Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Still Here

As newspapers continue to cut their staffs, walking through a newsroom has been something akin to walking through a minefield. Those of us still left working in the industry can be plagued with the anxiety of wondering whether we might be next. I can see people carrying the heavy burden of stress and the effects it's had on them and how it's played out in my life...until recently. I've been inspired by former coworkers who've moved ahead with their lives. The day they were laid off they hit the ground running and haven't slowed down. With that I find myself moving through the newsroom more as a playground instead of the minefield.

I've taken on more duties, as has everyone. First, when I lost my photo technician to a round of cuts last year. Second, whn I lost my deputy photo editor to the most recent round of cuts last week. And third, but certainly not last, when I lost a photographer also cut last week. Each of these departures has served to place all of us still here in the position of, well, of doing more with less. A tired axiom but appropriate here. I simply will not and cannot engage in some passive-aggressive work slow down. I understand that when we make do with the burden of work the end result is...we get more work. There are no professional rewards for what we do. There are however personal rewards in that, I will not let any of our current circumstances prevent me from being a professional. And I am very proud of the remaining staff's similar attitude. I like to believe that when my day, or any of our day's come, we'll be able to walk out of the building knowing we never compromised our standards and we never shortchanged ourselves.

Okay, why the photo of Steve McQueen? The photo is from the 1973 movie Papillon based on a true to life novel by the French ex-convict Henri Charriere...who McQueen portrays. McQueen's imprisoned character is of undefeatable spirit. Despite the deplorable conditions Devil's Island where the movie is played out, McQueen's Papillon never gives up the hope of his freedom. The character's resistance to conformity and repeated escape attempts are met with beatings, starvation, lack of adequate medical care and eventually solitary confinement. And yet, even in solitary confinement he doesn't give up. And this is what I remember best. While in solitary confinement Papillon's cell is darkened. The camera pans down to a pencil sized hole in the wooden slats covering the cell and we see Papillon staring up at the light. Defiantly he lifts his fist and shaking it says.

"Hey you bastards, I'm still here."

Steve McQueen's Papillon would have survived the newsroom.

No comments: