More than 33 years ago, I walked up the steps to the second floor of 14 N. Court St. for the first time for a job interview. It didn’t occur to me that I’d be climbing and descending those steps several times a day, six days a week, for the next 33 years and four months. That works out to nearly 42,000 trips up and down the stairs. (Reading that, I know why my knees are sore all the time.)
On Friday, I’ll take one last walk down the steps, as I haul my desktop computer and other essentials over to the Messenger/APG building (9300 Johnson Road) near The Plains. At that time, The Athens NEWS editorial department (basically two of us and an intern) will join our business and advertising staff, who have moved to the Messenger building in increments over the past year.
While associate editor Conor Morris and I will miss our front windows looking out over North Court Street, and working uptown in general, we don’t expect the move to have any noticeable effect on our news operation. We’ll still come uptown a lot, and much of our news gathering is handled away from uptown anyway, either at other places or by phone or computer.
In any event, it made zero sense to renew the lease for the second floor of 14 N. Court St. in September when it expires, considering only two or three of us were still working in an office suite with nearly a dozen rooms. We’ve got three rooms on the third floor as well.
On some days, I was the only person toiling away on the second floor, which could get lonely. In addition, I felt guilty about being one of two or three people served by an air conditioning system that was cooling the entire floor.
We’ll do fine over at The Messenger building, where they have a nice, roomy space set up for us, separate from our sworn enemies at the Messenger (kidding). It looks as if I’ll even have a small office to myself, something I’ve never had at The Athens NEWS (though I’ve never felt I needed one).
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having mixed feelings about the move. While I’m not the sentimental sort, and always prefer looking ahead to looking behind, I will miss the following:
• Coming in on sleepy uptown Sunday mornings for production of our Early Week edition (which we discontinued at the beginning of June). It was always calming to keep half an eye on the happy comings and goings at the Brookfield Church in the 5onCourt Building across the street. It made me resent my own childhood church, which unlike Brookfield, never offered a table full of pastries, juice and coffee before and after services.
• Various uptown characters whom I greeted with a nod and hello on Court Street over the last three decades. Some of these folks I never stopped and chatted with, and now I’ll probably never have the opportunity.
• Being able to place doggy bags (actually boxes) from Casa Nueva in the Athens NEWS refrigerator while hanging out at the Casa for their Thursday or Saturday evening early shows. Does this mean that I’ll be expected to eat an entire Casa chimichanga at one sitting? I can’t do it.
• Having the opportunity to take long walks around campus or uptown during breaks from work. I guess I’ll have that opportunity out at the Messenger building, with the bike path right there, but for people watching, you can’t beat uptown Athens.
• Enjoying uptown fast food. Actually, I won’t miss this one as much, since after working uptown for 33 years, I’m burned out on most of the available fast-food options. (Eating leftovers at my desk is my most common lunch strategy, and I’m guessing it will stay that way.)
• Taking advantage of my parking spot in the car park next to 14 N. Court St. Having a dedicated uptown spot all these years means I’ve never had to experience the hassle of not being able to find a parking space. The NEWS and Messenger will keep two or three spaces for our staffs to use when uptown, though those will be first-come, first-served.
• Watching the occasional wrong-way vehicle heading south on Court Street. We’ve seen many of them over the years, and each time we listen closely to hear a loud crash, yet we’ve never heard one. Which I must admit has been a guilty sort of disappointment.
AS FOR ACCESS AND CONTENT, The Athens NEWS editorial team will continue to welcome news tips, story ideas, reader concerns, complaints or suggestions, and anything else you want to talk to us about. Email is the best way to start a contact. Mine is firstname.lastname@example.org, and Conor Morris’s is email@example.com.
You can reach us by phone, too, at 740-594-8219, the number staying the same at the new location. In most cases, Conor and I are willing to give out our cellphone numbers as well.
We fully intend to continue our award-winning news coverage, and it really doesn’t matter where that work is happening, whether uptown, Johnson Road or Timbuktu. We’ll also continue to sharpen our brand and focus to further differentiate our paper from the Athens Messenger, an effort that began when we went to weekly publication on June 6.
This already has produced positive results, with the weekly editions since then being some of our best in the past several years.
I’d write more but I need to pitch in on hauling crap out of this building. Imagine how much material – mainly paper files – that can accumulate in a newspaper business over 35 years or so, and you’ll not even come close to the mountain of paper and other material that we’ve removed from 14 N. Court St. over the past few weeks.
This is one of the unreported consequences of changes in technology in recent years: The uselessness of paper files. Juxtapose that with my desktop at The A-NEWS all those years ago, a typewriter and a stack of paper.