Something to be proud of

As you may know by now, I won’t be writing for MSN after Sept. 30, when the site pulls the plug on original content. (Translated: instead of paying writers, MSN will be getting its articles for free from other sites.)

I don’t know what’s next, but I’m kind of excited by the possibilities that are presenting themselves. Expanding this site, doing more on the radio, writing for long-admired outlets that are doing great work, delving deeper into the worlds of sustainability, alternate consumerism and zero waste….mmmmm. Tasty, tasty possibilities.

I feel incredibly grateful that our family is in good financial shape (although as one friend said, “If YOU aren’t in a good position to handle this, what hope do the REST of us have?”). Hubby is gainfully employed and his sideline business is taking off. We have a fat emergency fund. We’ve had to cancel the remodel of our 1980s kitchen (stifled sob), but honestly, everything works and looks fine and I’m embarrassed I even care, given what so many families are up against these days.

Before I can move on to other things, though, I have to finish my last columns for MSN. A friend and I were laughing about how ridiculously hard it is to make yourself sit down and write when you know it doesn’t matter.

I’m having a flashback to the last time I was laid off, which was more than 20 years ago. Our leaders at the Anchorage Times informed us in an early-afternoon meeting that the last press run would be that night, and that venerable paper would be no more.

Everybody else filed their last stories and headed off for the bar. But my beat was the city, and there was a city council meeting that night (up there it’s known as the “municipal assembly”). So while my colleagues and friends were drowning their sorrows, I had to try to pay attention to this motion and that notice. As the meeting dragged on, I got more and more sullen, desperate for it to just end already so I could join my shell-shocked buddies at the bar.

Then Mark Begich, who was the youngest Assembly member at the time (and who’s now a U.S. Senator), brought up the news that the Times was closing. I half expected him to lead a cheer, as he was a pretty progressive lawmaker and the Times’ editorial stance was decidedly conservative. Instead, he asked the chamber to join him in a round of applause–for me. I forget exactly what he said, but I remember it was flattering, and had something to do with being fair and maintaining high standards. The whole Assembly, which included a few members who were not always happy with my nosy (and sometimes stupid) questions, joined in.

I filed my story. I tried to make it as good as I could. The editors and copyeditors and pressmen who also had to stay late did their jobs as well as they could, too. Everyone who was at the bar streamed back to watch that final press run, and thought about how, for a while there, we’d created something to be proud of. Then we scattered into the night and into the rest of our lives.

So please watch for my last couple of MSN columns. I’ll make them as good as I can. The editors and copy editors who are still there will do their jobs as well as they can, too. For a while, we created something to be proud of. And now we’ll scatter into what’s next.