My father never said he was retiring. He said he was realigning – stepping away from his old life and embarking on another path. After so many years doing one thing, he wanted to do other things. Different things. Most people didn’t get what my father was talking about, and his stubborn insistence on using the term realignment inspired some gentle mockery. I’ll admit it: I was baffled, too. What exactly was my dad talking about? Now, all these years later, I finally understand.
After nearly two decades at The Daily Gazette, I’m undergoing something of a realignment myself. I need a change – to do new things and see new things, to get out and explore the world. I want to visit with people I haven’t seen very much during the past year and a half, and a young son I want to spend a little more time with this summer. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that this is my final column for The Daily Gazette.
Writing for this newspaper has been a privilege and a pleasure – an experience I’ll always treasure. I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of wonderful people, from my days working in the Gazette’s long-since-shuttered bureau in the city of Albany, to my time writing articles for the Sunday newspaper and to my most recent gig, news columnist. What I’ve always loved about journalism is how every day is an opportunity for learning, for gaining a better understanding of the world. People sometimes ask me to name the most interesting person I’ve ever interviewed, and it’s a question I’ve always struggled to answer.
The reason, I think, is simple: My favorite interviews haven’t been famous, or even especially well known. They’ve been fairly ordinary people, perhaps thrust into extraordinary circumstances, sharing their very personal stories. A mother recounting her son’s death in a hail of bullets. A man sleeping in a tent by the river because he has nowhere else to go. A former gang leader reflecting on his life, and his efforts to steer a new generation away from the violence of the streets. A young man learning a new trade after a stint in prison.
The film critic Roger Ebert once described the movies as a “machine that generates empathy,” and journalism, at its best, does the same, giving readers a glimpse of the daily joys and struggles of people they might not otherwise ever encounter. Over the years, I’ve been touched by the stories I’ve heard – moved by them, angered by them, saddened by them, uplifted by them. I hope to tell more stories in the future. But I need a break from the daily grind, and some time to regroup and reflect after a long, tiring and most unusual year. To some extent, I feel the same way I did after my last year working at summer camp, when I didn’t know exactly what was in store once summer ended, but could sense that an invigorating new challenge was in the offing.
It was a scary time. But an exciting one, too. So thanks for reading. I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity to write for The Daily Gazette, and to learn from all of you.