So it’s my last couple of weeks at the old dump.
The Star Tribune building that has stood at 425 Portland for decades will soon be rubble to make way for a new public park that will serve everyone, except perhaps the public. We’ll be moving into a gleaming office with stunning views, a fireplace in the lobby and extra quiet “writing rooms.”
You know, where we can write. Quietly.
The clacking of typewriters and cussing of reporters went away a long time ago, but this writing room thing signals a whole new era.
Some of my colleagues are a bit nostalgic. They’ve been walking around taking pictures of the place where so many have spent their careers and a good part of their lives. Their photos reveal that the building is in a bit of a shambles. At some point, nearly every clock in the newsroom stopped working, so nearly every one of them shows a different time. Some clocks have been covered up with a piece of paper so journalists on deadline won’t be confused.
Drinking fountains have “out of order” signs on them. The carpet looks like it hasn’t been replaced in about 25 years because, well, it hasn’t. There are dead plants in the garbage cans and a few remaining mouse traps under desks to remind us of our old friends, who were gracious enough to clean up the crumbs of sloppy reporters.
For a lot of us “veterans” there are some “About Schmidt” moments. Remember the part of the movie where Schmidt leaves his job for the last time only to find his collected life’s work sitting next to the trash?
It’s like that.
I pondered whether to keep stacks of yellowed newspapers filled with my favorite stories going back to when I started here in 1997. Frayed copies of my article about the Eveleth mines sexual harassment case. An exposé on manufacturing sweatshops for which the newspaper sent me and another reporter to Saipan to investigate. A story that caused me to spend a day in a prison in Chihuahua, Mexico.
I paused for a moment, then — boom — in the trash.
I’m keeping my mail, at least the nicest and meanest letters. But what about some treasured old keepsakes? The first lawsuit against Tom Petters in Colorado? A juicy FBI file on a murderer’s dad? My press credentials for the “My Little Pony” convention? Alone, they are nothing, but together they represent a weird, incongruous job, and weird, incongruous life.
I remember vividly my first day at the plant. For the first time, I felt like a grown up. That is, until a couple of reporters got into a shoving match by my desk and a reporter next to me had to quit her interview by saying, “Sorry, I have to hang up now, there’s a fist fight in the newsroom.”
“This is going to be great,” I thought.
I had been warned to stay out of journalism since college, then warned repeatedly that newspapers were doomed and that I should get out. Cable television would ruin us. The 24-hour news cycle would ruin us. Greedy hedge funds would ruin us (and nearly did). The Internet would ruin us.
Now the new joint has a breaking-news desk for our online presence that looks like the helm of the starship Enterprise. We even have a “Green Room” where I can powder my nose before going on a live feed. We have a new owner and so many new journalists they recently handed out a playbook so we could recognize our colleagues.
Did I mention the gym in the lobby has “warm towels?”
While taking a tour of the place, I bumped into our publisher, Mike Klingensmith. He asked what I thought of the new digs.
“We’ve come a long ways since the day we ran out of pencils,” I said.
While packing Friday I ran across a letter from an angry reader. He suggested I get an over-the-road trucking license because my days — our days — in the business were nearly over. I think I’ll keep that one.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin