Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Romenesko's readers write

You want to know how bad things are in the newspaper business?

The Virgin Mary is appearing to Washington-bureau reporters. Jewish ones, no less.

YOU CAN'T make this stuff up -- even if telling stories is your business. The story of Mary in the coffee stain comes to us from one of the New Orleans Times-Picayune's reporters in the nation's capital, via a letter to the Poynter Institute's Romenesko blog:
I have never written you before.

But that was before I saw the Virgin Mary. I have been a reporter for more than 30 years, most of them at the Newhouse bureau in Washington. When they announced last year they were closing, I was rescued by The Times Picayune, which took me on board as a second Washington correspondent. In November, when the Newhouse bureau shut its doors, four of us - survivors from Newhouse - moved into some empty cubicles in the Cox bureau on Capitol Hill, a beautiful office with a lot of extra space. Within weeks of arriving, Cox announced it would be closing its Washington bureau in the spring.

Last week, the four of us, like hermit crabs, moved into empty cubicles in another beautiful newspaper office in Metro Center, subletting space from Hearst Newspapers, which sublets from McClatchy, which took over the office when it bought Knight Ridder.

On Monday evening, May 4, I went back to the Cox office to pack the rest of my boxes and clean out my cubicle. And there it was, on my desk, a coffee stain in the image of the Virgin Mary. I was a little surprised. Why me? I'm Jewish.


I am still not sure what it means, but I confess that amid all the layoffs and furloughs and forced relocations, seeing the image comforted me. As it has been written, "When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me ..."

THERE IS little consolation these days for those in the newspaper business. This is particularly so when so many foaming-at-the-mouth members of the conservative tribe seek to blame all their ills -- indeed, all the ills of the country -- on the "liberal" media.

And this is obscenely so when those same unhinged denizens of the Limbaugh right take such unfettered joy in the demise of newspapers and the firings of thousands of their employees. Employees with spouses, children, dogs and mortgages to feed.

So if our mother, Mary, comes to comfort some of her children via a coffee stain . . . it sounds about right to me.

And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

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