Monday, March 8, 2010

RIP Portland Sentinel and Thanks for All the Memories

One day in June 2008, not long after graduating from college and in a post-college comedown funk I thought would last forever, I was scheduled to have an interview with Cornelius Swart, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Portland Sentinel.

I drove past a very dated building and as my stacked pumps clattered on the dingy steps of the Sentinel office I was more than a bit worried; I was confronted with a trash bin collecting rain water and exposed rotten beams and a hole in the ceiling made me think, "what kind of business is operating in such a shack?"

I wanted the internship with the Portland Sentinel although for years I had poo-pooed the opportunity. I wasn't itching to work for free as a post-grad but I count my time with the Sentinel as one of the best in my life.

It was important for me to impress upon Cornelius that I had a passion for writing he couldn't find in any other internship candidate-although my journalism background was in features, not hard news which was the Sentinel's main trade.

I went home that day after the Sentinel interview, crying and certain I had fucked up, illustrating how green I was, proving myself to be ill equipped to be the kind of journalist the Sentinel would want.

Two days later I jumped for joy when Roger Anthony of the Sentinel called me and let me know I was on board.

An amazingly hot Northwest summer ensued as did $4-a-gallon gas, economic and personal depression, but little by little I became the kind of reporter I wanted to be. I attended (and enjoyed) neighborhood association meetings, scheduling interviews with community leaders and activists, pitching story ideas and building a portfolio of well written news stories. A friendly community of writers and fellow post-grad struggling journalists embraced me. I was invited to barbecues and Friday evening beer get-togethers. And I look back on that summer, the toughest in my life, and thank the Sentinel and Mr. Swart and Mara Grunbaum and Roger Anthony and James Reddick and everyone for giving me a home and work when I most needed it.

In years past, aspiring reporters would pitch and pitch and write for scrap money at local community publications; they would cut their teeth on smaller media outlets working up the ladders to larger, better known publications. Being a working journalist has always been hard, but what makes this line of work one of the hardest is that local and small community papers are going out of business, leaving a hole where the ladder's first rung should be. I am so proud and count myself so lucky to have cut my teeth at the Sentinel while I had the opportunity and no matter what happens in my professional future, I will always have a portfolio of the stories I've written, stories I'm proud of, stories that show a glimpse of what it was like to be scared shitless, 21, post-grad and pursuing the thing that made me happiest.

Thank you to Cornelius and the Portland Sentinel for giving me the opportunity to start my career at an amazing and award-winning news outlet. Portland is a better city because of the Sentinel's legacy. I am so sorry that the Sentinel will no longer be reporting North Portland's news

All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.

1 comment:

seancoker said...

i read that paper before. makes you kind of sad doesn't it?