Of Impact and of Excellence: While We’re Waiting

In the world we live in, the news cycles turn so fast we have no time to track the things of significance. The dryer stops spinning, we unload the warm laundry, but before we have a chance to inhale the comfort of its freshness we are pulling out the wet clothes from the washer beneath and starting all over again. We don’t take a moment to reflect, there isn’t a second to breathe. Important things happen every day, life-changing things. Alas, they are lost in the next chyron and in the blaring headline coming hard on its heels. Except of course to the subject of each particular story. They are left to pick up the shards, to process halted journeys or to celebrate achieved dreams.

This week in Cleveland there was one such story. The story of another round of layoffs at The Plain Dealer. It created local buzz and elicited tweets and blessings of goodwill, gratitude and a job well done. And then the never-ending train of progress continued its trip to the next station.

But for me this news clipping made me stop for a bit longer. The people left in the lurch of the death throes of the newspaper business as we have long known it are no doubt hurting this week, and I think it an obligation to acknowledge the impact they have all made.

At the risk of sounding like the cantankerous old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to quit trampling on his hedges, the feel of the newspaper between my fingers and the ink stains on my palms is something I miss dearly. I didn’t know the scores as a child until I got on the school bus. Our driver was a kind elderly fellow named Tyson. He was the best sort of bus driver. He had a perpetual toothy grin, called us each by name as he dished out his hearty good morning, and held out the fresh sports section as we bounded up the steps of his yellow palace. It was there I developed my love of sports. We all read the gamers together and imagined how Hammy had called the Belle homer, the Lofton grab in center, and the daily Omar gem. We ran up and down the aisle juking like Metcalf and hitting like Eric Turner. If we hadn’t watched the game, and many times we hadn’t, our blueprint was the writers, the guideposts for our imaginations.

Dennis Manoloff is a childhood friend. I’ve never met him and quite possibly wouldn’t recognize him on the street but he rode with me to school every day. A love of language, of a well-turned phrase and of everything Browns, Cavs, and Indians were borne of those trips and those articles.

For me it was sports, for others it was photography, business or art. But much credit is due for the impact the newspapermen and women made, for the stories they told, for the imaginations they inflamed, each in their respective places of passion.

I do not mean this as any sort of eulogy. Some of the names we saw scrolling through our Twitter timelines are still creating and will find a way to continue to make an impact. I just thought it right to stop the news cycle for a brief moment to pay tribute to all those people who for so long took part in creating them. It is an opportunity to express appreciation and to let them all know that their work all these years meant something. Meant a great deal in fact.

The industry continues to evolve and march ahead. To those that feel left behind and forgotten, I say it is not so. You have a part in everything that comes next. Years of excellent work is not lost with a pink slip or packed away in the box you carry out of your office. It is not just stored away on a computer somewhere, it is stored in the hearts and minds of legions of faithful readers. Every time I write something, for publication or for my personal diary, you have a piece of that. If ever I am privileged to make an impact with the written word, you all just did too.

Jimmy Valvano in his iconic speech at the ESPY’s famously said this-

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. No. 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. No. 2 is think. You should spend some time in thought. No. 3 is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heckuva day.”

So to all the local writers that face an uncertain future, we just want you to know that whatever happens tomorrow, today you should proudly bear the rewards of making a difference for so many years.

Thank you. For the tears, the laughter, and the thinking.

Thanks to you we had so many “Heckuva Days.”

Jimmy V would be proud. We remain grateful.

Your journeys don’t end here. Godspeed to all of you.