16 years at the Free Press
I carry with me these days a note from my son Niles
that, in part, goes: "We know that being on strike is very stressful
and we hope that Ganet and Ridder come to there senses. Now we know
that I've told you this before, and we're with you all the way."
I suppose I should thank corporate avarice for making possible that
gift, for helping me sift through my values and helping me see more
clearly than ever those of the folks around me. Niles, my wife,
Ruth, and the baby, Khalil, have fed my soul through this trying
time (and the hardest part of the strike for me has been knowing
that I've dragged them into this, especially the kids). From family
to fellow strikers to friends to total strangers, I've seen much
that has been touching, inspiring, even humbling, like yesterday's
unexpected check from a Virginia CWA local that will help with the
overdue rent. There's also been too much that is disappointing,
lamentable, embarrassing, repugnant. Not surprisingly, I no longer
have the patience for "friends" who talked liberal (or even radical)
for so many years, then turned to help the company crush their co-workers.
I've spent 20-plus years as a professional journalist, 16 of them
at the Free Press, as a writer covering everything from arts to
City Hall and, in recent years, as a copy editor. I always thought
the point of the enterprise was to contribute to understanding,
to participate in some development of values. Sure, this business
is history in a hurry, but still history that one can learn from.
I thought that reams of prominently displayed copy on the legacy
of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, for instance, was
somehow instructive, rather than cynically composed amusements to
sell to rubes and wrap around ads. I thought that mounting the high
horse to expose "wrongs" even at our wrongheaded worst
implied a concern with doing right, if not on the part of the company,
then by the people who supplied and shaped the words and images.
And for all my misgivings about the institution of the press and,
the Free Press in particular, I thought that I was part of a valid
calling. But when the company moves so blatantly against core, progressive
bedrocks of its community, there's no such illusion. In its century
and a half, the Free Press has been woefully wrong on plenty of
issues, slavery not the least of them. In union busting, the Free
Press is dead wrong again and I'm on the other side.