The Third Third

Anna, Say It Isn't So!

Anna, say it isn’t so. Say you’re not really leaving the last page of *Newsweek* every other week because you’re white and gray. That you think you should be done. That you think we all should be done. . . and moved out to pasture. ( Please. Say it isn’t so. Move on -- to greener pastures -- if you wish. Quit because the magazine makeover doesn’t fit with your philosophy or goals. Quit because you’re tired of bad news and brutal deadlines. Or brutal news and bad deadlines. Or the relentlessness of both. Or quit because you can. Because you want to write another novel. But not because you were eight years old when JFK was inaugurated, (which, by the way, makes you a mere 57 now). Hell, I was 13. Then. And I wanted to be Brenda Starr, too. The guys at my first job in television news in Columbus, Ohio, even called me Brenda. It was the only name they knew for a woman journalist; I was the first “girl” they’d ever hired. You have no way of knowing this, unless you, too, feel part of that community of the early women, pre-Watergate (and all the glamour) journalists and have watched them make their way as you made – and second-guessed – yours. But I have watched and admired you, especially as a columnist (I buy and read your books – but think the columns are your calling) and, often, your writing has made me cry. Sometimes it’s because what you’re writing about is, itself, sad and moving. Other times, I’m just furious with myself that you wrote what I’d been thinking – and wrote it so right-on word-perfectly – and that I didn’t. My absence from journalism has seemed, some years, interminable. But it’s not, in fact. Indeed, the career has not been lineal. Checkered would even be a kind description. Some days it was dead and buried by motherhood and other obligations and missed opportunities and fear – of succeeding, or failing, I was never sure which. But occasionally it – and I – thrived. And I am, definitely, not done yet. Nor do I think anyone who has something thoughtful and intelligent and real and even funny to say should be done, or needs to feel he or she should be done just because of a little gray hair. Women weren’t welcome in many newsrooms when I started out. If you ask me, we’re entitled to some make-up time now. As for the young people clamoring for our jobs and using new media to create their own – why, that’s great (I thought some of them would *never* go to work); think what we learned by having to fight for our jobs; they’ll learn just as much fighting for theirs, and, as you say, they’ve already revolutionized the news cycle (cf. *Newsweek*). I will miss your wisdom, Anna. I don’t want to see wisdom taken out of the journalistic equation because of mere chronology any more than I’d withhold the bright, new ideas of the young. It takes many different voices to tell our stories now – and yours was one of the best. But what bothers me more than the loss to journalism is the cost to any baby boomer who thinks it’s arbitrarily, but absolutely, time to hang it up because we’re really, really grown up now. It is instead, I propose, time to move on only when you’ve got something meaningful to move on to. If you’ve got a new medium (literally and/or figuratively) in which to exploit your skills and talents, experience and intellect, go ahead, use the enhanced energy and longevity which our generation gets and others before us did not have, to do something more, something even better than that job the kids want. There’s rich potential there. But in the meantime, please: No more Ageism. Most of us, Anna, aren’t done yet. And deep down, I suspect, you’re not either.
comments powered by Disqus