Dear reader:

When J.D. Salinger retired many years ago, he announced that he wasn’t planning to stop writing completely, but he was no longer going to write “for publication.” Of course, being a famous and wealthy writer already, it’s not too long a jump for him to cut the cord of crass commercialism, as his famous character, Holden Caufield, would say.

Bob Kalish observes life from a placid place on the island of Arrowsic (motto: You’re not in Georgetown yet). You can reach him at [email protected]

I, on the other hand, have been writing a bi-weekly column for the local newspaper for so long I’ve lost track. But when the opportunity arose, I took up the challenge because I wanted to experience and learn how to cope with those times when the muse passes over the houses of the firstborn, leaving nothing but table scraps and used metaphors. The question was, could I write about nothing in particular?

As a journalist for most of my life, I’m confused at what seems to be a gap between reality and our perception of that reality. Astronomers tell us that the Earth is spinning around the sun at thousands of miles an hour, yet some hot nights not even a breeze makes it to my cheek. The average person is more concerned about nose hair than the possibility of climate change. It seems like we’re in the midst of a pandemic of ignorance. Global climate change is happening right now, yet it has taken decades for world leaders just to acknowledge the possibility. Meanwhile, working journalists try to adapt to a new set of standards. New tools, new time frames.

When I started my career, I was given a pencil and a reporter’s notebook and that was it. We wrote up the notes and then went to our desks and wrote something an average 12-year-old child could understand. In those days, a young reporter had to endure the assaults of the older reporters, often described as “crusty,” who didn’t go to college or have a degree, but knew how to write the who, what, when, why and how of just about any event, using no more than two fingers on the typewriter. We used two sheets of paper with a carbon in between and the clickity-clack of the typewriters added to the atmosphere as the news would puddle at our feet until the bell announced the presses were running. The deadline passed.

Each reporter was expected to write a front-page story every day. We learned how to get it done. It was an afternoon newspaper, one of the last, with a mid-morning deadline. Some of the old reporters would offer helpful advice to their rookie colleagues, who learned by doing.

Now the newsrooms are quiet, bathed in the blue glow of computer screens. I still miss the noise and chaos. Those of you who were pleased or mad as hell, either way, thanks for reading. It’s been fun.

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