It’s just a wide-open room, with utilitarian desks set up in pods of four at a time.
The walls were covered with maps. Old-school tube televisions hung on arms on the walls. The carpets were a tad worn, to be generous. It was built in the mid-1990s, and it really looked dated.
So why did my heart skip a beat recently when I turned the lights out on our newsroom? We recently moved from the west end of 3515 Elida Road to the east end of it, nearer that big glass entrance with the hunter green overhang outside that most people identify with our building.
Places have a way of speaking to you, no matter how ordinary they might seem.
I can think about a dumpy two-story house in Athens, and I don’t think first about the strip of dirt exposed between the kitchen and living room as the house crept down a hill in two different directions. I think about the number of times my college buddies and I fell asleep watching “Animal House” in the living room after a night out on the town.
When I visualize my first apartment in Lima, the second-floor of a duplex on Rice Avenue, I don’t immediately think about the weirdly carpeted bathroom, where after my first day of work I kicked at a patch of it only to discover it wasn’t carpet there but a slumbering bat. I do think about the number of times my friends came over for “Tuesdays at Trinko’s,” where we’d hang out after work till late in the night, including “Unhappy Hour” at midnight, the only hour we could complain about work.
Some might think of nostalgia as a weakness, but I see it as a strength. Every place I’ve been brings me to where I am now. Those places are characters in my journey.
When it comes to that old newsroom, I had the pleasure of sharing that journey with some great people over all but five of the past 22 years.
When I started at the paper out of college, I worked in sports. The Internet terminal and printer were on the other side of my cubicle wall, leading to some intriguing conversations with a variety of that Internet terminal’s users. There was also a narrow empty space behind that, where we used to throw a football or try to toss stress-balls into an empty garbage can.
When I returned to Lima after five years away, my desk was in the back corner of the newsroom. I worked from outside the office as a news reporter most of the time, but I checked in for a few hours at a time each week. A chatty friend was across the cublcle wall, and he’d update me on everything that happened since my last visit to the office.
My favorite desk was in the middle of the newsroom, when I took over supervising our reporters. I never felt so connected to the news as I did there. From there, I could hear every conversation. Any time I heard a hole in a telephone interview, I’d scribble a question on a piece of paper and run it to the reporter’s desk, holding it up as if I were a beggar.
My last stop was the managing editor’s office, a place I held off moving into as long as I could. It was a windowless, small room with little on the walls, but that didn’t mean it didn’t have some character. Reporters, fellow editors and members of the community would duck in the doorway to chat with me.
We made some great journalism in that newsroom. I made some great friends in that newsroom. I have lasting memories in that newsroom.
We’ll do the same things in our new digs over on the east side of the building. I finally have a window, and I’m loving the natural lighting in there.
Still, I appreciate the memories of the old newsroom, even if it was just a series of cubicles and desks. For most of my adult life, it was home.