I’m supposed to be in a day-long seminar that offers helpful job-searching tips, and here I am in a chaise lounge instead, writing this story in a park, watching my dog swim after tennis balls in Lake Washington.
I made it through the morning session and got some advice about making a career change and building a better résumé. My body was in that Bellevue boardroom, but my heart wasn’t, and the instructor knew it.
“You’re not coming back this afternoon, are you?” she said as we broke for lunch.
Five months ago, my newspaper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, died. You could say that it ceased operations or quit publishing, but it felt more like a death, and I don’t know if I’m still grieving or still in denial, but I’m still something, and it’s not good.
Consciously I know it’s time to pursue other things, time to embrace the old saying that when one door closes, another one opens. Maybe I’ll get a cool job somewhere else.
Problem is, it couldn’t be as cool as the job I had, the one I dreamed about as a kid growing up in Redmond. My parents subscribed to the P-I, and since I was a fan of all the local teams, I read the sports section from cover to cover.
When I went to Washington State in the fall of 1974, I knew I wanted to get a degree in journalism because it might someday lead to the ultimate goal, a job as a P-I sportswriter.
After working at the Ketchikan Daily News and Anchorage Daily News, I started at the P-I in 1983. I was 25 and unprepared for a job at a large metropolitan newspaper, but the managing editor gave me a break and hired me as the sports slot guy. I edited stories and determined where they should go in the sports section.
A few years later, I became a writer, and over the last two decades, I covered everything from hoops to hydros. I was the Sonics’ beat writer for six years, and I went to Augusta four times to cover The Masters and played the course twice.
I also went to the 2005 Super Bowl when the Seahawks played the Steelers, and my actual assignment was to attend Super Bowl parties and write about them. The toughest part was leaving the FHM, Maxim and Playboy parties and all that free booze and scenery to go to my hotel room to make deadline.
Seven years ago, my editors asked me to become a sports columnist. Right after accepting the offer, I got the nervous sweats and thought: “Uh-oh, what do I do now?”
My editors told me to just be myself. So that’s what I’ve done. They gave me a silly nickname, the Go 2 Guy, but I went with it. I love golf and dogs and the less-serious side of sports, preferring to write about athletes as people.
But more than anything else, if I’m being myself, I’m a Coug and damn proud of it. When you’re a Coug, you love everything about Washington State and dislike everything about the arrogant, self-righteous Huskies.
This job allowed me to put those feelings in print, and boy have the Dawgs given me material, from Slick Rick Neuheisel and his shenanigans to Paint Dry Ty Willingham and his beautiful 0-12 season.
When the P-I went out of business, the Hearst Corporation decided to keep seattlepi.com going, reducing a newsroom staff of 155 to 20 who run the online operation. It’s said to be going fairly well. I hear positive things about ad revenue and hits.
I write two columns a week for the Web site on a freelance basis. It keeps me busy, and I’m grateful for the work, but it doesn’t pay the bills. I miss the paychecks, but more than that, I miss my newspaper and the people I worked with, the camaraderie we’ll never have again.
I go to the office now and feel like I don’t belong there anymore, probably because I don’t. I’m a graying journalist as it is, and it’s even more apparent when I enter a dot-com newsroom filled with reporters and editors half my age blogging and tweeting.
It’s a whole new cyberworld out there, and I’m the dinosaur dude who’s trying to figure out where to go from here. I walk down the circular staircase to where the newsroom used to be and make a right to go to the sports department. I take a few steps and pass the “Employee of the Month” plaques before catching myself and stopping: “Wait a minute, there’s no sports department anymore.” Our once vibrant newsroom is a ghost town of empty desks and darkness.
I shake my head, but I don’t dwell on it. I have too much to be thankful for—I’ve got my health, a great family, a loyal golden retriever, and severance pay that will ease the transition to whatever’s next.
I tell kids who still want to get into journalism to do it, by all means. Even if newspapers go away, there will always be a place for good writers. Just trust that you will be in demand.
In my case, I would have preferred “keep the job” over “keep the faith,” but that’s not an option anymore. It is, in fact, time to move on to parts unknown.
Jim Moore isn’t alone in his search for a life after newspapers. Among his colleagues, two are writing novels, one isn’t doing anything and says he is drinking too much, a few are writing about sports for internet sites, and one moved home to Ohio and is attending graduate school.