The calendar, and my birth certificate, told me Friday was a notable day in my life: my 59th birthday. But today, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, also marks a milestone: 20 years ago, I walked through the doors of The Dallas Morning News at 508 Young St. on my first day as an employee of this distinguished, long-respected newspaper.
We’re not at 508 Young anymore – we now carry out our crucial, 365-days-a-year mission as journalists at 1954 Commerce St. It’s on the other side of downtown from the old place, in the four-story former Dallas central library, renovated into a modern office space with a cool vibe that we’re all loving.
I remember how awed – and nervous – I was when I interviewed to join this staff. I’d been working at another great newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, for almost 13 years. But the DMN was different. In terms of circulation and reputation, it ranked among the top newspapers in the country. For journalists hired here, it wasn’t a stop along the way to something bigger and better – it was a place to spend the rest of a career.
But in my 20 years, so very much has changed in our industry. There’ve been seismic shifts altering the way we produce and present news. But more significantly, often-crippling developments have brought complete disruptions to people’s lives, livelihoods, families and careers, and have caused hundreds of papers to stop the presses for the worst reason imaginable – shutting down forever.
The survival mode newspapers find themselves in is not something I saw coming when, the day after my 39th birthday, I eagerly and hopefully walked into the historic old DMN offices built in 1949 to start my new job as a copy editor on the Universal Desk.
During the past 15 years, I’ve watched countless friends and immensely talented colleagues leave the paper in emotional tatters after getting caught up in the industry’s ongoing painful realities, victims of reductions in force that have slashed our newsroom’s size by hundreds from the day I started. I’ve lost count how many times staffers have been laid off.
I’ve also watched, especially in more recent years, as others have left for new opportunities outside the newspaper business. In the environment of uncertainty in which we’ve been working, no one can begrudge them those choices, tough but often deemed necessary.
Nonetheless, the paper has kept producing consistently strong journalism across every section, covering communities all over North Texas as well as thoroughly reporting on state and national issues that affect residents locally, statewide and on the border. We’ve done this despite the increasing difficulties endured by the industry as advertising revenue and readership shrink exponentially.
We’ve had to evolve into a digital-first media outlet while ensuring that our print product remains viable for readers who prefer to get their news the old-fashioned way. As multiplatform editors, my closest colleagues and I work on both products, doing our best to maintain accuracy and readability of the stories reported and written by DMN staff writers and contributors.
In May, I’ll have been a graduate of Texas A&M for 37 years. In all that time, I’ve worked for only three newspapers: I spent just short of four as a sports writer at The Odessa American, nearly 13 as a sports and news copy and assigning editor/occasional writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and now 20 as a copy/multiplatform editor/sometimes writer at the DMN.
I’ve genuinely cherished my 20 years at The Dallas Morning News, the stories and projects I’ve been fortunate to have worked on, the responsibilities I’ve been entrusted with in interim roles in other newsroom departments, and, especially, the people I’ve done so much important work with. If there’s any profession where teamwork is more vital than in a newspaper newsroom, someone please show me.
Keep up the great work, team.