We are in a new office. Come visit if you dare. It’s much smaller, and I am having to share my new newsroom cubbyhole with a server tower, a printer, a copier and fax, and overcome my occasional fear of enclosed spaces and loud people.
There’s still room for my football and the trophy the Bryan County News won in the Richmond Hill Christmas Parade in 2008, I think. Either that, or we swiped it from the winner, I can’t remember.
Anyway, I like our new office. It’ll do.
But I liked our old place, where since 2007 we broke news and fixed it (sorry, Comedy Central) and broke it again, through snowstorms and hurricanes and manmade disasters big and small and in between.
The “we” being a handful of reporters and editors from me to Lori Wynn to Hollie Barnidge to Jason Wermers and Jessica Holthaus and Ted O’Neil and the great mustached Pat Watkins, and Mark Swendra and Ross Blair, and Luke Hearn and Brent Zell and Paul Floeckher and Crissie Elrick and Hallie Martin and a host of freelancers, and I’m probably leaving folks out and apologize for it if they happen to read this.
I also liked our landlords the Staffords, and our next door neighbors and I liked the old News’ office’s proximity to J.F. Gregory Park and City Hall, even when I would’ve rather gotten bit by a rambunctious swamp ape than sit through a city council meeting and hear all the good they were doing to everyone.
I will fondly remember the old digs. I won’t miss trying to take a left onto Highway 144 on Cedar Street. More on that in a second.
In our new place of doing business, we’re closer to Plum’s and many more places to stuff my face. That’s good. I can run over to Ace Hardware if I need hardware or a tomato plant or propane, which I sometimes do.
As for why we’re here, well, the move was just a matter of time. We don’t have the staff we used to, so we didn’t need the space.
Truth is, these are awful and scary and exciting times for newspapers, with hundreds of publications like ours shutting the doors over the past decade and a half. The number of print journalists has declined by about half since 2004, I’m told. Here’s why.
As advertisers go elsewhere, revenue from advertising goes down and staffs shrink. As staff’s shrink, coverage suffers. As coverage suffers, subscribers give up. As subscribers give up, revenue and staffs shrink even more.
And, as has long been the case, nobody likes us until they need us, and I’m not sure I blame them. We’re sort of strange, and some of us smell like old shoes or nacho chips and look like we need either a nap or an enema. We don’t make friends easy and we’re not supposed to, but we try to do the right thing for the right reasons, whatever that might be.
Anyway, the move about 500 yards up Highway 144 made me think how hard it is to get anywhere by vehicle these days, including in Bryan County.
That’s mostly in South Bryan, though North Bryan has its own issues with traffic - Highway 280 at times is violent and deadly, and because of that prone to coming to a standstill, which irks people, and there are areas where subdivisions have sprung up and the traffic has increased, and everybody wants to take a left even if it means waiting at the intersection until tomorrow. That irks people, too.
The 20-minute left is at most famous at Cedar Street on Highway 144, or Ford Avenue for you big shots. There, you get stubborn drivers who’ll sit for what seems like 20 minutes waiting to take a left onto 144 while traffic behind them backs up to the Veterans Monument or, eventually, Kings Landing. Maybe it’s not really 20 minutes, but it is what it is. I consider it part of our growing blight on the Georgia coast, this habit humans have of developing everything possible and making it so whatever it was people liked about a place isn’t around anymore except in photographs and museums and street names.
It’s already getting so you almost can’t get there by car from here anymore, or here from there at certain times of day, unless you really try. It’s not yet on an epic gridlockian scale like it is in say, Atlanta or Pooler, though developers are surely trying to make it happen as fast as they can knock down trees and move dirt from one hole to another.
Disclaimer: I have driven to and in and from Atlanta, the armpit of the South, and that’s some scary stuff. People who have no business in a car are driving all over Atlanta.
What we have here now in the Coastal Empire is not Atlanta. It is congestion, like some curable kind of cold or sinus infection, and we’re promised it’ll all get better when roads are fixed to accommodate the traffic we have now, only by then there will 50,000 times as many people, and probably far fewer newspapers.
They’ll call it progress, just wait and see.