Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let Me Die Obscure and Forgotten

Reading the newspaper: Brookgreen Gardens in P...Image via Wikipedia

Journalists do have their loyalties, to their former colleagues and thus, by extension, to themselves. A day or two ago the Chron ran an obit for Bob Bartlett, whom I remember from my own newspaper days. He quit in 1985 to practice law in Montana.

But the wine remembers. Or maybe I mean the drinkers remember.

For, indeed, I do not recall socializing with Bob in the newsroom but do recall having drinks with him at the old M&M, my own dear newspaper bar my association with which plugs me into something greater than myself, that is, the damp lies of clever journeymen content providers from back in the day in which the providers actually went out there and waded in the content.

He was kind of a blowhard, I recall, and *that's okay*. Modesty is ingratiating, but it's not very interesting. (And I will play the fool for you if you play the fool for me.)

Anyway, he died and some old guys in the Chron newsroom followed the accepted practice: When a former colleague dies, you give him an obit -- which is more or less an act of giving the profession, and thus yourself, a valentine because, as you read the obit currently on the table, you imagine your own obit when the time comes and how noble the great enterprise was.

I put in 11 years at the Chron and have stayed local as a "journalism educator" -- note the sly,self-effacing irony of the quotations marks -- so if I die tomorrow I will get my obit. (Here's looking at you, Nanette.)

But as I wrote to old Chron colleague JC, in his retirement fortress in Arkansas, it is my goal (as it should be his) not to have such an obit, not by declining the honor, but by outliving the very newspaper in which it would appear. (Sad: We will be dust as will the horse we rode in on.)

If we but only endure, it would seem the Chron will be a web-only enterprise, compiled by algorithm or outsourced to India. A tree will fall in the forest, except it will be the last tree in the forest.

And thus we will have the last laugh with no one to hear it.
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