Or something to that effect.

That forced introspection. Wow. I was rolling around in the gutter of the extremists, the thing I abhor, the thing I fear eventually is cracking this country into bits.

That bothered me to the point where I finally vowed to stay far from the politics of the day in this space. I didn't want to contribute to coarseness and the general atmosphere that we can say whatever we want, including getting personal about people we oppose.

And that sent me further down the road, looking around and wondering if I belonged in the new world of reporting.

Factor in some family crises and a health scare and it became obvious that it was time to go.

I still believe in this community and the people who work very hard to arrest its decline. I still believe in the legitimate role of legitimate reporters, but I long for the days when the only fight was for getting the truth written well before TV and radio and the other newspapers got the story out.

I absolutely have enjoyed all the many people who have allowed me to tell their stories.

And I appreciate all of you taking your morning coffee in this space on weekends. It's an honor.

So, choose your ending. "Hill Street Blues" ended with the cops of the precinct continuing to work in their burned-out precinct house. Hawkeye boarded a helicopter and saw his pal B.J. spelled out "Goodbye" in the rocks in the abandoned camp on "M*A*S*H." The Barone family kept on eating breakfast and continuing their usual familial banter when "Everybody Loves Raymond" left the air.

And the newsroom crew at WJM sang, "It's a Long Way to Tipperari" and shuffled in a group hug toward the door when they ended "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

I hope you laughed and learned from me as much as I laughed and learned from you.

(Giannamore is a resident of Toronto.)

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