You don’t get to age 43 without experiencing some loss, usually the loss of hair and the ability to maintain that body you once knew in high school. It’s a familiar theme, even necessary. Hell, without loss there would never have been a Disney animated film.
A few days ago, someone asked what my new book, The Last Newspaper, was about. I started into my usual spiel about media transformation, journalism trends and all that, when it became clear.
This book is about loss – the loss of a predictable past; of comfort; of story and of an industry. And as a former newspaper journalist who had planned to change the world, it’s also about losing yet another part of me.
I didn’t realize it until recently, but loss has been my life’s defining thematic. I lost my father at age 8; the chance at a “normal” childhood soon followed, as I also lost any memory of him or anything that happened prior to his death. It was as if I didn’t begin until he was gone.
In 1993, I lost all hearing in my right ear, the result of a tumor that was removed but still leaves its mark in the form of balance problems and the occasional seizure. The next year, my first book was published – a non-fiction novel about the death penalty. Again, loss reared its familiar head.
I thought The Last Newspaper would be prescient social commentary, a must-read for journalists as well as marketers. And, on the surface at least, that’s exactly what it is.
But it’s also a long goodbye. It’s an acceptance of what has happened, mixed with not just a little bit of defiance. And, I hope, it’s a warning. I’ve seen enough futures to know that not all of them are better than what came before.
True, it’s easier to feel helpless than hopeful. It’s easier to make excuses than to make a difference. It’s easier to think about the things we’ve lost than the things we’ve gained.
I work every day to avoid these traps, these psychological comforts. I still have hope for real journalism; and I don’t accept excuses from anyone, including myself, no matter how murderous my headaches or how tired I may get.
Loss defines me, but it won’t defeat me. Hairline excluded, of course.