In that lesser-known Jimmy Buffett song, he sings:
“On the day that John Wayne died, I found myself of the continental divide. Tell me where do I go from here? Think I’ll ride into Leadville and have a few beers.”
Well, I find myself asking myself the same question. Where do I go from here? Leadville’s a long way from Jacksonville, and really the last thing I need right now is to have a few beers. So I guess I’ll settle for a coffee at Starbucks and writing offline. Still no free wi-fi at Starbucks. You’d think with what they charge for the coffee they could afford a wireless router and the $50 or so a month that Internet access costs … but whatever.
I know I haven’t written for a couple of days. That’s mostly because I really don’t know what to say at this point. I know searching for a job will go slowly. I have to be patient, but don’t want to waste any time, either. My reputation and name in Jacksonville probably has a half-life, and I don’t know how quickly it will decay. How long before it gets to “oh yeah, you used to be that guy on public radio and TV. What have you done lately?” I hope I don’t get to that point.
Still, for any outside reader, hearing day after day about nothing happening or an endless series of “well, I made some phone calls and had some meetings today” would be less interesting that watching paint dry, and I don’t think I want that even in a personal journal. So I’ll write about that when there’s something to write, but nothings more boring to read or write than the same thing, day after day.
Nor do I feel comfortable yet writing about politics, which has become something of a passion. “So why not write it”, you might ask. Well, firstly there is still a chance that I could wind up back in journalism at some point, and I’d prefer to be able to keep my reputation for objectivity. Honestly, it’s been fairly obvious this election cycle that very few journalists have maintained that distance. I’ve been watching politics for a long time, and in broadcasting industry for nearly 30 years, and I can’t recall a time when it APPEARED that journalists and other media favored one candidate over the other. I know that editors, news directors, and assignment editors are paid to make decisions about what is newsworthy … what deserves to have a place in a very limited news hole. But sometimes when you look at what HAS been covered as opposed to what HASN’T, I think any objective observer would agree that the scales have been tipped to one side this cycle. In fact there was a Rassmussen poll that showed respondents overwhelmingly saying they thought journalists wrote more favorably about the candidate they preferred. Whether or not that’s true, it’s the PERCEPTION that is a huge part of reality. And the perception is definitely there.
Then, there’s the permanence of the Internet. It doesn’t matter what I write, it will live on into perpetuity on some server somewhere. While I was hosting “Week in Review” and “First Coast Forum”, the highest compliment people could pay was telling me they had no idea how I stood on any issue, or how I felt about any person I happened to be interviewing. Now, there were exceptions. Interviewing the music director and conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony, or Archbishop Desmond Tutu, you can show some respect and admiration. But for any elected official or newsmaker, I have a reputation of being across-the-board fair. It’s a reputation I want to be able to maintain. So writing about my political feelings, where someone could just call up my blog and say “Look what you wrote” is probably not a good idea.
Of course, while everyone knew Tim Russert was a strong Democrat, and even worked for Democratic causes before joining NBC, he managed to build a reputation of being equally tough with everyone who appeared on his show. Should I compare myself to Tim Russert? Well, maybe. He is certainly one of the people I’ve tried to emulate in my approach to interviewing and interacting with politicians, elected officials, and newsmakers. And it’s still not a position I’m willing to compromise at this point. Too much remains at stake.
Not to mention that there’s no paucity of political opinion on the Internet. How much value can be placed on something of which there’s no shortage at all. Sometimes reading political blogs reminds me of how the Borg Collective was represented on Star Trek. This mishmash cacophony of voices coming from everywhere and nowhere, none of which rise to the surface … just a constant drone reminding you that there are millions and millions of entities working towards a common purpose … in this case trying to convince you to vote their way. I guess there’s a Left Borg and a Right Borg.
So that’s why I haven’t been writing the past couple of days. First, I’ve just put everything into trying to get organized and focus on what I need to do to find a new position, and the uncertainty of what that is going to be is just draining. At the end of the day, I simply haven’t had any energy left to try to write anything creative or fun. I haven’t taken a photograph since the axe fell. I just haven’t felt like I could take the time away from getting organized, knowing what I need to do and having no idea if it’s going to be enough. I’d love to take a few days and just get away, but in the back of my mind there’s the constant worry of “what if that’s the day someone comes looking for you with a fabulous offer?”. There’s also knowing that, while the wolf is not yet at the door, he’s off at the edge of the woods sniffing the air for blood and I need to focus my energies on being sure it’s not my blood he’s sniffing. And, as I said before, in the business I’ve been in there’s fine line between being “somebody” and “what ever happened to”. If I’m going to trade on my reputation and what I was, I need to get to work on that quickly.
Meanwhile, I sit at Starbucks, with no wi-fi, writing as Dennis tries to diagnose my intermittent “Check Engine” light. I told him I checked the engine, and it was still there. So I needed to see someone with a little more expertise.
That sounds darn familiar.